Dining with the Devil
The Megachurch Movement Flirts With Modernity
Publisher: Baker Books
Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team
Dining With the Devil is an interesting read, especially in light of the fact that the author, Os Guinness, is describing the very difficulties the church is facing today, even though this book was written over twelve years ago. It is difficult to know if his voice was prophetic or if very little has changed since the early nineties. I suspect both are true.
The book is subtitled "The Megachurch Movement Flirts with Modernity." We hear much more about postmodernity today than modernity, but this does not seem to detract from the book. Guinness warns that the Megachurch movement, which gained prominence in the eighties and nineties and continues to gain steam today, may be borrowing as much from the devil as from the Lord. And as Peter Berger warns, "He who sups with the devil had better have a long spoon." Guinness assesses the movement and warns that much of the foundation for the Megachurch Movement, which can be understood to be synonymous with the Church Growth Movement, is incompatible with Scripture. Some examples he provides are the uncritical use of marketing tools and management theories to induce growth in attendance. "When all is said and done," the author states, "the church growth movement will stand or fall by one question. In implementing its vision of church growth, is the church of Christ primarily guided and shaped by its own character and calling – or by considerations and circumstances alien to itself" (page 35). The heart of this question is one of authority – what will the church submit to as the ultimate authority? Will it be Scripture or will it be the ever-changing, ever-fickle demands of the culture? Is the audience sovereign, or is the message?
This book is short on names and specifics of individuals or churches, but long on analysis and warnings. The names Bill Hybel and Rick Warren do not appear at all. And thankfully this book is better-referenced than many of Guinness’ other books, in which I have found his lax committment to footnotes exceedingly frustrating.
My only disappointment with this book is that much of it was repeated in Guinness’ more recent book, Prophetic Untimeliness, which I found more timely and ultimately more helpful. If I had to recommend purchasing only one, I would recommend Prophetic Untimeliness. However, Dining With the Devil still makes for an interesting and challenging read, and one that at only 109 pages, can be accomplished in a short while. I recommend it.