Michael Cheshire. Why We Eat Our Own. First Punch Press, 2013. 192 pp. $14.95.
What ever happened to Ted Haggard? Does anyone care? It really doesn’t matter that much, after all, because he disqualified himself from ministry. We can all write him off. He was sent packing and that’s that, right? Not according to Michael Cheshire in his book Why We Eat Our Own.
Sometimes to make a point one must abandon nuance and subtlety. Such is the case with this book. In its pages Cheshire, founding pastor of The Journey Church in Conifer, Colorado, aggressively challenges conventional and habitual church methods for dealing with sinners. Why does the church treat its own sinful people so badly? More specifically, why, when we serve such a loving and forgiving God, are God’s people so often angry and divided? These are the questions Cheshire sets out to answer. He spends less effort on systematic argumentation or thoughtful persuasion than he does on taking his theses and nailing them loudly to the chapel door.
He sets the stage by describing how a life-threatening kidney disease changed the course of his ministry. During the days waiting for the prognosis of death or recovery he began to evaluate his life—what was good and what was a waste. As he puts it, “I realized I carried a lot of anger about how Christians treated each other, myself included.” As he evaluated his time in ministry with his wife they realized so much would be easier if they left. He could put his kids in public school without judgment, his kids wouldn’t need to hide their music or movie preferences from churchy folks, and he could generally be himself. So he decided, should he recover, that he would leave the ministry.
Cheshire did recover. He is still a pastor. What happened?
As Cheshire describes it, God began to doctor his heart. Questions like When did outside of God’s family become the place of peace and hope? And why was church a bad place to attend and an even worse place to serve? rattled around his mind. He realized that leaving wasn’t the solution but rather leading the church as his real self instead of behind the mask of expectations wrapped up in “Pastor Mike.” His staff would lead with authenticity. If sin was visible they would confront it in each other or in the congregation, but that same sin would not cost people their membership or their jobs if they repented and worked to fix it. Frankly, it all sounds a bit “rah rah” and idealistic.
But doesn’t it also sound appealing? A church where sin is recognized and confronted by peers and leaders alike, no matter who the sinner, but where grace is big enough to overcome it? Where judgmentalism has no place and people don’t cotton to phoniness? Most importantly, a place where repentance actually leads to restoration instead of ostracizing? Of course it does. That’s what Why We Eat Our Own is about: the transformation of church leaders, and through them churches, to places of such powerful grace.
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SOURCE: The Gospel Coalition
Michael Cheshire | Review by: Barnabas Piper