A book that I'm likely to reference frequently here is Mirror to the Church: Resurrecting Faith after Genocide in Rwanda. It is by a Ugandan Roman Catholic priest and scholar, Emmanuel Katongole, who teaches at the Duke Divinity School. It is a book that fell into my hands somewhat accidentally, not something I would have normally sought out, but seems to have animated my imagination in ways that few books on religion have. His main hypothesis is that what happened in Rwanda in 1994 is reflective of how the church in many societies, in the West as well as in Africa, operates. That is, the church as it currently exists simply doesn't matter. It didn't matter that Rwanda has been considered one of the most successfully evangelized African nations. Christians killed Christians and often in direct, hand-to-hand combat (which, for some reason, strikes me as even more atrocious than if the genocide had been accomplished by long-range missiles or even simply pulling a trigger on a gun---hacking people to death with a machete is much more . . . personal).
Katongole asks, what difference does being a Christian make? If we call ourselves Christian but then can kill our fellow church members simply because the government says they're the enemy, what good is saying we follow Christ?
As I say, there is much in this relatively short book (it's under 200 pages) that I will likely bring up in weeks and maybe months to come, but I want to put out there one short quote from him (in part because I was at a worship and music committee meeting today):
"I do not think it is any accident that the civil rights movement in the United States grew out of black churches where people were used to worshiping Jesus for two, three, even four hours at a time. Christians who cannot imagine worshiping God that long may want to reconsider their cost/benefit analysis of discipleship."
This strikes me as terribly indicting of the church when I hear complaints that a worship service goes more than 10 minutes over an hour or that a hymn was too long or there simply were too many hymns.
I'm not sure I'm advocating 3 hour worship services, but I am pondering the cost of being a church member. That is, I'm wondering if we even think there is a cost to being a church member. What are we willing to "pay" for the right to call ourselves disciples?
(Obviously, this is a question applicable to countless other areas of a Christian life, not just worship. Spin it where the Spirit leads.)