Glomski begins with a familiar lament common among people who are cynical of the local church, fearful of the local church, or resentful of the local church, “Yet, as a brother in Christ, among too many of these professing believers, I have no place to lay my head.” The American Church is a compendium of Glomski’s pet peeves, grievances, and laments over the church in America. While the majority of his attacks on the church in America come across as ranting and raving, some of his concerns are more legitimate and make sense.
The overall structure of his books is based upon certain character traits common among babies. For example, babies are self-centered, undiscerning, ignorant of values, need babysitting, and so on. Each chapter introduces a new trait (10 in total) and then draws upon that trait to define the American church. While most of the book follows this format there are occasions where it is clear that Glomski had something to say but didn’t know where to say it, so he just stuck it in at random.
Some of the issues I have with the book are as follows. First, Glomski brings only personal experience into the story. There is no discernible research to verify his claims. He simple states what he perceives to be the truth and expects the reader to believe him. He throws up several made-up hyperbolic statistics that clearly are attempts to trap us emotionally. For example, “99.9 percent of the churches” believe you have to go to a four year Bible college before you can participate in the life of the church. Or, “Most churches (99.5 percent) still have babysitters (pastors, as we know them) because believers have not learned to minister to one another.”
Second, Glomski is inconsistent. In chapter three he draws the metaphor of church as restaurant. In this metaphor he calles Sunday school an appetizer. Later in the book (chapter 5) he argues, “If the church put more value on small groups and Sunday school, it would make sure it had good leaders and teachers for these groups.” Is Sunday school an appetizer, or isn’t it? Another example is found in his exegesis of 1 Corinthians 14. He argues that women should be completely silent, completely ignoring the entire section that precedes this conversation about men and women praying and prophesying. Later, he argues that the church should be open for every believer to bring a song, a hymn, a teaching, etc. Perhaps he should have said every believing male; that would at least have been consistent with his previous argument.
Other issues include airing out his pet peeves (welfare in chapter one and women in ministry in chapter six, for example), simplified solutions (all churches should simply give up their names and that would solve divisions in the church), cultural myopia (30 year olds should never live at home is a rather Western notion) and his insistence that we can stand on our own. In fact, this quote epitomizes his stance on independence, a notion foreign to Scripture, “The church in America is also too dependent in the spiritual arena. Believers are too dependent on their churches, on their pastors, on Christian radio, and on many other crutches, and they can’t stand on their own two feet. My dear brothers and sisters, if these things were taken away from you, could you stand alone with the Lord or would you fall apart?”
My pet peeve – in his recommended reading list he suggests at minimum one heretic and one guy with an axe to grind. Where are the biblically grounded resources on ecclesiology, the body of Christ, Christian discipleship? Also, his “notes” are simply letters to particular groups of people he disagrees with begging them to get biblical and agree with him.
The American Church is not without merit. I appreciate his insistence on the need for believers to grow up and start functioning as the body of Christ. A body without functioning members is no body at all. I also appreciate his insistence on obliterating the clergy-laity dichotomy. The biblical model is gift based leadership, which means everyone is needed for a fully functioning body. I also like his suggestion to place offering boxes in the back of the meeting room instead of passing plates around. I know several churches that do this.
However, because of the lack of serious reflection, the cynical overtone, and the inability to paint a picture of moving forward I would not recommend this book to anyone I know. While I don’t agree 100 percent with Viola and Barna, I think their book Pagan Christianity is a more worthwhile and enlightening read. The church in America is an important topic and this book (The American Church) has potential, but needs a lot of post publication editing.
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