Book Review: The Tangible Kingdom

      Halter and Smay’s book titled, "The Tangible Kingdom" was an interesting read.  While I appreciated their warmth for evangelism and authenticity, I have a major point of contention with one of their opening statements.  In their opening chapter they say, “I believe in the church.  I believe God loves his church, and that he’s quite ticked that his bride looks like ‘Fiona the ogre’ instead of Cameron Diaz.”   It seems to me that the rest of the book and the authors' quest is to create a church that looks like Cameron Diaz and distance themselves from the church that is associated with Fiona the ogre.          When reading this book I was continually reminded of a quote by St. Augustine.  Augustine in talking about the church once said, “The church is a whore, but this whore is also my mother.”  In thinking about Augustine’s quote I believe that he portrays the church in a healthy manner.  The very church itself is composed of sinners that will always fail to meet up to the glorious standards of God.  The church is not immune from sin nor a perfect utopia here on earth.  The Christian church will always fail to meet the mark, and always fails in being free from hypocrisy.  However, it is this very broken, whorish, and unfaithful vessel that God in His grace has called and commissioned to bring forth the Gospel (Ephesians 3:20).  Through its unfaithfulness, brokenness and hypocrisy God has used the church, the body of believers, as an instrument to proclaim the life changing message of the Gospel.  Through the lips of sinners God ministers His Word and Sacraments so as to penetrate hearts, grant faith and impute assurance.  Through imperfect people and an imperfect institution God’s perfected Gospel has been preserved, ministered and spoken forth to the ends of the earth. 
       If anything, Augustine’s quote testifies more about the faithfulness of God and the power of His Gospel working in the midst of broken man rather than commenting on the church itself.  If anything, Augustine’s quote exposes my sin of putting trust into an unfaithful church rather than the unchanging and faithful message of the Gospel.  If anything, Augustine’s quote is yet another example of God’s grace and intense love towards sinful mankind.
       While I commend Halter and Smay in their missionary zeal I do not believe the answer to missions is to become like Cameron Diaz, for I believe the natural state of the church is Fiona the orge.  I believe that they are chasing after what seems to be Cameron Diaz but in reality is Fiona with new Prada Sunglasses, Gucci Handbag and a red Valentino Dress.  From church history we see that this move to create a Cameron Diaz Church is nothing new.  Time has always shown that infatuation with the idea of a perfect church has always led people to a nicely dressed up Fiona.    
       What Halter and Smay fail to realize is that what makes the church unique and the Gospel so sweet is that Christ would pursue, die and love Fiona!  Chasing after a Cameron Diaz Church simply is chasing a myth and distracts us from the larger picture that God in Christ has chased us down in the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.  Now, that is something that is unique!  
      We may be the church of Fiona the ogre, but we are loved by the King of the Kingdom...  Christ the Bridegroom.  

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Chad Shiffer said…
In my opinion you missed the whole point of the book as you just focused on that one statement. The authors know all that you just said in your review and agree with it. Their idea of "church" is actually pursuing "Fiona"! Their point is that our idea of "church" is wrong and we're stuck in a rut, and we need a paradigm shift in order for others to experience what God really intended the church to be. As you read the book the authors don't bash the church, they form a different and Biblical way of church than we have in our western culture. Church for us in America is a building and programs (as much as we who are pastors/leaders say it isn't, let's not kid ourselves). The authors come against this idea and move to incarnational communities that focus on building relationships with those already in your sphere of influence and BEING the church. They encourage people not to go to church on Sunday but to BE the church on Sundays. The do have worship services, but they look different than "traditional" services, and they include drug-addicts in their worship teams! Sorry, but your review misses the whole point: The Tangible Kingdom is about relentlessly pursuing people who don't have a saving faith in Christ and not concerning yourselves with being a good church. And in this way, we become beautiful in God's sight (Cameron Diaz). The point is not that it's a perfect church for us, but for God's glory, because creating incarnational communities is messy and ugly, but there's beauty in there that God sees.
Hey Chad,

Thanks for your thoughts. I am struggling with the statement of what it means to "be the church.". Can you help me understand this and how do can we "be the church?"
Sorry for the typos. Typing on my iPhone is cumbersome.
chad shiffer said…
Good question :) So the church isn't the building, it's the people, right? I mean in Eph 5:25 it says Christ loved the church and gave himself up for it. We say Christ died for me and you, so the church is the people who believe in what Christ did for us. So to be the church is to be a Christian and all that goes along with that identity. Being loved, I can love others. Being forgiven, I can forgive others. Being a person who has received grace, I can be a gracious person. Having the truth, I can share that truth with others. So on and so on. That's what I think being the church is - simply living out your faith in your whole life. Does that make sense?

Yes, I hear what you are saying. However, this term "living out your faith" is somewhat confusing. Here are some thoughts on this term from Jonathan Grothe's book, "The Justification of the Ungodly." He states:

"'Living out one's faith' . . . There is no equivalent in the Greek New Testament for this faddish phrase; one can only be skeptical that it might be a cover for the introduction of a non-biblical notion. The relationship of 'faith' to 'live' is not that of a direct object to a transitive verb. Life is a gift received through faith. He who by faith is righteous is alive."