3rdRace.org Life, The Church

An Interview with Richard Jacobson

In July of this year, Richard Jacobson released his first book, Unchurching: Christianity Without Churchianity. He has also launched a stellar podcast under the Unchurching banner. In fact, our own Thomas Fortson was recently interviewed on the podcast in a three part series. If you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to check it out starting here.

Some of the contributors here on 3rdRace.org recently put some questions about his book to ol’ Richard, and he was gracious enough to answer them. Thanks, Richard!

Would you elaborate some on what you mean by the terms “unchurched” and “churchianity”?

Absolutely! The idea of “unchurching” is actually quite simple. When I look at way the early churches are described in the Bible, it’s clear they aren’t like today’s churches. The first churches were small Christian communities that functioned like extended spiritual families. Today’s churches, on the other hand, are legal corporations.

And that’s what I mean by “churchianity”: spiritual communities that have become church organizations, with religious positions and titles and hierarchy. Therefore, “unchurching” is the process of divesting ourselves of all the man-made organizational structures we’ve added to the church, and returning to a simpler, more biblical form of spiritual community with other believers.

Then I’m guessing your book is targeted to those saints in the organized church? Can someone already “unchurched” still benefit from your book?

Surprisingly, the book is garnering readers all along the church spectrum, from people who are happily involved in the organized church to those who have completely rejected it. Personally, I most wanted to connect with anyone who was frustrated with church-as-usual. But the book seems to resonate with all kinds of believers, for some reason.

So, what is the main point you hope readers will take away from your book?

The main point I want to make is that it’s possible to have genuine church community without the man-made organized church model. I think it’s especially important for this current generation to know this because, statistically speaking, the organized church is probably going to lose most of them; millions of believers—especially younger believers—are rejecting the organized church. But many of them don’t want to reject their faith. Therefore, it’s imperative that we let them know there’s an alternative to the organized church.

What steps would you recommend someone taking if they read your book and identity themselves as “unchurched”?

I’ve actually got some practical steps in the back of the book. Not to mention, The Unchurching Podcast has some really good practical advice, too. Plus, I’m about to share a series of free talks with all my email subscribers. So make sure to sign up for those at unchurching.com, if you haven’t already!

Can you describe for us the process in which you were “unchurched” yourself? What did that journey look like for you?

It’s really just a return to my roots, I guess. You see, I was actually raised in the Jesus Movement, surrounded by hippie Jesus freaks. Therefore, my first experiences of church life had nothing to do with church buildings or church programs. Church wasn’t something you “went to”. Church was simply a way of life. And not just once a week, either.

Every day, believers gathered in homes, restaurants, bookstores, and coffee shops. They showed up with guitars, tambourines, and Bibles. They sang together, read the Bible to each other, prayed for one another, shared stories, shared their possessions, and just shared their lives with each other. We never wanted it to end. In fact, we even lived in a Christian commune for a brief while.

Over the years, through an interesting series of events, I not only ended up in the organized church, but I eventually became an organized church pastor. But the more I prayed for God to teach me about the church, the more I began to see a disconnect between the kind of churches we read about in the Bible, versus the kind of churches we attend on Sunday mornings. Eventually, I decided to step down and start searching for a church community that looked more like the churches I read about in the Bible, more like the church experiences I had as a kid.

What does being “unchurched” look like for you today?

Today, I’m part of a church community that looks more like a simple spiritual family. There’s no building, no pastor, no services or programs. We’re simply trying to live life together, and let Christ lead his church. And I’ve recently started The Unchurching Podcast with one of my best friends from the community, in order to share insights about this kind of church life with anyone who’s interested.

What’s the story behind the development and publishing of your book? How did it get started and make it through all the stages of publishing?

The whole process took about fifteen years. Though, to be fair, I didn’t even realize I was writing a book at first. In the beginning, I was simply making study notes for myself, trying to figure out this whole church thing. Eventually, I wanted to start sharing my ideas, but every time I tried to write a book, it never seemed to come together. So I started an animated video blog instead.

By sharing some of my ideas in the form of short, animated videos, I was able to deal with one concept at a time. Plus, I was able to build up a pretty decent following. By the time I was ready to take another pass at the book, there were quite a few people who were looking forward to it. I talked to a publisher, but ended up self-publishing instead. Because the initial sales were really strong, the service I used to print the books offered to format the Kindle version for free.

Once the Kindle version came out, people in several other countries were able to purchase the eBook, without paying overseas shipping for a physical book. So now, I’m getting emails from readers in the U.K., Canada, Nigeria, South Africa, Switzerland, Indonesia, Japan, and more. And that’s pretty exciting, especially because there’s only an English version of my book, so far. So, it really means a lot to me that so many people seem to be really interested in it.

Does your book contain anything in addition to, or different from, books we may have read by Frank Viola, Milt Rodriguez, or other authors?

I must confess, I actually tried to avoid reading other books on this topic while I was writing my book. So, I’m probably not the best person to ask. However, I get a lot of compliments from readers, saying my book has lots of unique ideas they haven’t found in other books. Hopefully that’s true!

Would you recommend your book to someone who didn’t grow up in church and is just now coming to know the Lord? Why or why not?

Yes, though it wouldn’t be the first book I’d recommend. I think it’s way more important for a new believer to start with getting to know Christ. As that relationship grows, they’ll naturally start to care about the things he cares about. And, obviously, Christ cares deeply about his church. So, whenever they move from reading the Gospels to reading Acts, or some of the Epistles, they might want to pick up a copy of Unchurching. But definitely start with simply getting to know Jesus. Starting with a book like Unchurching would be putting the cart before the horse.

Who are some of the folks the Lord has used to influence you to get you to this point in your walk with Him?

Other pastors, mostly. Though I left the organized church, I was very fortunate to be part of more than one church that had very little dysfunction or politics. And I was surrounded by several really godly men. Though we don’t agree on all our ideas about church, those men still had a huge positive impact on my life. And I’m still reaping the benefits of the years we spent, working together.

Are there any follow up books planned?

Most definitely! Though my next book is probably going to be even more controversial than this one. It’s in the same vein, but the format will be quite different, and so will the target audience. It’ll be really interesting to see how people respond to it, once I finally announce it.

Lastly, where can people find out more about you online?

The best way to stay in the loop is to sign up for my emails at unchurching.com.

Again, you can check out Unchurching: Christianity Without Churchianity on Amazon.

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