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Amid pandemic, a much-needed reminder that church is worth it


Joseph P. Conway’s Broken but Beautiful — Why Church Is Still Worth It begins with sobering statistics about the decline of church attendance and church affiliation in the United States. 

Joseph P. Conway. Broken but Beautiful: Why Church Is Still Worth It. Wipf and Stock, 2020.

Joseph P. Conway. Broken but Beautiful: Why Church Is Still Worth It. Wipf and Stock, 2020.

Then Conway, who ministers for the Acklen Avenue Church of Christ in Nashville, Tenn., and teaches in the College of Bible and Ministry at Lipscomb University, methodically goes through the various reasons people leave the church. 

Many have studied and written extensively about these issues. What makes Conway’s perspective different is that he gives credence to people’s disillusionment and discouragement with church. He weaves in real-life stories to illustrate his points and says to the reader, “If you have experienced these things, I get it, and I’m sorry.” 

Without judgment he says, “What if there is more than just the brokenness? Beyond the pain and difficulty, what if something beautiful endures beneath the baggage?” Throughout the book, he effectively builds the case that, indeed, the church may be broken, but it is still worth it.

A strength of this book is that it helps those who are still in church realize why many left, and it helps those who have left realize why others have stayed. The book cultivates empathy for all involved. Conway uses much of the book to describe four unique things churches offer: open weekly gatherings, intergenerational community, transnational identity and ethical accountability. 

“Broken but Beautiful” is timely in an era when many feel disconnected because of COVID-19 and are wondering if going back to church is worth it.

“Broken but Beautiful” is timely in an era when many feel disconnected because of COVID-19 and are wondering if going back to church is worth it. 

Quoting Paul in Ephesians 5:25 (“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”), Conway compels us to realize just how important church is — important enough that Jesus died for it. 

Powerful personal stories of his mother’s tragic death combined with compelling arguments of why church is “worth it” will lead the reader, with the author, to conclude that “if you have a church, you always have a family, and nothing can take that family from you.”

Mary Brown is a member of the Manchester Church of Christ in Connecticut. 

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