Book Review: Muscle and a Shovel

Reviewed by Garrett Best

Several months ago, someone asked me if I had read Muscle and a Shovel, and I hadn’t. It seemed like almost everyday I was seeing or hearing someone comment about the book. I didn’t have time to read it, but someone in my congregation came up and asked my opinion about the book and so, in December, I read it. Michael Shank’s story of leaving the Baptist Church and coming to Churches of Christ is a story shared by many of my friends and even my own wife! So, I appreciate what Michael has tried to do with this book. He has attempted to share his own story in an effort to encourage others to think critically about the Bible, salvation, and the church. My review of this book is nothing personal against Michael Shank. I know nothing about the guy other than what I read in the book. My review is solely based on the content, message, and tone of the book. I hope to include enough quotations in this review so that even if you haven’t read the book personally, you can get a feel for what it seeks to do. I don’t claim to have all the answers, and hope this review is received with the well-intention with which it is written. I want to see people reached with the gospel of Christ as should all Christians. I want to question whether this book is the most effective means to accomplish that purpose.

When I started the book, I expected to like it. Preachers and elders were handing out boxes full of the books in their churches. There are hundreds of five star reviews on Amazon. I really wanted to like it. I grew up in Churches of Christ and love our rich heritage in the American Restoration Movement. I believe there are so many great things about our fellowship. I love our simple yet theologically profound worship. I love our emphasis on teaching the Bible. So, this review is written by one committed deeply to the principles of our movement and the teachings of the Bible.

I found the book to be easy to read. I was unable to put it down. Shank has a talent for producing narrative. One of the positive things that I think has resulted from this book is showing those in Churches of Christ how powerful narrative can be in evangelism. Since the 1980s biblical scholarship has been moving away from historical-critical criticism and towards more wholistic understandings of the narratives and how they function. Simply put, narrative is hot right now. I think that a narrative approach to evangelism might be an effective means of reaching certain age groups. I appreciate Shank for bringing an emphasis on narrative to the conversation about how best to reach people.

The book is easy to read and the narrative engaging. Unfortunately, there are numerous spelling, capitalization, and grammatical errors which occur throughout the book. As a reader, I found that to be distracting. The preface states, “The story you are about to read is completely true in every sense. There are no exaggerations and embellishments” (7). In the 352 pages that follow, Shank shares the story of how he was brought out of the Baptist Church and introduced to Churches of Christ. Randall, a co-worker of Shanks, invites him to study the Bible and causes Shank to question many of his previously held beliefs about religion and salvation.

Since the events of the story occurred over two decades ago, the conversations and actions have been reconstructed for the benefit of readers. Of course, Shank doesn’t have an actual transcript of the conversations so he has recreated them with a purpose in mind. The story is clearly crafted in such a way to have an intended effect upon the reader. Shank makes this agenda clear at the end, “Friend, if you’ve read this book in its entirety you have been taught of God” (326). The book is intended to be an evangelistic tool that encourages readers to question their salvation and denominational affiliation as Shank was led to do by Randall (327). As I understood the book, it is more intended to be directed at those in denominations than it is to unbelievers. This book would be largely unintelligible to a non-Christian. In other words, it is intended to be a Bible study in narrative form for those currently in evangelical Protestant denominations.

There are a few concerns that I have about the book. First, I think that readers leave the book with unfair caricatures of denominations. The straw man fallacy is when a person in a debate constructs a straw man of their opponent’s position and then attempts to burn down the new argument they have constructed. For example, Bob says, “I just love sunny days.” In response Fred says, “Bob only wants us to have sunny days which means there will be no rain and then all our crops will die and we will starve to death. Bob is so evil.” Fred has constructed a straw man and then burned it down and burned down Bob with it. The argument Fred made and attacked was not what Bob originally said.

I believe this book contains several straw man fallacies and ill-informed characterizations of those in Protestant groups. For example, Shank repeatedly presents the Baptist Church as teaching that John the Baptist was the founder of the Baptist Church (62, 66). While I do not deny that Shank encountered this response from some Baptist pastors, this is not what most in Baptist Churches teach. Can you imagine someone writing a book and claiming that Churches of Christ are opposed to Sunday School because they spoke with two preachers from some of our no-Sunday-School brethren? It’s a straw man which only serves to make the Baptist Church look ignorant. Even if a few pastors responded to Shank in that way, it is false and not descriptive of the beliefs of all Baptists as if one could even describe what all Baptists believe any more than one could describe the positions of all in Churches of Christ.

When Shank discusses what he views as, “the vague, nondescript, generic, community churches,” his caricature is even more injudicious. In chapter 20, he relates a story of being kicked out of a Sunday morning Bible class at a local community church. He says that he was kicked out for quoting the Bible. A man in the class allegedly accused Shank of thinking “the Bible is a literal guide” (179). The reader leaves with the impression that all community churches have disregarded the Bible as a guide for faith and practice. I am not questioning the historical veracity of this episode. What I am saying is that even if this happened at that particular community church, it cannot be said of all community churches. As if all community churches could be pigeonholed in this manner to begin with, the caricature is unfair and unfounded. Another straw man constructed and burned down.

When he discusses Jehovah’s Witnesses, he makes the assertion that they believe that the Watchtower Bible publication is “just as holy and inspired as the Bible” (176). “Isn’t it bizarre that they exalt their publications to the same level as the inspired Bible?” (176) This is simply not true. The Watchtower organization was formed in 1881 as Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society for the purpose of distributing religious tracts. That is what it continues to do today- distribute religious literature to promote the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses. How is this any different than the tract racks in our church foyers, Leroy Brownlow’s book Why I Am a Member of the Church of Christ, or even the current book under review? I have some well-meaning Jehovah’s Witnesses that stop by my house often. They always hand me a copy of the Watchtower publication and in their other hand they have a copy of the New World Translation Bible. When they hand me the Watchtower, they do not think they are handing me Scripture.

Look, I’m not saying I agree with everything that the Baptists, community churches, or Jehovah’s Witnesses believe or teach. I disagree on many points. I think many of the doctrines being taught by these religious leaders ought to be challenged, but I want us to be responsible in how we go about it. Characterizing what they believe falsely is not the way.

Shank also unfairly caricatured all Baptist pastors as greedy, pompous, and self-promoting. In the book, they are presented as only interested in their own glory rather than the glory of God. “Those churches seemed to be replacing Bible content for bigger buildings and better entertainment. Why? To draw bigger crowds, of course. Bigger crowds meant bigger donations. Bigger donations meant bigger paychecks and better lifestyles for the leadership of those churches” (63). Are there no Baptist pastors with pure motives? To caricature all Baptist pastors and Baptist Churches in this way is slanderous. If Shank doesn’t believe all pastors are greedy and power-hungry, he certainly never says otherwise (see also 200-01). In possibly the worst insinuation in the book, Ryan, a friend of Shank’s, actually compares Hitler’s Mein Kampf to the brainwashing that occurs in denominations (206). Denominational pastors compared to Hitler?! In another place, Randall says, “Denominational preachers seem to love and crave the glory that is of men more than the glory that is of God. They prove this by their actions and attitudes” (253). Again, Randall says, “And denominational preachers today can be likened to the Pharisees in the first century who loved the praise of men and loved their titles. I understand that some of today’s preachers will even get angry if you won’t address them by their religious title” (253). Stereotyping all “denominational preachers” as greedy, power hungry, and craving the glory of man is irresponsible. I’m sure there are no preachers or elders in Churches of Christ that would fit these descriptions!

Second, I felt that Shank (and Randall) inappropriately used and applied several biblical passages. I will provide one of the most glaring examples. After a discussion of tithing, Randall says, “Mr. Mike, do you realize that when the Baptists try to pull people back under the Law of Moses by binding the Jewish tithe of 10% they’re fallen from grace?” (236) In Galatians 5:4, Paul told the Galatians they were severed from Christ for trying to be justified by the law. They were inserting circumcision and other covenant keeping rites as requisites for salvation. Paul himself says that it doesn’t intrinsically matter if one is circumcised or not (Gal. 5:6). In Acts 16:3, Paul took Timothy and had him circumcised. Clearly, he doesn’t think circumcision in and of itself is sinful. The problem was that some taught that circumcision was required in addition to faith in Jesus. Paul would not have a problem with anyone giving 10% of their income to the Lord if they so purposed in their hearts. His problem would be with someone who made tithing a requisite for salvation in addition to faith in Christ. I doubt that’s what “the Baptists” are teaching. To charge “the Baptists” en masse with seeking to be justified by the law because of tithing is an irresponsible use and application of that text. I would like to hear what Shank (or Randall) thinks about the fact that Jesus himself sanctioned the practice of tithing (Matt. 23:23). I would also be interested in hearing their thoughts on the episode in Acts 21:17-26 when Paul took the four men who had taken a Nazarite vow up to the temple to keep their vow. Paul paid for the offerings at the temple. Was Paul severed from Christ for trying to “pull people back under the Law of Moses”? The issue is more complicated than Shank (or Randall) allows. The worst part is that this misapplication of Paul’s teaching is used as a weapon for condemnation.

Third, I was concerned by the sectarianian tone and rhetoric. I tried to imagine reading this book as someone currently in one of the groups he is describing. My guess is that many have been horribly offended. Many of the reader reviews on Amazon confirm this. In my opinion, the rhetoric is off-putting. One quote has especially drawn the attention of many:

“Mr. Mike,” he said meekly, “from my understanding of God’s Word, if you’re a member of a denomination, whether it be Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Mormon, any church that Jesus Christ did not establish and buy with His blood, there’s no question that you’re headed toward eternal destruction” (52).

One leaves the book with the impression that if one is not in Churches of Christ, eternal punishment awaits. If Churches of Christ have taken any steps forward in trying to distance ourselves from the “We’re the only ones going to heaven” stigma, then this book takes us giant leaps backward.

One of the goals of this book is to encourage readers to come to the same understandings he reaches and follow the five step plan of salvation and submit to true biblical baptism for remission of sins. He says of his baptism in the Baptist Church:

Jonetta, [Shank’s wife, GB] when I got into the water at the age of 13 I thought that I had no sin. The Baptist Pastor told me that I was already saved. He said that baptism had nothing to do with salvation. He said it was just an outward show of an inward change…. And if I got into the water thinking I had no sins, I was not baptized for the remission of sins. I wasn’t baptized like those in the Bible were baptized. It wasn’t biblical. Jonetta, I was baptized for the wrong reason and if that’s the case my baptism is no good. I’m still in my sins at this moment. I’m not a true Christian. (pgs. 313-14)

If Shank is right about this, then some of the greatest thinkers and preachers in our past (Alexander Campbell, J.W. McGarvey, James Harding, and David Lipscomb) were wrong. They vehemently opposed re-baptism of those coming to Churches of Christ from certain denominational groups, most notably the Baptists. They did not believe that “for remission of sins” was the only acceptable motive for baptism. They believed that the view of re-baptism promoted by this book was sectarian and unbiblical. If you want to read more, you can check out a previous post here. You might ultimately disagree with them, but you at least should know what they said.

In my opinion, the book has an arrogant, sectarian tone. Shank repeatedly asserts that he has “used no personal interpretation” of any Bible passage (349). The book boasts of the absence of “human opinions” or “personal biases” (225, 283). This displays a blindness and arrogance on the part of the author. Randall and Shank’s interpretations are simply equated with truth. Further, the book is riddled with quotes like, “How could any man call himself a minister of God and be so ignorant of the Word?” (138); “Do people really believe this junk called Calvinism?” (176); “The doctrines of the Holy Word of God are much different than the sweaty-palmed, weak-kneed, rosy-cheeked, wishy-washy, feel-good, stand-for-nothing, ineffectual, spineless, let’s-all-hold-hands-and-just-get-along garbage being dished out by the Community Church crowd” (180-81); “Mr. Mike, there is no rational spiritually honest person in the world who can refute God’s plan of salvation” (309); “Teaching that one can be saved by repeating the Sinner’s Prayer is a doctrine that will condemn numberless good people to the Lake of Fire” (335); “Try attending one of those spirit-filled, Holy Ghost baptized, charismatic revivals sometime and take a bottle of drain cleaner with you. Walk up to the ones claiming to have the miraculous gift of the Holy Ghost, hand them the drain cleaner and ask them to drink it” (171). The charged sectarian rhetoric of the book was off-putting even for me, and I’m not even in the target audience of the book. We would do well to take Paul’s advice in Col. 4:6, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” In my opinion, the rhetoric of this book is not very salty.

It is my opinion that this book is irresponsible in its caricature of denominations and its irresponsible application of some biblical passages. It contains sectarian rhetoric which will only continue to distance us from those outside our fellowship. For these reasons, I will personally not be recommending this book or sharing it with my friends outside Churches of Christ. This review is my own opinion. You are free to hold your own about the book.

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27 comments

  1. Thanks Garrett. I downloaded a free copy and skimmed through it a while back and was unimpressed, but instead felt very uncomfortable and embarrassed. A couple people have recommended that I read it with this astonishment that “10,000 people were converted by it!” (I’d love to know how that number came to be known), but I would never use a book like that to convert someone. The dialogues you quoted from the book alone are very contrived, awkward, almost robotic-ally scripted. If your review evaluates the book truly, I hope that book doesn’t come to represent the attitudes of the Churches of Christ.

  2. I have not actually read the book, largely because I suspected (based on the amazon description of the book and a quote from the book posted on facebook by a well-intentioned CofC friend- in fact, the one that you quote here about him unfairly characterizing Baptist preachers) what you have confirmed in your review. I keep on hearing about how many people have been baptized because of this book, but I have difficulty believing that someone coming from a non-CofC background could read this and NOT be turned off completely.

    1. The books publisher clarifies where these numbers come from. Look it up on the website before you make an opinion with no knowledge.

  3. I heard it was 1,000,000 conversions : )

    But seriously, I wouldn’t want to be in a congregation with people converted by this book. They would probably be more dogmatic than the author. So sad this was written when there are so many other good books out there to read.

  4. Thanks for this review! I bought the book but after reading about two-thirds of the book I lost interest as I grew tired of the problems that you have given an account of in your review.

    As for the claim about the number of conversions this book has allegedly helped bring about, I would simply ask “Conversions to what?” It matters not how large or small the number is because the conversions because when a person is converted based on a sectarian and legalistic reading of scripture, they become converts to such sectarianism and legalism (what we win them with is what we win them to) and that is not what a disciple of Jesus Christ is.

    Grace and Peace,

    Rex

  5. It is my opinion that this review is irresponsible in its caricature of this book and its irresponsible interpretation of some of the quotes.

    1. I would like to hear your opinion on which specific quotes are irresponsibly quoted and caricatured in this review. Not to argue, just genuinely curious.

      1. “Shank doesn’t have an actual transcript of the conversations so he has recreated them with a purpose in mind. The story is clearly crafted in such a way to have an intended effect upon the reader.”

        We do not know this. It is very possible that Shank does not need a transcript considering he was part of the actual conversations. We have no reason that I know of to believe that the conversations didn’t happen exactly as the book says.

        “Shank repeatedly presents the Baptist Church as teaching that John the Baptist was the founder of the Baptist Church (62, 66). While I do not deny that Shank encountered this response from some Baptist pastors, this is not what most in Baptist Churches teach….it is false and not descriptive of the beliefs of all Baptists as if one could even describe what all Baptists believe any more than one could describe the positions of all in Churches of Christ.”

        Shank never said or insinuated in the book that all Baptists believe the same way on this issue, he is sharing his experience. I do however (this is just me saying this) seriously doubt that most people in the Baptist church do not teach that John the Baptist was the founder of the Baptist church. I know many many people who are members of the Baptist church and have asked many of them this exact question and the only response I have received is that John the Baptist was the founder of the Baptist church.

        “A man in the class allegedly accused Shank of thinking “the Bible is a literal guide” (179). The reader leaves with the impression that all community churches have disregarded the Bible as a guide for faith and practice. I am not questioning the historical veracity of this episode. What I am saying is that even if this happened at that particular community church, it cannot be said of all community churches. As if all community churches could be pigeonholed in this manner to begin with, the caricature is unfair and unfounded.”

        Shank never said or insinuated in the book that all community churches have disregarded the Bible as a guide for faith and practice, he is sharing his experience. I don’t know what “reader” this article is talking about but this reader did not leave with that impression. I would hope that it’s not talking about all readers because that would be irresponsible in my opinion.

        “When he discusses Jehovah’s Witnesses, he makes the assertion that they believe that the Watchtower Bible publication is “just as holy and inspired as the Bible” (176). “Isn’t it bizarre that they exalt their publications to the same level as the inspired Bible?” (176) This is simply not true. The Watchtower organization was formed in 1881 as Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society for the purpose of distributing religious tracts. That is what it continues to do today- distribute religious literature to promote the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

        While it’s true that not all Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the Watchtower is inspired, many of them do believe that it is inspired. The Watchtower has itself claimed to be inspired at various points in history.
        “The Watchtower is not the instrument of any man or set of men, nor is it published according to the whims of men. No man’s opinion is expressed in The Watchtower. God feeds his own people, and surely God uses those who love and serve him according to his own will. Those who oppose The Watchtower are not capable of discerning the truth that God is giving to the children of his organization, and this is the very strongest proof that such opposers are not of God’s organization.” Watchtower 1931 Nov 1 p.327
        It is simply wrong to act as though it is untrue that many Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the Watchtower is inspired and is from God like the Bible is. Also, it is very irresponsible to equate the Watchtower with tracts that we may have in our church building foyers.

        We could keep going on through the article but I do not have the time right now. I may try to come back to it later but this really should be enough. I’m sorry but it appears to me that a brother in Christ is being unfairly and irresponsibly attacked……and for reasons that I do not know.

      2. Hey Wes,
        First of all, thanks for checking out the blog. We ought never to fear open and honest discussion about the truth. The truth will prevail. Anytime someone publishes something, it will be open to public scrutiny. Shank’s book nor my blog post is any different so I appreciate you commenting.

        The point of the book (as I understood it) was to convey this message: “Concerned reader, someone has handed you this book because they care about you. I want you to read my story and see the problems with various denominations. Once you see the flaws in the denominations presented in this book and see the truth, then you should leave those denominations and come to the Churches of Christ just as I was lead to do.” When Shank says things like, “Friend, if you’ve read this book in its entirety you have been taught of God” (326); and “Someone gave you this book for a reason” (327); “Even though I don’t know you, it is my personal hope and prayer that you will contact the person who gave you this book…” (328), it’s hard to argue that this is an innocent telling of his story. Please correct my understanding if that is not what the book is trying to do. It’s hard not to read the last few chapters and not see that is what Shank is doing when he explicitly states that’s what he’s doing. The problem I have is that you can’t say, “I left the Baptist church because of reason X, and so should you” when reason X is not typically true of these Baptist churches. I’m sure you would agree that we want to engage their best thinkers, not their people on the fringes even if there is a fringe element in those churches that argues for X. Even if a few folks on the fringe said X, it’s not what they typically believe. If we are going to criticize what others are teaching, we at least need to engage them fairly. We wouldn’t want people to write a book saying, “I left Churches of Christ because when I talked to several members, they believed it was sinful to have multiple cups for the Lord’s Supper.” The one cup element in our churches is small and we wouldn’t want that to be how others see mainline churches. It wouldn’t be responsible to present Churches of Christ as believing multiple cups is sinful because of a portion of our fellowship that believes that.

        With regard to the quotation you provided from the Watchtower, I don’t see anything in that quotation that indicates the Watchtower believes it is inspired or Scripture. I also don’t see how “No man’s opinion is expressed in The Watchtower” is any different than Shank saying that he has used no “personal interpretations” or “human opinions” in his book (225, 283, 349). Also, how is the statement “Those who oppose The Watchtower are not capable of discerning the truth…” any different than Shank saying, “Mr. Mike, there is no rational spiritually honest person in the world who can refute God’s plan of salvation” (309)? I don’t think your quotation from The Watchtower accomplishes what you want it to.

        You only responded to one of the three concerns presented in the review. What do you think about Shanks (and Randall’s) use of Gal. 5:4 with regard to tithing? Also, what do you think about the tone and rhetoric of the book? Do you also encourage people to take drain cleaner to charismatic revivals and encourage people to drink it? Are you okay with people comparing denominational leaders to Hitler’s Mein Kampf? Just curious if you also would defend these things as, “he is sharing his experience”.

        I must also take issue with your accusation that “a brother in Christ is being unfairly and irresponsibly attacked.” I am sorry that you feel this way. There was nothing personal directed towards Shank in the review. When someone publishes something, people review it. That’s what happens. We ought to review things that are intended to teach people about something so important as the gospel of Christ. I’m sure you are aware that elders and preachers are handing this book out in droves. Do you not agree that we ought to review evangelistic teaching tools for their doctrinal soundness? I grew up hearing lots of people encouraging me with the words of 1 John 4:1, “Test the spirits”. Why should that same teaching not apply to the book under consideration?

        I will end with this thought. I wonder what would happen if the tables were turned and this were a person writing a book about why they were led to leave Churches of Christ and go to a denomination. Would we defend by saying, “Leave them alone. They were just telling their story from their perspective”? If I had to guess, I would think that there would be many who would not stay quiet. They would see an agenda. They would see the book as dangerous and there would be blog posts and book reviews posted all over. Why is the other side not answerable to that same scrutiny? Is it just because you happen to agree with the positions presented in the book?

      3. Hello Garrett,
        Yes the book is for sure written with the purpose of teaching and showing others through example how he was convinced to become a member of the church. I did not say or mean to say otherwise. What I meant in my last post is that he probably did not have to recreate or reconstruct the conversations and events since he was a part of them and probably remembers them. We have no reason to believe that the events and conversations didn’t happen as he states.

        The idea that the baptist church viewponits that he encountered are all just fringe viewpoints is wrong. There are many different baptist denominations, but the vast majority of the baptist views in this book are what the vast majority of baptist members proclaim. I believe that as far as the vast majority of baptist churches go, that anyone who is a member of them should leave due to the doctrines taught and approved of in those churches…….do you?

        The idea that the book does not have any opinion in it is wrong; however, he did not claim that the book is inspired and is from God as the watchtower did in that quote. The point I am making by using the watchtower quote is that not only do many Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the watchtower is inspired, but that the claim of inspiration has even been made in the publication itself. The claim in your article is that there is no difference between how the Jehovah’s Witnesses treat the watchtower and how we treat our religous tracts.

        “What do you think about Shanks (and Randall’s) use of Gal. 5:4 with regard to tithing? Also, what do you think about the tone and rhetoric of the book? Do you also encourage people to take drain cleaner to charismatic revivals and encourage people to drink it? Are you okay with people comparing denominational leaders to Hitler’s Mein Kampf? Just curious if you also would defend these things as, “he is sharing his experience”.”
        I do not have a copy of the book with me right now and will have to wait until I can see exactly what the book says on these things.

        “Do you agree that we ought to review evangelistic teaching tools for their doctrinal soundness?”
        Yes

        “I will end with this thought. I wonder what would happen if the tables were turned and this were a person writing a book about why they were led to leave Churches of Christ and go to a denomination. Would we defend by saying, “Leave them alone. They were just telling their story from their perspective”?”
        As in all cases I would hope that we could have a dialogue with them and come away basing our beliefs and decisions on scripture and God’s will.

        What I was mainly showing in my last post is that your article irresponsibly misrepresents many of the things that Shank says. You put words into his mouth in parts of the article and you made assumptions in other parts. We do not need to be doing those things in my opinion…..that was the point of my last post.

  6. I agree with Wes. I think if you take the story at face value it is what it is. I know most baptists don’t teach John the Baptist started the Baptist church but that has been taught by some. Just in a quick Google search I found it. What I’d like to know is for those criticizing the book including the author of this review how many have you brought to Christ from outside the fellowship meaning not our children in the last year? Two years? If you haven’t been an evangelist then don’t be disrespecting those who are.

  7. After meeting Mike Shank while I was still in the church of Christ (as a member and children’s minister), I am not surprised by the tones of the book. From my impression of him, he truly feels people are lost unless they are in the church of Christ.
    Now that we are at a Community Church, he doesn’t offend me because I understand his dogmatic thinking.

    I can say I am happy he wrote the book since his conversion is important to him. Now, will I be recommending this book to others, absolutely not. I do not mind stating that a guy I know wrote a book, but that doesn’t mean I endorse it. If the person wants to read it, then that is their free will.

  8. I’ve not read the book, but I suspect that its popularity comes because the Church of Christ, as a religious group in America, has taken a beating regarding our self image over the last thirty or forty years. We’re conflicted about our past and unsure of our future.
    I don’t agree with the book’s premise or approach, but I can understand why it matters to many of our church members.

  9. I wonder how people who criticize the reviewer found this review in the first place. It is highly unlikely they read regularly read this blog. Of course, the blogger/reviewer would know because if they comment on this post, they would, as regular readers, comment on other posts. That’s simply common blog etiquette.

    My belief is that Michael Shank either instructed people to search for reviews of his book and attack negative reviewers, or people who adhere and believe all that Michael Shank spoke about in his book and who believe in his evangelistic style have set Google alerts about reviews of M&S.

    I wish I could have such dedicated people read my books. Maybe some people would like to read Purple Ducks, I sort of jokingly call it the “anti-Muscle & a Shovel” which is appropriate since I once had a minister compare me to the anti-Christ because I decided to go to The Center for Christian Education preaching school (the former Preston Road SOP) instead of Brown Trail.

    1. What are you talking about, Brian? You act as though there is this large cult following that has commented on Garrett’s blog by just attacking Garrett. Unless there are posts that Garrett has deleted I don’t see such. Ignoring that point, you are partaking in illogical arguments just as Garrett says this man does in his book. You are basing your opinions on assumptions and generalizing people just as Garrett says Mr. Shanks does.

  10. I understand the issues of broad generalizations that this book imposes. Many would be offended/ confused/turned off by the tone.
    However, I must say 2 things:
    1) I was a baptist from birth ’til about 16. Maybe the broad generalizations are not fair, but I witnessed a fair amount of shady stuff in that old church. Many of which were touched on in this book.
    2) my COC conversion story is a lot like Shank’s. Same goes for other members of my family.

  11. This has to be the worst book review i’ve ever read. The young generations are held captive by a political influence called political correctness. Nobody should offend anyone and everyone should get along… That’s exactly how Truth gets lost. And then there is the generalizations in the book. Of course every baptist church doesn’t apply!! There are over 200 different denominations of Baptists!!! Do you want him to specify everything he says!!? The book would be 500 pages. Share your converstion story instead of tearing Micheal Shank down for sharing his… This review is discusting.

  12. The book is encouraging in how it attempts to encourage people to think about what their denominations teach, but it does seem to me that the author is saying that we need to convert people to come to a “Church of Christ”. It seems like it is lifting up the church and taking the focus of of converting people to Jesus Christ. It seems to be teaching “Churchianity” instead of Christianity. This is something I have seen a lot amongst brethren. They talk about the church in ways that make it sound like it is just another denomination that we need to convert people to.

  13. Very poor review from someone who doesn’t have all their facts in line. I am sure I would disagree with this author on many things because he tends to write from a liberal view and a misunderstanding of the church of Christ. To clarify because this author probably has never met Mike Shank, the book was written back in the 80s while it happened. Mike kept a detailed journal and merely shared his story and what happened to him. This author of this blog doesn’t realize that so half of his review is spent criticizing straw men that are never intended to be straw men. Mike is just saying what happened in his account. This author is inferring what hasn’t been implied. For example, the idea of John the baptist starting the baptist church and baptists believing one is baptized into the baptist church is something many baptist churches have stopped teaching today….however, if one understands there are over 30+ baptists denominations then they would realize that there are still groups today who teach those very things. Again, this author doesn’t understand where mike is coming from. I am not going to keep going but to conclude this review is horrible and misrepresenting the book. Great book that has lead over 10k souls to Christ to date, if this author is so quick to criticize that then I would be curious to find out how many souls this blog has lead to Christ in comparison.

  14. About 2 years ago my family decided to leave the Church of Christ denomination and join a local Baptist Church that has a large youth group. My four kids are thriving spiritually!! Thus it was a good decision for our family. My mother in law who believes only Church of Christ are going to heaven keeps shoving this book down my throat!! It has gotten to where my kids no longer want to visit with her because she keeps asking if they have read this book. I am NOT going to read this book and think it is ridiculous that in our country with so many divisions already that we have to condemn fellow Christians that maybe worship a little differently.
    #IamsavedandknowwhereIamgoing

  15. I read the book and was thoroughly impressed by it. I followed Mike Shank as he took us through his young life and his being taught by scripture that when a person does what God asks them to do to be saved, God adds them to the church. They do not join. Acts 2 gives an account of the beginning of the church. The people on that day were told they had crucified the Son of God. They were pricked in their hearts and asked what they needed to do to be saved. Peter told them, “Repent and be baptized for the remission (forgiveness) of their sins.” That same chapter, toward the end, says that God added to the church as many as were saved. Mike Shank explained this very clearly. He was trying to get people to realize that a person does not join the church but obeys the plan of salvation that the Bible lays out and then God will add them to the one church. Believers were called Christians first at Antioch. The church that God adds us to is Christ’s church, therefore the name church of Christ.

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