Archives For Ecclesiology

 

Our Book of the Month for November/December is…

Endangered Gospel: How Fixing the World is Killing the Church
By John Nugent

Paperback: Cascade Books, 2016.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ] [  Kindle ]

We will be reading through the book this month, and posting discussion questions as we go. We hope you will read along with us, and share your thoughts and questions. (Or, even better, get a group of people at your church to read through the book together!)

Q/A with ERB Editor Chris Smith

As an offshoot of our readthrough, John was kind enough to answer some questions that I had about the book…

Chris:  

My take on the book in brief:
I absolutely agree with you about ecclesiology. Our primary call is to be faithful together as communities of God’s people, and this ecclesiology is missing from the activism of many well-intentioned Christians. My experience concurs with you in wanting to call out the sort of activism that too often omits the role of the church from the salvation of God’s coming kingdom. That being said, I wonder if you might be swinging a little too far in reaction to this sort of activism that you minimize the role of the local church in action in its place?  I wonder if there might be a perspective that is located between the ones that you call world-centered and kingdom-centered. Perhaps I could call it incarnation-centered. To begin imagining such a view, let’s start with your chart on page 112, and particularly the two columns on the far right hand side. I’m not completely comfortable with the labels for either of these columns, but it seems with a tiny tweaking of the verbiage, an incarnation-centered view could have incorporate these two as a both/and and not an either/or.  Yes, God is ultimately “replacing the fallen order,” but scripture also speaks of God redeeming and reconciling all creation. (More on this in a moment). The final column “Christians begin fixing fallen order,” also is problematic. I agree that we don’t “fix” the world by our own human wisdom or human strength. But the nature of God’s design for creation is one of collaboration, and God has provided the Holy Spirit to guide our churches into an active life that embodies Christ among our neighbors in ways that they can engage and be transformed. So, to the extent that we faithful discern the presence of the Spirit in our midst, we become part of God’s “fix” for healing a broken creation.

Continue Reading…

 

The Book that Evangelicals Need
To Be Reading Today
(Besides the Bible, of course)”

A review of
Radical Together:
Unleashing the People of God for the Purpose of God

by David Platt
.

Review by Chris Smith.


Radical Together - David PlattRadical Together:
Unleashing the People of God
for the Purpose of God

David Platt
.
Paperback: Multnomah, 2011.
Buy Now:
[ ChristianBook.com ]
[ Amazon – Kindle ]

David Platt is an evangelical; he is the pastor of the Church at Brook Hills, a mega-church in Birmingham, Alabama, and he speaks and thinks in evangelical language.  He is also the author of the recent New York Times bestseller Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream.  Even in the title of this work, we start to get a sense that there’s something about Platt that does not quite fit the stereotypical mold of evangelicalism.  When I reviewed Radical about a year ago, I found that Platt had a keen sense of some of major cultural pitfalls – particularly wealth and power – that await evangelical Christians.  Although he did a superb job of exposing these temptations, I felt like the solutions he proposed left a great deal to be desired.  Specifically, he seemed to minimize the role of the church, and to rely instead on a sort of heroic individualism.

Thus, you can imagine my surprise when I heard the news that he would be releasing a follow-up book that specifically emphasized the place of the church.  This new book, Radical Together: Unleashing the People of God for the Purpose of God, does a superb job at addressing the concerns that I expressed about Platt’s ecclesiology in my review of Radical.  In the book’s introduction, for instance, he sets the pace for the book by emphasizing the role of the church in God’s work in the world:

Continue Reading…

 

“Toward Radical Neighborliness

A review of

Missional: Joining God in the Neighborhood.
By Alan Roxburgh.

Review by Chris Smith.


MISSIONAL - Joining God in the Neighborhood - Alan RoxburghMissional: Joining God in the Neighborhood.
Alan Roxburgh.
Paperback: Baker Books, 2011.
Buy now: [ Amazon – Paperback ]
[ Amazon – Kindle ]

Alan Roxburgh, in his new book Missional: Joining God in the Neighborhood, sure knew how to stir up the fire of my inner critic.  Longtime readers of The Englewood Review will know that ecclesiology is pretty important to me, and that I regularly challenge a lack thereof in books I review here.  So, when Roxburgh launches into the first part of this new book, which he titles, “Why we have to stop thinking about the church,” you can bet that I was ready for a vehement reaction.  Even as I started reading this part of the book, I was still pretty skeptical of the way in which he wanted to de-emphasize the church and “church questions” in our following after God.  However, I continued to hear him build his case and began to see that he shared a deep love for the church, and actually in de-emphasizing the church, was naming a particular problem that is a pointed challenge for us at Englewood Christian Church, as I imagine it is at many other churches – viz., the pursuit of church as an end in itself and way of life together centered around attractional techniques.  This problem is epitomized in a conversation that Roxburgh recounts in the book:

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Probing The Church-Kingdom Relationship.
A Reflection on Two Recently Published
Perspectives on This Relationship and its Meaning

By Chris Smith


Right Here, Right Now - Hirsch, FordRight Here, Right Now:
Everyday Mission for Everyday People
.
Alan Hirsch and Lance Ford.

Paperback:
Baker Books, 2011.


Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]


[ Read my review here… ]

and

One.Life - Scot McKnightOne.Life:
Jesus Calls, We Follow
.
Scot McKnight.
Paperback:
Zondervan, 2011.

Buy now:  [ ChristianBook.com ]


[ Read an excerpt of this book here… ]

What is the nature of the Kingdom of God – God’s reign here on Earth and throughout creation – and how does that relate to the local church community?  These two concepts have both been crucial to our understanding here at Englewood Christian Church of what it means to follow Jesus, so it is not surprising that this question kept racing through my mind as I read parts of two excellent new books: Scot McKnight’s One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow and Right Here, Right Now: Everyday Mission for Everyday People by Alan Hirsch and Lance Ford (Note: the passage from this second book that got me pondering the above question was from Alan Hirsch’s concluding chapter, so I will refer him alone when referencing this book).  I have a deep appreciation for the work of both Scot McKnight and Alan Hirsch, and I have read a number books of by each author over the last decade; thus, it grabbed my attention when they made statements that seemed– at least on the surface of things – to bein complete opposition.  What I’d like to do here is to survey the passages where the authors make the pertinent statements about kingdom and church, as well as part of a recent interview I did with Scot McKnight where I asked him to elaborate on his statement in One.Life, and then to try to unpack the logic and context of both statements and explore the image they cast together of the relationship of kingdom and church.  In my review of Right Here, Right Now last week, I briefly summarized these two positions in this way: Alan Hirsch is making the appeal that we need to loosen up the correlation between kingdom and church, while Scot McKnight is calling for a stronger correlation between kingdom and church.

Consider the passages that got me thinking, beginning with Alan Hirsch’s:

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A Review of

768667: Finding Organic Church: A Comprehensive Guide to Starting and Sustaining Authentic Christian Communities Finding Organic Church:
A Comprehensive Guide to Starting and Sustaining Authentic Christian Communities

By Frank Viola

Paperback:

David C. Cook, 2010.

Buy now: [ Christian Book.com ]

Reviewed by Kevin Book-Satterlee.

The term “organic” with regards to church lends to the idea of a small, spontaneous group of people that come together and immediately become church.  There are little things to work out, for instance people must show up.  Somebody has to prepare something, but it is ad hoc.  I tend to pin organic church somewhere between a weekly class reunion and a Quaker meeting – not quite so flippant and social, but not quite so programmed either.

Yet, anyone who understands organic gardening (which I do not) knows that careful time and planning must go into the organic food.  Organic foods tend to be more vulnerable under many situations.  Regular care must be given and the plant must be nurtured.  For all that work, the end result is astounding:  a tastier, healthier vegetable.

Frank Viola, in his new book, Finding Organic Church:  A comprehensive guide to starting and sustaining authentic Christian communities, has written, in effect, a manual for church planters to raise an organic church.

Organic foods are still fighting an uphill battle against non-organic foods, so too do organic churches fight an uphill battle just to survive against the institutional church.  Like the parable of the sower, many organic churches will land on bad soil, maybe one in four will land on good soil and produce fruit.  This pessimistic view by Viola is not all that encouraging, but if it was easy why would he need to write a manual?

Viola does not seem to take into account the soil in which the organic church seed is sown.  Soils have different properties, different contexts.  Viola speaks nearly nothing to the varying contexts.  His organic church feels like a white, middle-class, suburban house church with their four-door sedans parked out front.  His rigid guidelines include a scripted format for services so as to be the most effective, but only most effective in a certain context.

Viola is also very ardent at the beginning of the book that church planters hold a specific calling to be church planters (which I believe), but their form must be that of Paul’s, who comes into an area, plants a church and soon – within six months, generally – leaves.  I don’t know too many church planters interested in popping into an area, planting a church and taking off.  Viola does say that while growing an organic church takes a great deal of attention, it can become sustainable quite quickly.  He implies that loss of sustainability occurs when the organic church becomes the pet project of the church planter.  While I don’t agree with him that church planters must continually move on, his warning about who has “ownership” of the church is one to be heeded.

Finding Organic Church could be a great first tool for somebody who is just now being disillusioned by the institutional church.  For those who have read Viola and other organic church authors, this book can be skipped.  To get the best content of Viola’s book, read Watchman Nee instead, as Viola uses his works frequently.  It is a quick read, but Viola’s writing style seems rushed and reaching.  He has a wealth of experience in working with organic churches and is a good consultant, but outside of a singular context, this manual will gather more dust than dog-eared pages.

 


LIFE TOGETHER:
A CONFERENCE ON
BEING THE PEOPLE OF GOD IN THE 21st CENTURY.

Englewood Christian Church – Indianapolis
Friday June 11 and Saturday June 12

For many years now, the individualism of American culture has exerted great influence on the way we approach life, even in matters of faith. However, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, there are some churches that are regaining a sense of our calling to be communities of God’s people, who share life together in meaningful and redemptive ways. However, the forms that these churches take are often quite different. We have invited representatives from a wide variety of such churches to share stories from their life together and to lead us in a conversation about what it means to be communities of God’s people in the twenty-first century.

Read more about this conference and REGISTER here:
http://englewoodcc.com/LifeTogether/

Speakers include:

Danielle Shroyer — Author of THE BOUNDARY-BREAKING GOD
John Nugent — Prof. of OT, Great Lakes Christian College
– (Just Added)
Sally Schreiner Youngquist
— Pastor Reba Place Fellowship Community
Matt Tebbe — Pastor Life on the Vine Community

Workshops by:
Our main speakers, Will Samson and MORE TBA!

(More speakers TBA soon…)

Cost: (includes Breakfast and lunch on Sat.)
$50 (Standard rate)
$40 (Groups of 10 or more)

Help spread the word with the FB invite:
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=373231690950


ALSO… SAVE THE DATE!

Englewood will also be hosting a conference on The Church and Agriculture on October 29-30. Confirmed speakers include: Fred Bahnson, Martin Price (founder of ECHO) and Ragan Sutterfield.

More details will be announced in the next month or two…

 


LIFE TOGETHER:
A CONFERENCE ON
BEING THE PEOPLE OF GOD IN THE 21st CENTURY.

Englewood Christian Church – Indianapolis
Friday June 11 and Saturday June 12

For many years now, the individualism of American culture has exerted great influence on the way we approach life, even in matters of faith. However, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, there are some churches that are regaining a sense of our calling to be communities of God’s people, who share life together in meaningful and redemptive ways. However, the forms that these churches take are often quite different. We have invited representatives from a wide variety of such churches to share stories from their life together and to lead us in a conversation about what it means to be communities of God’s people in the twenty-first century.

Read more about this conference and REGISTER here:
http://englewoodcc.com/LifeTogether/

Speakers include:

Danielle Shroyer — Author of THE BOUNDARY-BREAKING GOD
John Nugent — Prof. of OT, Great Lakes Christian College
Matt Tebbe — Pastor Life on the Vine Community

(More speakers TBA soon…)

Cost: (includes Breakfast and lunch on Sat.)
$50 (Standard rate)
$40 (Groups of 10 or more)

Help spread the word with the FB invite:
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=373231690950


ALSO… SAVE THE DATE!

Englewood will also be hosting a conference on The Church and Agriculture on October 29-30. Confirmed speakers include: Fred Bahnson, Martin Price (founder of ECHO) and Ragan Sutterfield.

More details will be announced in the next month or two…

 

Crippled by Bureaucracy?

A Review of
Doomed Edifice:
The Eclipse of the Prophetic Ministry And
The Spiritual Captivity of the Church
by P.W. Baker.

Reviewed by Chris Smith.


Doomed Edifice:
The Eclipse of the Prophetic Ministry And
The Spiritual Captivity of the Church
P.W. Baker.

Paperback: Wipf and Stock, 2010.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

DOOMED EDIFICE - PW BakerThe new book, Doomed Edifice: The Eclipse of the Prophetic Ministry and the Spiritual Captivity of the Church by P.W. Baker piqued my interest with its promise of reflection on early Church history from a viewpoint influenced by the late social critic  Ivan Illich (click here for a delightful introduction to Illich’s life and work).  Baker is primarily interested here with the institutionalization of the Church: “the fruit of the human attempt to remedy what is considered imperfect or vulnerable… Christians [thus] chose predictable order, rule and authority instead of the spontaneous, convivial and organic” (123).  The power structures of the Church therefore came to overshadow shadow what Baker refers to as the “prophetic ministry”, a role he traces back to the nation of Israel in the Old Testament era.  Prophecy, Baker notes was the role of providing divine guidance to the people of  God.  He emphasizes that prophecy was balanced by the crucial work of discernment, a responsibility he argues that rested squarely on the local church congregation as a  whole, and not on “any single individual or to any select group of spiritual leaders” (21).

Continue Reading…

 

The occasion of our above review of P.W. Baker’s book Doomed Edifice, seemed ideal of a release of an e-book edition of Thomas Lindsay’s classic text The Church and the Ministry In the Early Centuries, as Baker references Lindsay frequently.

You can download a copy of this e-book to your computer by clicking the DOWNLOAD button.


The Church and the Ministry In the Early Centuries – Thomas Lindsay


 

A Brief Review of

Embodying Our Faith:
Becoming a Living, Sharing, Practicing Church.

Tim Morey.

Paperback: IVP Books, 2010.
Buy now:  [ ChristianBook.com ]

Reviewed by Laretta Benjamin.

“My prayer is that God will use my words, humbly and fearfully offered, to help us live more authentically as apprentices of Jesus, deeply loved by the Father, and sent by and with him into the world.  To God be the glory”.(17) .

I have a feeling that this prayer, which the author lifts up in the preface, will be answered as this book is read, discussed and digested among the people of God in the days to come.

I, for one, am very thankful for those in our day and time who  have a gift of discernment in looking critically at our culture and the church’s life within that culture.  Tim Morey appears be one of those voices, calling the church to be the church – to engage and challenge our culture with all the wisdom and power God has made available to us.  Even though this book grew out of a dissertation, it is not stuck in the highways and byways of academia.  It is written out of experience and observation, and it is easy to be caught up in the writer’s passion and longing to see the church become all she was called to be.

Critical thinking does not come naturally to many of us.  If you are included in that group, I would say that you will find Mr. Morey’s introduction very helpful in taking a hard look at our culture and assessing where it was and where it is now, and even more importantly, taking a hard and honest look at the life of God’s people, the church, as she thinks and acts within this culture.   After reading the author’s explanations and insights, words like modernism, post-modernism, pluralism, deconstruction and other such descriptions of our time and culture don’t seem so scary and beyond our realm of understanding.  They actually begin to make sense.  He reminds us that just as missionaries sent beyond our borders need to have an understanding of the culture they are entering into in order to be effective, we need to have an understanding of our culture in order to engage and challenge.  In what ways has the church allowed herself to be formed and shaped over the past years by the culture rather than Scripture?  For those of us who have been thinking about these issues over the past few years (and many within the Christian community have) there isn’t too much new here in the author’s opening pages; but for those among us who haven’t really taken the time to consider the importance of thinking about these things, this book is a good place to begin.   Whereas many look at our culture and feel hopeless, despairing, and unhappy at what seems to be the church’s new place in our post-modern times, the author looks around and sees opportunity.  “I believe this is a great moment for the church.  The church, now relegated to a marginalized role in society, has the opportunity to recover its vocation as God’s missionary people.”  ( 38)

Continue Reading…