Real Church in a Social Networking World: A Book Review

Todd Pylant

1.5 Stars

September 19, 2012

Real Church in a Social Networking World: From Facebook to Face-to-Face Faith by Len Sweet (WaterBrook Press, 2011). This book ought to come with a warning that reads, “Warning: the contents of this book have little to do with the title. Please adjust your expectations before reading.” That may be a harsh way of starting a review, but this little book suffers from at least two problems. First, it is obviously a “cut and paste” compilation of writings from his other works that are both repetitive and unrelated at the same time. And secondly, it fails to deliver on the premise. If you expect to discover how to be the church in a world transformed by social networking, keep looking. But my major dissatisfaction is that Sweet sets up a straw man to mow down. He contrasts two extremes: the pew sitting church attendee who is so focused on doctrine and reading the Bible that he or she never leaves the church building and the idealized relational lover of humanity who eats with sinners and goes where Jesus went. As a pastor who knows many of these pew sitters who love the Bible, I know most of them serve meals in the night shelter, volunteer at the crisis pregnancy center, serve as volunteers in the schools, and serve as court appointed advocates for children in crisis. If Sweet wants to throw stones at the Pharisees, that is fine. But to describe all people who care about doctrine as pew sitters who never leave the building is a farce. I would challenge Sweet’s understanding of God's mission in the world. The Scriptures tell us that the divine, eternal plan of God is to bring all things under the headship of Christ. Sweet makes it sound like the divine plan of God is to bring good into the world. The difference is subtle, but important. Yes, we are called to serve others, but light in darkness does more than bus tables and wash dishes. Light exposes the evil of the darkness, evil that is defined in Scripture, but there I go again clinging to an old book in a social networking world. It seems as if Sweet would have us choose between rules and relationships, but why are those two mutually exclusive? In summary, I would suggest you skip this collection of Sweet’s writings. Even if you agree with Sweet’s viewpoint, you will be much more satisfied with an original work. This one raises far more questions than answers. Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. I was not obligated to offer a positive review.