Meet Ed Galisewski, a real life Joe Palooka from Jersey—a big, good natured guy who loves the church. Ed has been men’s ministry leader for fifteen years and ministered to thousands. He’s been in and out (and in again) of church, learning to overcome his own misgivings with the institution while still loving the body of Christ. Pained by the competition he witnessed between churches, coupled with the smugness of many Christian groups who think ‘their way’ is the ‘right way,’ and the tendency of Christians to judge those who don’t practice their faith in the same way, he was about ready to leave the church altogether. Instead, he started talking to fellow believers—often, through men’s groups—and realized he wasn’t alone. “Almost everyone I spoke with said that the us-versus-them mentality was having a negative effect on their relationship with God,” he explains. So, Ed went to work researching the causes of this divisiveness and what might be done about it.
Okay, point taken. I’ve also been serving the Lord and his church for quite a while (actually, for more than double Ed’s tenure) and I can frankly tell you that this complaint is nothing new. “Why can’t we just all get along?” goes back a lot further than Rodney King. I’ve heard it for years. And it seems everyone has the solution. Only none of them work. I will say this for Ed, at least he has put his concerns in a public forum. His book is “A Simpler Faith: Hope for People Struggling with the Church.” It’s a view from the pew, not just another analysis from yet another professional “expert” or research group. What Galisewski proposes is that believers return to a simpler, more personal relationship with Christ. He begins with his own story, and then presents all the counterproductive ways well-intentioned churches alienate Christians both inside and outside their congregations. He follows that by concrete steps his readers can take right now, in their own churches to again begin practicing Christianity the way Jesus did—with love, compassion, inclusion, with a strong sense of community among all believers.
I have to plead guilty to overlooking those experiencing the modern church at the grass roots, foolishly opting to listen only to those pontificating from ivy-covered cubicles dispensing sometimes, but not always, good advice to those working the front line. Galisewski is a serviceman in the trenches with a stated aim 1). to offer hope to dechurched and disillusioned former church members; 2). to confront contented Christians, often church members in denial who may think they have things figured-out; 3). to indict spiritually lazy Christians who accept what they are fed without question and without thinking; and 4). to motivate ministers who are often overwhelmed with “solutions,” so much so that they cannot see the trees for the forest. Granted, “A Simpler Faith” is subversive but it is also a well-written, often humorous, and always provocative cry from the rank-and-file that would benefit everyone.
Jim Miller, pastor, Vineyard Church Nacogdoches