Does your church make you uncomfortable?
It’s easy to dream about the “perfect” church—a church that sings just the right songs set to just the right music before the pastor preaches just the right sermon to a room filled with just the right mix of people who happen to agree with you on just about everything.
Chances are your church doesn’t quite look like that. But what if instead of searching for a church that makes us comfortable, we learned to love our church, even when it’s challenging? What if some of the discomfort that we often experience is actually good for us?
This book is a call to embrace the uncomfortable aspects of Christian community, whether that means believing difficult truths, pursuing difficult holiness, or loving difficult people—all for the sake of the gospel, God’s glory, and our joy.
“As I read through Uncomfortable, I am strangely comforted. With all the talk about young Christians being disenchanted with the local church, it is refreshing to hear Brett McCracken, a Millennial, speak so affirmatively on her behalf. I am moved by Brett’s grown-up perspective in these pages, a perspective that champions the church as a family not a club, a sinner’s hospital not a social network, and a commitment not a consumer product. For any serious Christian, Brett’s words are a wake-up call to engage—indeed, to love and devote ourselves to—this often messy, high-maintenance, painfully ordinary but also glorious, life-giving, and forever-beloved band of misfits that Jesus calls his wife. If Jesus has so tethered himself to the church, dare we untether ourselves from her? Thank you, Brett, for reminding us that Jesus and his wife come to us as a package deal. This book is a must-read.”
—Scott Sauls, senior pastor, Christ Presbyterian Church, Nashville, Tennessee; author, Jesus Outside the Lines; Befriend; and From Weakness to Strength
“In a generation of dissatisfied consumers hoping to find our perfectly customized Dream Church™, Brett McCracken is the herald of a counterintuitive gospel: ‘Take comfort! Church is supposed to be uncomfortable!’ That’s because McCracken knows it’s precisely in embracing the uncomfortable truths of the gospel and immersing ourselves in the uncomfortable unity-in-diversity of the body that we are transformed into the image of Christ—the God who endured the discomfort of the cross to bring us resurrection life. In that sense, Uncomfortable is a sharp application of Christ’s perennial call to come and die to the particular temptations of the North American church. A helpful corrective and an ultimately hopeful invitation.”
—Derek Rishmawy, blogger, Reformedish; cohost, Mere Fidelity podcast
“As an inhabitant of the Western world, I take comfort for granted, and I like it that way. I expect to wear comfortable clothes, sleep in a comfortable bed, and have comforting food in the refrigerator. All my cultural conditioning teaches me to expect—and demand—comfort. Yet as a pastor and a disciple, I know that the demands of the gospel, while ultimately comforting, frequently are not comfortable. In this excellent book, Brett McCracken identifies and prods around many of the things that make Christian community uncomfortable: he had me itching and scratching! Brett demonstrates how rather than fleeing discomfort we need to lean into it, and in so doing find what is more deeply satisfying than the shallow comforts of our consumer age. I encourage you to read this book and embrace the itch!”
—Matthew Hosier, pastor, Gateway Church, Poole, United Kingdom; contributor, thinktheology blog
“What if not only our answers but our questions are wrong? We think we know what we want, but as Brett McCracken explains with persuasive wit and wisdom, Jesus knows better. Uncomfortable is just the message we need to hear, especially right now.”
—Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology, Westminster Seminary California; author, Core Christianity: Finding Yourself in God’s Story
“We live in a culture oriented entirely toward comfort, and the church is not immune from its lure. Brett McCracken offers a timely and needed reminder that the call for Christians is a different one, but one that brings blessings richer than mere comfort. Uncomfortable will make you uncomfortable in the best of ways. Every believer needs to read this book and heed its call.”
—Karen Swallow Prior, author, Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me and Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More—Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist
“Americans are experts at avoiding the uncomfortable—be it awkward conversations, conflicted relationships, or lifestyle changes. But Jesus points us to a better way. In this book, McCracken shows us how the greatest glories for disciples of Jesus are often found in the most uncomfortable places his voice calls us and how the real church is not an idealized utopia beyond the fray of history, but rather Jesus powerfully present among his often muddled, messy, and awkward—yes, uncomfortable—bands of followers today.”
—Joshua Ryan Butler, pastor, Imago Dei Community, Portland, Oregon; author, The Skeletons in God’s Closet and The Pursuing God
“Brett McCracken challenges us to face one of the greatest fears of contemporary culture: discomfort. Rather than retreating into a soothing world where everyone’s ‘just like me’ or embracing the distractions of technology and consumerism, Brett calls us to life in community with God’s people, where awkwardness, disappointment, and frustration are the norm. It’s in this way of life—embracing the uncomfortable—that we’ll find the richest experience of God’s grace and the community our hearts truly desire. In a world where church is often just one more consumeristic choice, this is a much-needed book.”
—Mike Cosper, founder and director, Harbor Institute for Faith and Culture
“Ahhhh, comfort. It’s the siren call to our human hearts, beckoning us to find, acquire, and maintain lives of ease. Such a bent, however, is incompatible with a vibrant Christian faith lived within a thriving Christian community. In Uncomfortable, Brett McCracken alerts us to the toxic ways comfort infects and hinders our faith—and how God meets our heart’s desire for comfort in gloriously unexpected ways. McCracken urges us to seek something greater than comfort: true life and true faith in Christ, found just beyond the borders of our comfort zone.”
—Erin Straza, author, Comfort Detox; managing editor, Christ and Pop Culture
“Anyone who looks closely at modern Christian life can see signs of the insidious self-centeredness by which we sinners are tempted to transform the gospel into something that suits our tastes and fits our plans. McCracken carries out that close examination; in fact, in this book he equips us to pursue that false comfort into all of its hiding places and root it out in Jesus’s name and for the sake of the gospel.”
—Fred Sanders, professor of theology, Torrey Honors Institute, Biola University; author, The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything
“Sometimes church feels like an annoying family member you would rather see only at Thanksgiving and Christmas. We want a church that is cool and suits our tastes, not the frustrating institution that carries around the ‘shame of the cross.’ Brett’s smoothly written book has cast all the awkwardness of church into a new and meaningful light for me. Like a Puritan voice for the cool, anti-institutional, twenty-first-century Christian, Brett charges his readers to stay and commit to the church as Christ’s bride.”
—Emily Belz, journalist, World magazine
“In an anti-institutional age, many wandering souls are hungry for something bigger than themselves. Brett McCracken’s vision of the church points us to this reality, which is rarely what we expect and always what we need. Readers of diverse backgrounds—and differing viewpoints—will profit from considering these reflections. McCracken is a prophetic voice within the rising generation of evangelicalism, and I am thankful for his contribution.”
—Owen Strachan, associate professor of Christian theology, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; coeditor, Designed for Joy and The Pastor as Scholar, the Scholar as Pastor
“Uncomfortable dismantles some of our most-treasured hopes and dreams about what church could and should look like, revealing the pride and self-will that lurk beneath even the noblest of our ideals. It grounds us instead in what church really is—a place where we are called to love our fellow sinners and be loved by them, acknowledging our shared sinfulness even while we challenge each other to leave it behind. For all who care about the church, this is invaluable reading.”
—Gina Dalfonzo, author, One by One: Welcoming the Singles in Your Church
“As C. S. Lewis reminded us, if we want a comfortable faith, we best not give ourselves to Jesus Christ. But if we want a faith grounded in ultimate reality, and one that matures and therefore ennobles us, then Jesus is indeed the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In this book, Brett McCracken not only ‘counts the cost’ of life in Christ, but also shows why this uncomfortable life is also the most blessed.”
—Mark Galli, editor in chief, Christianity Today
About the Author
Brett McCracken is a senior editor for the Gospel Coalition and the author of Hipster Christianity and Gray Matters. He also writes regularly for Christianity Today and his website, BrettMcCracken.com. He lives with his wife in Southern California where he serves as an elder at Southlands Church.