I’ve been waiting for this book a long time — not only because it’s the first one by My Buddy Rob®, but because, for a change, it’s an unapologetic apologetic for the church. Instead of yet another indictment of the failures of the modern church (and granted, we’ve got more than our share), it’s an impassioned call to start treating the Bride of Christ like the Bride of Christ instead of like the Bride of Frankenstein, and I couldn’t be more thrilled that Rob was the one to write it.
Rob Bentz. The Unfinished Church: God’s Broken and Redeemed Work-in-Progress. 176p., $14.99, Crossway.
And clearly, we need to relearn this truth all over again, and so Rob starts us from the beginning:
God calls the poor, the wounded, the opinionated, the nosey, the caring, the broken, the seemingly unlovable. He calls them his own…. If it were up to us to choose. God’s church would look a whole lot like you and a whole lot like me. The Church of the Mirror…. The diversity that we see among the unique community of people that God is building called his church is something we should run toward—not run away from.”
As such, Rob calls in a bunch of sources from throughout the church, both modern and historical, to reinforce his point (and the chapter-closing sections, juxtaposing sections from historical creeds/catechisms with modern worship songs, are a nice touch). That said, I’m happiest when Rob dispenses with the “cloud of witnesses” and writes in his own voice, and we see that most obviously in the last third of the book.
We see this, first of all, in the challenge to the “me and Jesus” mentality of a lot of church dropouts, and I had to laugh at the incredulous reaction of, “Really? This is biblical faith? This is a faith lived out according to the Scriptures?”
I see it also in my favorite chapter, the penultimate and delightfully subtly snarkily titled “Dwell in Unity: Jesus Loves His Church, So You Should Too.” But I also see it in the call to forgiveness in that chapter that both those inside and “outside” the church need to extend to one another. In the end, I’m reminded, I need to respond to church-bashing Christians the way Christ calls me to, not return it double. Because whether we’re willing to admit it to each other or not, we’re all in this together.
In fact, as Rob goes on to argue in the final chapter, “Jesus Finishes His Building Project,” the church is Jesus’ method for personal sanctification—through our repeated dealings with a bunch of fellow justified sinners. We cannot avoid the people God places in our path, because they are our path.
So let’s get on with it. Pick up The Unfinished Church, and get yourself a little further down that path.