Book Review: Why Bother With Church?

Sam Allberry, author of Is God Anti-Gay?, has written another very relevant and helpful book in the “Questions Christians Ask” series: Why Bother With Church? The book is short, 95 pages, but is a delight to read. Sam is a gifted writer and writes in a way that is pastoral and loving. His goal is to show the reader what the church is, and why it matters to them.

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The book is divided into six chapters, each addressing a unique question and providing a brief conclusion. Four of the chapters have a few pages dedicated to related questions. The chapters are as follows:

  • What is church?
    • Hasn’t the church done more harm than good?
  • Why do I need church?
  • What makes a good church?
    • How should I pick a church?
    • What are baptism and communion for?
  • How is a church run?
    • Can’t I view my small group as my church?
    • Should pastors and elders only be men?
    • Why are there so many denominations?
  • How do I survive church?
  • How can I be a good church member?
    • What is the future of the church?

As the chapter titles demonstrate, the book covers a variety of questions that people have. Each question builds upon the previous chapters. This is by design. The book starts off answering the questions of one who is disenfranchised or skeptical and works toward establishing a higher view of the church. The book ends with the question, “Why on earth would I not bother with the church?

The strength of the book is the skill Sam has in answering the questions with brevity, clarity, and thoroughness. It is not exhaustive, but it still anticipates questions the reader may have and answers them. I said earlier that the book was pastoral and loving and this is one of the bright spots of the book. Sam doesn’t brush sin under the rug or cover up the ugliness brought into the church by sinners. He knows that people have been hurt by the church and he is gentle with them. He writes with both doctrinal conviction and pastoral care.

I wouldn’t say the book has many weaknesses, per se, but it has its limitations. The book was not meant to be exhaustive and so there are a some subjects that get a cursory treatment (church government and the sacraments, for instance). There are a number of times where he advises that you ask your pastor or elders for further discussion, and while this is a good piece of advice for many people, it doesn’t help the reader who is not involved in the church at the moment. A list of resources for further reading would have been helpful at this point.

Overall, this book was a delight to read. It is a great resource to go through with a friend who is questioning the church, but it is also a very refreshing read for the believer who deeply loves the church. Sam’s love for Christ and his bride is evident on every page. Hopefully, after reading it, Sam’s love for the church will become contagious. The book beautifully written. Read it. Share it. Discuss it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

John lives in Denver, Colorado. He is a member at a local OPC and is currently working towards a Bachelor's degree. He enjoys good books and local brews. He blogs at Presbyterian Sojourner.