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Michael Brown: Revolution in the Church

 

Michael L. Brown, Revolution in the Church: Challenging the religious system with a call for radical change (Grand Rapids: Chosen Books, 2002), 224 pages.

Dr. Brown has authored a provocative book that puts forth his view of how the church needs to change to best fulfill the mandate set forth by Jesus.

The book is divided into eleven chapters. Dr. Brown begins his work with a mixture of opinions and facts designed to convince the reader that the world is on a downward spiral and that it is up to the Christian community to be “radical” and show the world the example of Jesus. Dr. Brown raises concerns about how he believes the Christian community could do a better job of being “radical.” Chapter three, entitled, “The Church is not a Building (and the Family is not a House)” argues that the Christian community is too preoccupied with structures (“cathedral mentality”) and not enough with the “true” message of Christ. He uses appropriate biblical citations to make his point. He ends each chapter by asking the reader if they are willing to join his revolution. In the next chapter, Brown argues that the Christian community is also preoccupied with preachers being performers and the “Body” being an audience instead of a spiritual leader and a “Body” of believers. Unfortunately, Brown begins to attack other members of the Christian community. For example, he expresses his concern about the wearing of vestments and what he describes as “priestly robes” (p. 61). He argues that there is no scriptural basis for the wearing of such garments. This diatribe detracts from his major point, encouraging clergy and laity alike to become more committed to Jesus’ calling rather than the preachers performing and the audience watching.

Brown moves on in Chapter five to explore what it really means to be a disciple. In chapter six, he explores what it means, in his opinion, to follow the “Jesus Pattern.” He calls Christians to not obey the world but to obey Jesus. In chapter seven, Brown asks the question, “Has God ordained Protestant Popes?” The substance of this chapter is a warning to pastors not to abuse their authority. He makes the important point that, “God’s Kingdom operates on different principles…” than the world (p. 121). Unfortunately, Brown lost me in chapter eight: he attacks labor unions. As a sociologist who has studied and teaches about labor unions, Brown’s attack reflects stereotyping at its worst. His main point appears to be that some pastors are more concerned about their own personal interests than spreading the Kingdom of God. In chapter nine, Brown argues that his radicalism is shaped by his view of Jesus, which he sums up by asking, “Dare we rebel against the Lord?” In Chapter ten, Brown argues that the church should explore its Jewish roots. Brown closes his book by arguing that if we are “true” followers of Jesus, we will question the status quo. Brown points out, “Yes, following Jesus means going outside the camp—even though the camp is familiar to us…” (p.188). Brown implies that the Church is too worldly. Unfortunately, if we leave the “camp,” which I assume means denomination, we simply start another movement, which will most likely resemble the one we left. After all, we are human and as humans, we will ultimately fail. Brown argues there must be a revolution and that “biblical blueprints” must be followed (p. 200).

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Category: Fall 2003, Living the Faith

About the Author: John R. Belcher, MDiv (Lexington Theological Seminary), MSW (University of Kentucky), PhD (Ohio State University), has served as a pastor and a psychiatric social worker. He has been teaching at the University of Maryland for more than 25 years, he teaches part time at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in the Ecumenical Institute of Theology, and he also practices part time as a pastoral counselor. John and his family fellowship at a local United Methodist Church. www.ssw.umaryland.edu/faculty_and_research/bios/belcher/bios/belcher

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