The End of Religion


God hates religion. He even the Christian religion, according to The End of Religion, written by Bruxy Cavey. Cavey is a popular speaker and teaching pastor of The Meeting House, a rapidly growing multi-site church in the Toronto area.

According to Cavey, we have forgotten that the Bible is a "holy hand grenade" which points to the coming of Jesus, who put an end to religion and leads us to a "non-institutional, deeply relational approach to Scripture." The End of Religion is written for skeptics and seekers who are tired of religion but would like to connect with God.

Cavey defines religion as "any reliance on systems or institutions as our conduit to God." He outlines the legacy of religion, which he calls a "Chamber of Horrors." The Christian religion gets its own chapter. "Eventually, the institutional church severed itself from its head [Christ] and, in the process, became one of the most violent religions in history." The chapter does not mention any of the positive contributions of Christianity.

Cavey's solution is a radical commitment to the teachings of Jesus. In his ministry, Jesus contested the popular understanding of the main identity markers of the religion of his time. He overrode Torah by breaking its rules, trounced tradition, undid tribalism, redefined Temple, and subverted symbols. According to Cavey, religion died when the veil of the Temple was torn in two at the death of Jesus.

As a result, "religion does not bring us closer to God – it gets in the way." We live by love instead of law, and guard against dependence on tradition and routine.

Cavey raised several issues in my mind he did not fully answer: for instance, the role of the Law under grace. I am not sure everyone will agree with his dichotomy of spirituality and religion – others define religion as a system of faith and worship, which would include, I suppose, Christian spirituality. I also wonder if some will read "The End of Religion" as "The End of Church" when Cavey is really calling us to a Biblical view of church as the people of God.

Nevertheless, The End of Religion is provocative and easy to read. Cavey does a good job of showing how scandalous Jesus' teaching and actions were to the religious people of his day, and reminds us of the centrality of relationship with God through Christ. His book is an effective invitation to those who are turned off by dead religion, and a wake-up call to those who may be "Christian" but have missed Jesus.

Note: This review covers the original self-published version of The End of Religion, published by Essence Publishing. A new version is being released by Navpress in August 2007. Links to the new version are below.

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Communicating for a Change


Anyone who has heard Andy Stanley preach knows that he is an effective communicator. Now, Stanley and coauthor Lane Jones let us in on the secrets of effective preaching in Communicating for Change.

The first half of the book is a fable about a discouraged preacher, Pastor Ray Martin, who is desperate for help. He meets with an acquaintance, a successful businessman, who flies him by helicopter to meet Will Graham, a truck driver who has just the answers that Ray needs. By the time Ray leaves, he has a new approach and new hope for his preaching.

The second half of the book explains this model of preaching, covering topics like the goal of preaching, how to outline the message relationally, and how to engage the audience.

The model offered by Stanley and Lane has two main strengths. First, it centers preaching around one central idea, taken from the text. This is more effective than other approaches, which fail to capture the central idea of the text. In trying to communicate everything, they communicate nothing. Haddon Robinson and others have also written on the importance of the big idea in preaching.

Second, Stanley and Lane also present a relational outline approach to preaching. Their outlines are built around "the communicator's relationship with the audience rather than content." They remind us that "the way we organize material on paper is very different from how we process information in a conversation." This relational approach can lead to better communication of the Biblical idea of a passage.

The book is not without its problems. The leadership fable, in which an unlikely hero rescues a hapless practitioner, may be an overused approach. Also, this book is not a homiletics text, and preachers would be wise to look beyond this book for a full understanding of the task of preaching.

Stanley and Lane argue that the purpose of preaching is to "teach people how to live a life that reflects the values, principles, and truths of the Bible." They imply, however that this can happen by giving people application points. I am not so sure that application points always lead to life change; they can instead lead to application fatigue and moralism if the preacher is not careful. Preachers will want to wrestle with the larger issue of how people grow into spiritual maturity.

Communicating for Change reminds us of the importance of engaging interest, communicating a single big idea, and honoring relational dynamics in our preaching. It may be what discouraged preachers need as they work to improve their preaching.

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Yikes! I'm 40 today

Today I can no longer deny that I'm middle aged. I was born in what they call the summer of love, a year that includes these events:

  • Canada turned 100
  • Charlie Chaplin opened his last film
  • Martin Luther King Jr. condemned the Vietnam war
  • Expo 67 took place in Montreal
  • Elvis Presley and Priscilla Beaulieu got married
  • The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
  • The Rolling Stones appeared on the Ed Sullivan show
  • The Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup (and haven't won since)
  • The world's first heart transplant took place

A brand new MK II Ford Cortina would set you back $749 and a new home would have been $24,600. You'd bring home some $7,000 a year, pay 5¢ for a stamp, and pay 33¢ a gallon (9¢ a liter) at the pump.

This is what a computer looked like in those days. Of course, that computer didn't connect to the Internet because there was no Internet.


Man am I old. Oh well. Happy birthday to me.

Consuming Jesus - Review copy for bloggers

This post is from the defunct blog "Dying Church"


Paul Metzger has a book coming out in November called Consuming Jesus:

Many Americans think that race problems are a thing of the past because we no longer live under the Jim Crow laws that once sustained overt structures of segregation. Unfortunately, says Paul Metzger, today we live under an updated version of segregation, through the subtle power of unchallenged norms of consumer preference.

Consumerism affects and infects the church, reinforcing race and class divisions in society. Intentionally or unintentionally, many churches have set up structures of church growth that foster segregation, such as appealing to consumer appetites. Metzger here argues that the evangelical Christian church needs to admit this fault and intentionally move away from race, class, and consumer segregation.

Challenging the consumerism that fosters ethnic and economic divisions and distorts evangelical Christianity, Consuming Jesus puts forth a theologically grounded call to restructure the church's passions and practices, transforming the evangelical imagination around a nobler, all-consuming vision of the Christian faith.

The publisher has kindly offered some copies to bloggers who would like to review the book on their blogs. If you're interested, then send me an email with your blog address and I'll give you the information you need.

Update: Thanks to all those who responded. Copies are no longer available.

The strategic importance of Toronto?

Tim Keller has written convincingly about the importance of urban ministry:

More Christians should live long-term in cities. Historians point out that by A.D. 300, the urban populations of the Roman Empire were largely Christian, while the countryside was pagan. (Indeed, the word pagan originally meant someone from the countryside—its use as a synonym for a non-Christian dates from this era.) The same was true during the first millennium A.D. in Europe—the cities were Christian, but the broad population across the countryside was pagan. The lesson from both eras is that when cities are Christian, even if the majority of the population is pagan, society is headed on a Christian trajectory. Why? As the city goes, so goes the culture. Cultural trends tend to be generated in the city and flow outward to the rest of society.

People who live in large urban cultural centers, occupying jobs in the arts, business, academia, publishing, the helping professions, and the media, tend to have a disproportionate impact on how things are done in our culture...

I have taken up the call of the late James Montgomery Boice, an urban pastor (at Philadelphia's Tenth Presbyterian Church) who knew that evangelical Christians have been particularly unwilling to live in cities. In his book Two Cities: Two Loves, he argued that evangelicals should live in cities in at least the same percentage as the general population. If we do not, we should not expect much influence in society.

It's easy to apply this to top-tier cities like New York and London. I live in Toronto, the city that Canada loves to hate. We have lots going for us but we're not really world-class - yet.

But check out this article:

Urban thinker Richard Florida says Toronto has a fresh energy that places it among the world's most powerful urban centres, and that's one of the reasons he's moving here.

Once a "third-tier" city at the level of Minneapolis, Toronto is now "one of North America's top five or 10 cities," among the ranks of such "second-tier" cities as Los Angeles and Chicago, Prof. Florida said...

...Florida firmly establishes himself as a booster of his new home, calling it "the most international city in the world," and saying it could one day compete with top-tier cities like New York and London.

Overstated? Maybe. But I'm becoming more convinced that Toronto is a strategic place, and I love being here. I think more of us need to unpack what people like Keller are saying in the context of Toronto.