REVIEW: “Why the Light Is Winning”; or, Why a decline in church attendance might be a good thing.

by ggeurs

This is a review of the book The Light is Winning by Zach Hoag.


Start life as a religious fundamentalist. Get involved with ministry. Become cynical towards religion. Realize the cynicism is really a rebirth towards genuine faith. Faith becomes reborn. This is the premise of Zach Hoag’s semi-memoir/semi-treatise on the condition of the American Church, The Light is Winning. Along the way he takes time to dissect some of the Barna Research Group’s findings over the last decade regarding the “Nones” and “Dones” whose increasing numbers has the implication of church attendance and engagement decreasing.

His thesis can be summed up like this: the increasing number of “Nones” and “Dones” can be viewed as a sort of apocalypse for the American church. But apocalypse does not mean “ending,” but “revealing” or “rebirth.” This rebirth should bring about a change in the way the church is doing things, because otherwise a return to business as usual will not change things. He calls the reader/American church to be intentional, not just about relationships but about tearing down and altering structures that resemble American empire or a “business model of Christianity” in favor of something that is truly Gospel and Jesus centered.

I appreciated the vulnerability of the text. Coming from a different type of fundamentalist background, his reflections on the damage caused by the environment resonated with me. Also, his anecdotes about how fallout from his upbringing caused a sense of cynicism was something that I could really follow. His writing about these subjects and mixing them with his larger project about how the apocalypse of the American church can provide us with a lot of room for positive growth was well done.

What bummed me out was that I felt right when Hoag was at a point where he could have really made an articulate mic drop in the second to last chapter of the book, he instead does an anticlimactic analysis of how the Church should engage in politics. But for all the negative moments, just keeping a running list of all the books he references makes this a worthwhile read on its own.

The Light is Winning is a book anyone interested in how to increase the impact of Church in the community should consider picking up. It is ultimately an enjoyable read.

I received my copy of this book for free through the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for reviewing it. I was not obligated to post a positive review; the opinions expressed are mine.