The First Church of the Hermit Crab (Or: Don’t You Want A Full Church?)

This is quite the book: Losing Our Virtue by David Wells.  In it, he explains how many aspects of modernity and postmodernity have crept into the church to the point where any talk about sin is avoided and talk about self is central.  From watered down emotional praise songs to therapeutic sermons to the loss of reverence and awe in worship, Wells calls out the sins of the modern church.  This book is a sort of trumpet call for churches to repent of their worldliness and reform according to the word (rather than culture).  I appreciated these paragraphs near the end of the book.

“The wisdom common to many of our marketers is that, if it wants to attract customers, the Church should stick to a positive and uplifting message.  It should avoid speaking of negative matters like sin.  Not only so, but what has distinguished the Church in its appearance and functions should now be abandoned.  In order to be attractive to people today, church buildings should not look different from corporate headquarters, malls, or country clubs.  Crosses and robes should go; dress should be casual; hymns should be contemporary and empty of the theological substance by which previous generations lived, because this is incomprehensible today; pews should be replaced by cinema-grade seats, organs by synthesizers and drums, solemnity by levity, reflection by humor, and sermons by light dialogues and catchy readings.  The theory is that people will buy Christianity if they don’t have to deal with what the Church has traditionally been.”

“The best construction that can be put on this is that these market-driven churches have become like hermit crabs, which walk around concealed within a shell.  Hidden beneath the outer shell – the corporate style that disguises the churchly business that is supposed to be going on , the mall-like atmosphere in which faith is bought and sold like any other commodity, the relaxed, country club atmosphere – is the little animal who supposedly is really evangelical.  As it moves from rock pool to rock pool, all we can see are the little legs – the most minimal doctrinal substance – that protrude from under the shell.  Is this substance enough to sustain people amidst life’s fiery trials?  Is it enough to preserve biblical identity in these churches in the decades ahead?  I think not.”

Well said.  As you may have guessed, I highly recommend this book.  If your church is a hermit crab church, or if you’ve left one, or if you want to be sure your church doesn’t become a hermit crab church, get this book today (and give one to your pastor!).  Be prepared to be challenged, prodded, encouraged, and motivated to get back to Scripture and the historic Christian faith.

David Wells, Losing Our Virtue (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 201.

shane lems

3 Replies to “The First Church of the Hermit Crab (Or: Don’t You Want A Full Church?)”

  1. Sounds like a great read, Shane. By the way, I prayed for you this morning. Many “Churches” today indeed are nothing more than country clubs. People are more concerned about the number of people attending (and more money in the plate!) than the condition of those people’s souls. “Let’s make them comfortable, entertain them, & send them to hell on a velvet pillow.” The gospel is offensive because it deals with the condition of lost & sinful humanity, & lost & sinful humanity does not want to hear the truth! To fill a building full of people on Sunday mornings, just make them feel good about themselves & talk about their “felt needs.” That will fill an auditorium, but it will be filled with people who are comfortable in their sin & unaware of the eternal danger of their souls! We are called to preach the gospel, not give people some false hope by making them feel good.


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