Book Review: Why Churches Die

"Why Churches Die" is a book authored by Mac Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Church Dallas (TX), and Ergun Caner, dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. According to the subtitle, the goal of the book is to "diagnose lethal poisons in the Body of Christ." This book diagnoses 12 such poisons to the Body of Christ in a fashion that makes the book an easy read.

Brunson and Caner utilize fictitious case-studies to introduce each chapter, although nearly every reader will swear the authors visited their church once upon a time, only changing names to protect the guilty.

The authors of "Why Churches Die" are spot on in their identification of the symptoms of a dying church. They are, in my humble opinion, extremely weak in their use of biblical exegesis throughout the book. They have attempted to tie each symptom of a dying church to a biblical character who exemplifies that characteristic. In some cases, the examples fit. (For example, using Martha to describe the obsessive-compulsive tendency of some Christians to be distracted by the important while neglecting the essential) In other cases the examples used are, at best, a stretch (For example, pages 34-39 are devoted to explaining how Isaac's life decisions were all made because of a desire to coast on his father's past, a conclusion that is based on conjecture and speculation).

My other gripe about this book, though less substantial, is that the book spends the majority of each chapter pointing out the dangers of the various poisons to the church, and virtually no time diagnosing a solution. If a doctor tells me I'm dying, my immediate desire is not for information about the various permutations of the disease. I want to know how it can be treated.

Though I wouldn't give this book rave revues, it was a helpful reminder of just how delicate is the balance that must be maintained in Christ Body in order for it to remain healthy.

Ask the average churchgoer what the problem is with church today, and you're likely to hear a comment about the music. It's too loud, too soft, too modern, too out of touch. Or you'll hear about the use of technology, the absence of pews, or the length of the Pastor's sermon. But I've found with further questioning, those aren't the problems at all. There are "archaic" churches in America that God is using in marvelous ways, even in the 21st century. Likewise, there are "whippersnapper" churches that are making a global impact in the world for Jesus Christ. Style, format, and programming are the least of most congregants' concerns.

Despite the glaring negatives of the "postmodern" generation, what the church is faced with today is a culture that values authenticity, credibility, and character, more than the trappings of "religion." Today's culture wants content. They need the Gospel. And it's time for the dying churches of America to wake up and start talking about what really matters, instead of the things that have most recently consumed us.