I just finished reading Growing Up Church of Christ by Mike S. Allen.
This book isn’t so much a narrative as it is a topically arranged collection of memories served to readers in bite-sized portions. This makes for easy, fast reading, and I found it to be a page-turner.
I also found myself being flooded with memories while reading largely because I have personal connection to many of the people or institutions referenced. For instance, Mike’s ‘principle Bobby’ gave me two spankings when I attended Central Arkansas Christian School – once for punching a boy in the mouth, and then again … for punching another boy in the mouth.
The College Church’s boycott of the local convenience store in Searcy is also something I remember hearing about. This store was displaying pornographic magazines on the racks in full view of children, and I believe it was my dad who brought this to the attention of the mayor which led to a new law being passed banning such displays.
Additionally, Harding University is my alma mater, and Jimmy Allen (Mike’s father) taught my Romans class. Dr. Allen was and is quite a character, and I really enjoyed Mike’s stories about him.
I could go on, but you get the idea – and personal connection or not, if you “grew up Church of Christ”, reading this book will bring back a flood of memories for you too.
Mike’s sense of humor comes through loud and clear in the writing. I read Growing Up Church of Christ with a smile on my face many times laughing out loud. Various topics are addressed in a tongue-in-cheek fashion – swearing, clapping and instrumental music, VBS, youth group stories, the evils of Rock-n-Roll, “The Baptists” – all handled in a tasteful and good-natured way.
Serious topics are also addressed, albeit less frequently. Mike shares a bit about what it was like growing up “in the shadow” of his father who is a famous preacher in Church of Christ circles, and several times references various personal struggles he’s had with life and faith. There are also sections on race relations, church discipline, the struggle between staying with the CoC or leaving it, and much more.
My favorite excerpt from the book is found on pages 48 & 49. In recounting the night of one of Jimmy Allen’s famous gospel meetings, Mike shares this:
Evening gospel meeting with us school-aged kids sitting up front.
Fiery sermon and a long invitation song.
People, young and old, come streaming down the aisles. A few of them, mostly women and girls, are crying. The young want to be baptized; the old want to be restored. So many are coming forward that there aren’t enough seats for everyone.
Which brings me to the best part.
The elders, the ones receiving the responders, pause. they give us kids – all of us singing our lungs out – a little nod. We vacate our seats and go to stand in front of the stage.
We look out at the crowd, at the responders who just keep coming. We stand there, grinning like fools. We’re part of this mass of moving people. We’re giving up our seats, so more can come forward.
We’re watching the world change right before our eyes.
If you “grew up Church of Christ” or in any conservative Evangelical tradition, you will thoroughly enjoy reading Growing Up Church of Christ by Mike S. Allen – I certainly did.
This book is available in paperback for $12.95 at Amazon or $5.99 for the Kindle version, and might make an excellent Christmas gift for someone you know.
Visit Mike’s blog here.
Interesting. I think you enjoyed it a bit more than I did, but you knew some of the characters. I doubt anyone outside of Churches of Christ could identify with much of it. But I enjoyed reading your review.
Reminds me of the “You might be a member of the Church of Christ if…” humor article that appeared in the Christian Chronicle a few years ago. That was the idea of
<——- one of your avid readers.
Kindle? Who has a Kindle? Droid rules!
You were right — your review is much more complimentary than the one in The Christian Chronicle. Thanks for sharing.
Nearly every other review of this book is complimentary too – CC’s article is an outlier most likely because their reviewer was offended or made uneasy by something … not because the book is actually bad.
I think I’ll pass.
I just read the news release on your book in the Christian Chronicle. I had your dad for several bible classes at Harding 1963-68. He was a wonderful teacher and gave me the first understanding of grace from his Romans class.
I am ordering your book and look forward to reading it.
Don Selvidge, D.C.
This sounds like an excellent book. I was raised CoC, and now that I’m in college, I attend a myriad of Christian congregations. I think what is going to be so great about this book is that it captures what it’s truly like to be raised in the odd little world of the CoC.
I actually just got around to reading it on my nook a couple weeks ago. It was a page turner, not that it had any earth-shattering points to make, just the nostalgia (what’s the CoC-word that would be similar to Americana?) made it enjoyable to read and reminisce. I kept looking at his wedding pic, thinking his wife Cheryl looked familiar. Sure enough. She was at Harding while I was in college at UAHuntsville, and I attended West Huntsville CoC where she grew up. I knew there was a West Huntsville connection when I read about Kristy Thomas — that Jesus must be happy to finally meet the woman who had told so many people about him. I know Kristy too. (present tense on purpose there) Glad I do.