Veneer: Living Deeply in a Surface Society

I recently finished Veneer: Living Deeply in a Surface Society by Timothy Willard and Jason Locy. 

I picked up this book because it was highly recommended by Gabe Lyons, author of The Next Christians and founder of Q.

To be honest, I didn’t know what the word “veneer” meant. Essentially according to the authors, veneer is “a thin covering that hides the real material underneath.” (24). In essence, the authors explore life beyond the celebrity, the “facebook” friendships, consumerism, busyness, and the hype of the world. Instead, the authors challenge readers to exchange the lies and shallowness the world offers for the richness and restfulness God offers.

I was deeply challenged by this book. I often sense the “veneer” in my life and the world around me. I would say if there is one thing that gets me down the most, it is the recognition of the veneer around me. In other words, I get extremely low when I see my life for what it becomes at times – shallow relationships instead of life-sharing relationships; busyness instead of fruitfulness; distraction instead of being present; dissatisfaction instead of gratitude.

I think this is a book everyone should read in my generation. It is a fresh perspective on life beyond the surface world we all succumb to living in.

On a side note, I did not appreciate one aspect, and it is an aspect I am finding popular in more and more books. It is the aspect of fighting this invisible enemy called the church. Granted, I understand writers generally only get published by taking an extreme stance on issues, and one of these I recognize more and more is this idea that you can EITHER be a a relevant and cool church who is shallow and unGodly, or you can be a deep, thoughtful, Jesus-centered church.

But you definitely can’t be both.

Which, I just don’t understand! Personally, the “mega-churches” I know who value relevance and place a high value on the medium, ALSO, at the same time, PLACE A HIGHER VALUE ON THE MESSAGE! Granted, I am sure there are churches who are simply relevant at the expense of the message, but I don’t know those churches. The “relevant” churches I know (North Point, Willow, Eagle Brook, etc.) all place an even higher value on Jesus, being biblical, confronting sin, and being “deep.”

Much of the issue I came to have with “emerging church” writing is the issue I have with the chapter these authors take on in regards to being a relevant church — and that is deconstructing only gets you so far. They deconstructed the issue of relevance and how churches are taking their cues from society, etc. But they NEVER offered an answer to what worship should look like in a church, other than some vague ideas about being thoughtful and Christ-centered and not measuring success. These authors don’t offer any kind of alternative. ANY TIME, ANY CHURCH, does ANYTHING for worship (one note on a piano or a full-band playing rock music), they are providing an environment to worship God, which the authors seemed to be opposed to, in the name of “boxing in God.”

Anyways, enough of the negative, because 99% of it was fantastic. On my runs in the morning, I have been praying a prayer of self-abandonment, that God would teach me what it means to truly live a life of self-abandonment. Further, I am praying that God will help me engage more deeply in relationships and in the present, and that I would not fall prey to the shallow life a life of Twitter, Facebook, “celebrity,” and consuming would offer.

I want more. I want a life that lives deeply in a surface society.