Book Reviews – Born In the Church But Not Born Again.

Born In the Church But Not Born Again.
Lesley A. Francisco. St. Paul Press, 2014.

“What do you do when you’re churched but not changed? Perhaps that’s the question of many faith-searching Americans. It’s the question of pastor’s kid, now pastorally trained Lesley Francisco in her first published work, Born In the Church But Not Born Again.

Francisco’s style is simple, straight forward, and thus attractive as she delivers her personal faith journey defined by searching and discovery. For many who struggle in trying to reconcile a desire to believe with the apparent routine and regulation of standard, organized religion, her reflections will be refreshing, positive, and affirming of the simple Gospel truth found in Christ and Him alone. She consistently reminds her readers that we need more Gospel, instead of instruction on human limitation, emphasis on tradition or ritual, or pointing to a list of do’s and don’ts. Gospel is good news, and good news is in Jesus. She delivers her message in what might best be (ironically) defined as a typical evangelism tool.

While many will appreciate her bold, frank take on traditional church spirituality, Francisco falls short in the same area she succeeds. Her disjointed treatise on a typical lack of personalized faith held by many Christians appears more a reminiscing on a childhood of parental absence due to a committed but over-worked ministry. A focus on (and constant reiteration of) religious pitfalls overshadows the beauty of what should be a dominant message of Good News, salvation, Gospel and grace. In one breath she speaks against the specifics of church doctrine and church teaching, yet with the next she espouses her own views in her conveyance of “what you must do to be saved,” namely, say this prayer and ask Jesus into your heart. What she intends to be a focus on pure freedom in Christ, she turns into a sermon or an introductory pamphlet to her church (denomination) of preference. As the reader continues through the text, Francisco’s language actually turns more “churchy” than expected for a book that speaks against the religious system.

As promised, and with a good array of Scripture, Francisco directly confronts the religious matrix, lies, and manipulation that are often the perceived definition of organized spirituality. Fanatical Christians would do well do heed her call to emphasize Christ and the Gospel. Yet, while a reader may commend her efforts, one should not condone her trivialization and automatic dismissal of traditions or teachings that actually have a basis in Scripture. Some established misuse of tradition need not necessarily entail an across-the-board rejection of tradition. While we can be thankful she “finally met [Jesus] after all these years,” it’s honestly sad that a non-realization of Jesus’ presence implies that He wasn’t actually there all along.

Andrew B. Ratcliffe

Pastor, St. John Lutheran Church
Seward, Nebraska

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