Book Review: Disruption: Repurposing the Church to the Redeem the Community by Mark DeYmaz

[1] Disruption by Mark DeYmaz was a book written for me. The summary on the back of the volume says it all: “We must become disruptive.” The author is talking about how we think about church. Amen.

[2] In defining a disruptor, DeYmaz turns to an opinion piece by Mel Robbins, an expert on human behavior and motivation who described a disruptor in the business sector as a person or organization “whose entire ‘brand’ is…to turn the way we do things on its head….and then hand us the new rules for how things work.” (pg. xxviii)

[3] This is about effecting systemic change and thinking differently. We are in a time when both are needed in our world and in the church. Not because we should change for the sake of change. Rather this is a time of transformation and societal and cultural shifts that require fresh thinking. It will either be a moment in which the church steps up to make creative and appropriate change, or it will be a time of missed opportunity.

[4] Disruptors can see and sense “what lies ahead, around the corner, long before others have even arrived at the intersection of present and future. Because they are out front and ahead of the curve, disruptors first define, then refine, and ultimately create new realities by changing the way we see things, think about things, and get things done. And once disruptors gain momentum, they don’t merely envision the future; they create and establish it. They frame the questions, shape the narrative, and influence the conversation. In so doing, they challenge what is and inspire what is yet to come.” (pg. xxviii).

[5] DeYmaz thinks big.  He makes a critical argument that I think is vital – Christ himself was a disruptor. And because he was the ultimate disruptor, “we will become disruptive by advancing the common good, influencing systemic change, and redeeming entire communities along spiritual, social, and financial fronts.” (pg. xxix).

[6] And that’s what this book is about. Being a disruptor. Making the church disruptive – making it disruptive on multiple fronts. It’s about listening. It’s about innovation. It’s about building community. It’s about justice. It’s about planning. It’s about financial soundness. It’s about being creative. It’s about using resources. It’s about seeing opportunities. It’s about getting outside the walls of the church and seeing the church as more than just a worship service – but rather as something that drives us to go out and do and be something much more. It’s about church creating shalom wholeness in community. And the only way to do that is by disrupting the status quo.

[7] DeYmaz offers us a guide. He tells stories of how he did this in his own community. He shares ideas that worked in his context. They may not work in yours, but that’s ok. This book isn’t about “Follow this exactly and you’ll get the same results.” Rather, the point is about innovation and thinking differently. It’s about knowing your context. It’s about listening to the Spirit and holy risk. It’s about discernment and discipleship. It’s about disrupting what we think we know about church simply because that’s the way we’ve always done it.  It’s about learning to let go of ideas that no longer serve, and embracing something we aren’t as familiar with – faith. I’m not talking about head knowledge about God and Jesus. I’m talking about embracing the unknown and going forward anyway. That’s scary. But there’s a question – is this what God is calling us to? Faith doesn’t give us anything certain. But it does give us hope. And we need that when we are venturing into the unknown. That’s what the disciples needed. That’s what the first followers of Jesus needed. And that’s the gift we are given too.

[8] There are some good ideas in this book and there are things with which I totally disagree. Yet overall, it’s a great book that it does exactly what it says it will do – disrupt your thinking. The author never claims to have all the answers. He’s got examples that have worked in some settings. What works for you in your setting will be different. At the core of it lies this – disruption, thinking differently, innovation, creativity. You can’t get a different result by thinking about the situation the same way. And the church needs to think differently. Not to get more members, or to get more money. That’s still thinking the same way and still thinking about the church in the same box. It’s time to think outside the box when it comes to the church and what it is about. The church isn’t about membership and money. It’s about Jesus. I don’t know too many people who get excited about membership and money. I don’t. But Jesus and what he’s about and what he offers – that’s a different story. That’s disruptive to what the world offers. Give me that and things change. Lives change. That’s what the church needs to be about.

Matthew Best

The Rev. Matthew Best serves as pastor of Christ Lutheran Church on Allison Hill in Harrisburg, PA as well as the Director of Health Ministries of the Christ Lutheran Church.  He resides in Carlisle, PA with his family and has a blog – – where he writes prayers, posts on theology and politics, and more.