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Disappearing Church: From Cultural Relevance to Gospel Resilience
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Disappearing Church: From Cultural Relevance to Gospel Resilience

4.41  ·  Rating details ·  385 ratings  ·  74 reviews
When church and culture look the same...

For the many Christians eager to prove we can be both holy and cool, cultural pressures are too much. We either compartmentalize our faith or drift from it altogether—into a world that’s so alluring.

Have you wondered lately:

Why does the Western church look so much like the world?
Why are so many of my friends leaving the faith?
How can
Paperback, 176 pages
Published February 2nd 2016 by Moody Publishers
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May 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is full of really good stuff. I learned about Mark Sayers through his excellent podcast “This Cultural Moment.” He is a great interpreter of the culture. So much good insight. His explanation of the draw to be relevant and it’s dangers is really good. I also thought his explanation of the “beautiful life” that we are promised by the culture and thus strive for was really insightful
Dec 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Wow. The Mark Sayers is a smart man, and that comes across in this book. A thoroughly researched (with references!) treatise, that will/has already had an impact on my thoughts on and engagement with my Christian faith.

However, it is a dense book. And one I felt I had to persevere through at times. It’s a feeling I’ve had before reading Sayers, and if the content wasn’t so good I might not have made it.
Ethan Marstella
Feb 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A must-read for all those currently engaged in Christian ministry. How do we love and serve our culture as it shifts to a post-Christian worldview, and remain a creative minority that steadfastly abides in the truth of the cross? Sayers’ cultural analysis and Biblical wisdom bring language to the reality we experience today on the front lines of ministry in Generation Z to point to a deeper, richer, and long term view of ministry that requires trust and reliance on Christ over bright lights and ...more
Nathan Randel
Jan 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Mark Sayers brilliantly reflects on what Christians constantly experience as exiles in a secular/post-Christian society. He provides a high-level summary of some of the ideas that shaped many of the cultural movements that have taken place throughout history. He attempts to answer questions regarding the Church's decline in the West and why Christians shouldn't be discouraged by it while also providing a helpful framework for Gospel-centered living amongst a lost, identity-less, "spiritual" ...more
Jake Smierciak
Mar 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A clear snap shot of the current culture with Christianity in in the midst of it all. From forrest floors to withdrawing this book allows the reader to understand some complexities of this Christian walk while living in this culture.
Liz Baker
Mar 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
We read this book as a staff team this semester, and it was a really interesting look at postmodern culture and church. If you have interest in sociology and spirituality, I highly recommend this read. It’s difficult to summarize, but if you’re in ministry in western culture, it’s worth your time.
Oct 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Again, Sayers considers the social and cultural fabric of society at large, through the lens of Jesus, and delivers a tidal wave of observations, critiques, and ideas surrounding movements, churches, institutions, and everything in between. The second half of this book, in particular, warrants a second reading on my behalf as I feel there's a lot more to sift through. But for now I stand validated and challenged, concurrently, in a lot of my own personal reflections in how we're to abide in the ...more
Adam Robinson
May 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
How are we as a church supposed to respond to a radically changing post-Christian culture? Most answers lean towards abandoning the culture to it's fate or kowtowing to its demands and becoming like them. Sayers defines for us the middle way by exposing the folly of trying to be "relevant" in the world's terms but remaining present and engaging nonetheless. It's a precarious balance. But the only way to actually accomplish this is to stay centered on Christ and His Word. Sayers is an insightful ...more
Jun 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Really good book. Wished the final chapters were a bit more practical. Seems like Sayers had a bit more to say (or could have fleshed it out a bit) but didn't say it. Fascinating cultural commentary and help for the church in the West.
Anne Hamilton
Dec 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A very interesting analysis of the position of the church today in respect to western culture. Ultimately Sayers seems to suggest that the problem is one of Gnosticism infiltrating society and influencing Christianity, even when we fail to recognise it.

One particular point I think he misses (and it's a very subtle point): he is actually talking about Gnostic thinking and philosophy, which is not quite the same as Gnostic mysticism. I would have liked to have seen him address the problem current
Nathan Smith
Jan 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“The belief is that if we do the stuff of Christianity - read our Bibles, help the poor, worship passionately, move sound equipment without groaning (hits home lol) - we will get a slice of the awesome Christian life that the implicit gospel promises...but our heresy hidden under the surface is our belief that God would not ask Western people to deny themselves.” (Pg 82-3)


Best book I’ve read by Sayers by far. From start to finish he delivers a brilliant treatise on how to generate a
Steve LaMotte
Dec 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Disappearing Church packs a lot into a short read. If you've ever wondered how Gnosticism looks in our modern times, Sayers provides some insights and how it has infiltrated the church. His premise is that the church needs to "disappear" from relevance to the world in order to abide in the way and life of Jesus. This, along with his podcast "This Cultural Moment," is essential reading for our time.
L-T Hopper
Sep 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Insightful reflection on the culture and the churches response to be relevant. The 'creative minority' is the proposed way forward and is a helpful of believers viewing themselves. I would have liked more discussion on what it means for the church to live as a 'creative minority.'
Feb 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Incredible book. More introductory in nature to get you thinking about what it means to be a true church and true disciple in a Post-Christian society, and not so practical in that sense. Still, every church leader immersed in westernism should consider this book.
Apr 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Disappearing Church by Mark Sayers posits an interesting thought: We live in a culture riddled with "liberal Christian residue", our seemingly secular culture is basically Christian liberalism without the label of 'Christian' and without being considered 'religious' . By trying to be relevant by trying to appeal to the ever-changing culture around them liberal Christianity became so relevant that it's basic tenets became a part of the culture and thus the church 'institution' was irrelevant as ...more
R. Douglas
Feb 28, 2019 rated it liked it
This book was a very interesting perspective on why the Western church seems to be "disappearing". While it is ultimately Sayers opinion built on a large amount of research it discounts the growth of the non-white church in the West particularly in the U.S.A. While there were many good points of why whites are leaving do to gnostic beliefs the Latino/a church is growing. The Black church has not hit a speed bump they have continued to move right along. With this cultural and race related lense I ...more
Simon Risson
Mar 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What a brilliant book of hope reminding the church of its call and purpose despite the cultural challenges we face. A confronting, stirring but encouraging read.
Bob O'bannon
Dec 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
After decades of the church scrambling to be relevant to an increasingly secular culture, Mark Sayers wonders if we might have made things worse (40). What we need is not to be more relevant, but more resilient.

As has been widely noted, western culture is more thoroughly post-Christian than ever before. Part of the problem is a modern-day Gnosticism which has dominated our thinking. There is a super helpful chart on p. 65 comparing ancient Gnosticism (“you are a god”) to contemporary Gnosticism
Evelyn  Fonseca
Mar 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I had been eyeing this book for a while until I finally requested it for review and I'm glad I did. It's a small, short book (some 170 pages) but jam-packed with relevant observations about the state of the Christian Church today. I could not stop myself from nodding in agreement as I thumbed through the book. I agree with the author's opinions.

The author discusses how the Western Church has assimilated practices, ideologies, philosophies, and mentalities from the secular world. In an effort to
Chris Hilson
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Hugely helpful cultural critique into Western culture and the church. If you want to understand the assumptions you’ve been brought up with in the West and to look ‘inside’ your culture and even yourself from the ‘outside’, this is a very good place to start. Describes where we have come from as a culture and church, and why we are here today. Biblically grounded and honest about what can be done...not a 10 step guide to a way forward. Offers a framework and hope. A biblical approach to what God ...more
Carter Hemphill
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read this after finishing the author's most recent book Strange Days. I found that this book is a better explanation of his thesis about the impact of Gnosticism and post-modernism on society today. I particularly like the author's explanation of Gnosticism and how it's been adapted to conform to today's society. Often I've run across authors who link 1-2nd century Gnosticism to present day and the link has not been logically clear. This is a deep book -- read slowly to get the full message. I ...more
Jacob Albrecht
Jan 08, 2020 rated it did not like it
This book was disappointing. Not an enjoyable read. Very few helpful points and insights. He repeats a lot of his main points. Seems to target younger generations pointing blame at them for the church dissolving. His research doesn’t seem helpful other than to quote someone else that backs yo his own opinions. It feels outlandish and arbitrary. The hopeful message and assurance of helping the church grow or strive you don’t find until the very very end and I felt was shortsighted and weak for ...more
Mar 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was unexpected. It was more conservative than I expected, but it really hit the nail on the head when describing to today's society as self-worshiping. Anyone who drives in traffic for more than 30 seconds understands this. I feel like there was a lot of depth that I might have missed on my first read and I may have to go back and reread this in the future to get more out of it. I'm also not sure that we got any kind of actionable plan to make things better - but this could also be ...more
Sooho Lee
Jul 10, 2019 rated it liked it


But some of his word choice is not just odd—they are inappropriate. For example, as a cultural analyst, I find it curious that he uses “colonize” as a benign term to describe the process of “Christianizing” or other cultures shaping attitudes and values. It is not a benign term, and, frankly, he should know that. This also shows that he does not address one of the big cultural factors of our day: race (along with class and gender/sex). I think it’s quite impossible to make much sense
Sep 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first half of this book, an analysis of how the church in the West came to it’s problematic present is very strong other than being a bit loose with the church growth movement. At the time I was reading this I thought it might possibly be the best book I had read all year. The second half, focused on the church’s response to the present crisis, is not nearly as strong. In fact, the author seems to struggle to suggest anything besides doing what conservative churches have always done. I don’t ...more
Jacob Michael
Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Sayers has been captivating my attention since I first heard his This Cultural Moment podcast. This book was deeply refreshing and relentlessly engaging for a full-time ministry rookie like me.

Though I went into this read thinking I would primarily see how depraved post-Christian culture is, I ended up questioning my own motives and seeing how much I need the church to call out my own sin.

Sayers succinctly yet effectively exposes the paper-thin, subtle lies of modern gnosticism and points to
Wavey Cowpar
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I had the privilege of hearing Mark speak at this years Calvary Global Network International Conference and he was just great to hear so I wanted to get the book.

He is just so insightful, prophetic, eye opening and has his finger on the pulse of secular Western culture in ways I haven’t come across (and if you flick through my read books you will see I like studying Christian interactions with culture).

I’m looking forward to reading more and spending time with the Spirit thinking over and
Tristan Persaud
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: future
Fantastic. Simple articulation of something that can at times feel lofty. A great in depth look at all the things discussed in Sayer's podcast.

Wish it was longer and went even deeper! Felt short at times where I wanted to know more about the background, more lengthy thoughts on things - but that is also what allows the book to remain simple rather than getting too lofty, so I can't really complain.
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must read for pastors/ministry leaders that I can not recommend highly enough. Incredibly thought provoking and provides an invaluable cultural critique, based in Church history, that helps to make sense of postchristian culture and pave a way forward for churches/ministries. Could have been strengthened by a more robust discussion of how Gnosticism was battled against and/or deconstructed throughout church history.
Jesse Baker
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Withdrawing to read this critique of our neo-Gnostic culture has rekindled the importance of having deep roots firmly established in the gospel. Now as I return home — with a reaffirmed commitment to teach the church to obediently follow Christ’s commands — I have assurance that such gospel roots will outlast and illuminate the flimsy roots of our secular world.
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Mark Sayers is the senior leader of Red Church and the cofounder of Über Ministries. He is particularly interested in the intersection between Christianity and the culture of the West. Mark lives in Melbourne, Australia, with his wife, Trudi, and their daughter (Grace) and twin boys (Hudson and Billy).