The Living Church: Convictions of a Lifelong Pastor
John R. W. Stott, IntervarsityPress, 2007, ISBN 9780830834860, 180 pages, $17.00, hardcover.
British pastor and theologian John R. W. Stott has been such a prominent voice for Bible-believing Christians worldwide that he has been referred to by some as "the evangelical pope." In The Living Church, the latest in his long line of published works, Stott comes closest to that position in both tone and authority.
This is not just another book about "how to do church"-this is a work of solid scriptural exposition, reflecting years of pastoral experience that addresses the core issues of the faith.
The book speaks to the possibility of a new schism in the Body between those who would hold to Scripture and those whose focus is on engaging the lost at all costs. Stott is, by turns, laudatory and critical of both the emerging church movement and traditional evangelicalism in his arguments without ever leaving the anchor of Scripture. His premise is that neither branch is wholly right and argues for a unified (if paradoxical) approach to church life.
Stott approaches the subject from seven angles, each of which represents a crucial aspect of the responsibility of the Body: worship, evangelism, ministry, fellowship, preaching, giving, and impact. In each of these areas, he points out that the biblical approach is one of balancing extremes (i.e.-biblical authority vs. human doubt, rationality vs. spirituality) where the truth is not found in compromise but in fully encompassing both. He argues that this balance is the key to maintaining a church that fulfills the Lord's purpose in leaving us in the world.
Stott has produced a fitting capstone to his writing career and a piercing examination of the state of Christendom. As the subtitle implies, the book is at its core an earnest plea from a man near the end of his life exhorting those whom he loves to fully embrace the calling to pursue Christ's model of a church that is both emphatically holy and emphatically relevant.
Target: Pastors/All Believers
Take: Must Read
When Necessary Use Words (Changing Lives Through Worship, Justice, and Evangelism)
Mike Pilavachi with Liza Hoeksma, Regal Publications, 2006, ISBN 0830738142, 154 pages, $12.99, softcover.
Pilavachi's thesis for this book is evangelism through friendship. The Christian life requires us to impart the gospel, but Jesus also demanded that we show mercy and compassion to those around us. The author believes that worship and service are intertwined: "The fundamental step involved when we follow the command to worship God is to obey all of His other commands, because there is an act of worship and then there is an outworking of that worship in obedience" (p. 24).
The author argues that service to God means putting Him above everything else. Careers, family, and money are important, but they cannot supersede priority to Christian discipleship. Following Christ demands surrender of our total being to Him.
Like Jesus, we must love sinners while they are yet sinners. Jesus did not wait for a sinner to become socially acceptable before He loved him. He loved people where they were so that He could lead them to the place where they should be. And so should we.
One does not have to be an evangelist to be evangelistic. The author suggests that we pray every morning to the Lord, "Who do You want me to talk to, to love, or to serve today?" Chance encounters with someone in need are rarely by chance. God places others in our way that we may minister to them.
In the last section of the book the author lists several ways that Christians can be good stewards of the time and treasure God has entrusted to us.
Glen H. Jones
Type: Social Evangelism
Everything Else You Always Wanted to Know About God (but Were Afraid to Ask)
Eric Metaxas, Waterbrook Press, 2007, ISBN 9761400071012, 198 pages, $14.99, softcover.
Metaxas tackles difficult questions about God: suffering, morality, evolution, divorce, homosexuality, and abortion. He uses a Q & A format with down-to-earth examples that sound totally unlike the typical preacher. He avoids theological terms that the average person doesn't understand. Despite his avoidance of theological parlance, he is faithful to the cardinal truths of the faith. He has a conservative view of the deity of Christ, the Trinity, the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the Second Coming.
The author treats evolution in some detail. He discusses historical mistakes and scientific trickery to "prove" evolution. He criticizes proponents of evolution who claimed that prehistoric eohippus evolved into large modern-day horses. That simply was not true.
"What does the Bible say about abortion," the writer asks. He admits the Scriptures do not mention the word abortion. However, the Bible states that God knew us before we were born. David wrote that God "knit me together in my mother's womb" (Psalm 139:13). Scripture takes a high view of the unborn.
Sex, divorce, and homosexuality come up in several of the questions. Metaxas kindly but firmly discusses God's purpose in sex. His divine plan calls for one man and one woman to be married for life. Homosexuality, adultery, fornication, and divorce run counter to God's ordained plan.
The writer then discusses miracles and other fundamentals of the faith. Jesus would not be Jesus, the author concludes, if we take miracles out of the Bible. His last two chapters discuss salvation by grace through faith and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
Glen H. Jones
Take: Highly Recommended