Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Church, Why Bother - Book Review

In the past several years there have been many books published on the subject of the local church, some of which are very good. It is very encouraging to see a heightened interest in this important and long-neglected subject. But one book that stands apart is a new book entitled, The Church, Why Bother by Jeffrey D. Johnson, pastor of Grace Bible Church in Conway, AR. It is a very brief book, weighing in at only 155 pages, but each page is full of rich and refreshing truths regarding the importance of the local church. It is such a concise and relevant book I've chosen it as the next book for our monthly Men's Study. Let me share some of the highlights of the book.
A quick perusal of the table of contents reveals the catalogue of important topics covered in this book. In the introduction Johnson begins with a contrast between "easy-believism" and "Lordship salvation." It is a low view of God that results in "easy-believism" and it has a direct impact on how a person views the local church. Johnson writes, "What we believe about God, salvation and man will consequently influence the way we do church." This provides the framework for the remainder of the book.

Chapter 1 - The Nature of the Church - Johnson defines the local church as "a fellowship of believers, who by the Holy Spirit, have been called out of this world of darkness and have been spiritually united together into one body in Christ Jesus." He emphasises the church as the truth bearer, the pillar and ground to protect and proclaim truth. It is comprised of God's sanctified people.
Chapter 2 - The Purpose of the Church - The purpose of the church is to glorify God, proclaim the gospel to the world, and serve as the means of sanctification of the saints through the propagation of God's Word.
Chapter 3 - The Culture and the Local Church - In this chapter Johnson weeds through the thorny subject of the church in the context of modern culture. There has been a tendency today for some to seek to redefine the church in an effort to increase its influence and acceptability in the world. Johnson's thesis for this chapter is, "The church is not to be influenced and shaped by the culture, but be a sanctifying influence upon the culture."
Chapter 4 - The Activities of the Local Church - If the purpose of the church is to promote and mature in unity, truth, and purity, then the activities of the church should focus on achieving these objectives. Johnson stresses the great danger in placing to much importance on the numerical growth of the church, which leads to a pragmatic, consumer driven philosophy in church programs.
Chapter 5 - The Worship of the Local Church - The main feature that shapes the worship of a church is its theology. Johnson states, "The creativity in worship, which is emphasized by the Emergent Church, is based upon an ever-changing theology that contains no absolutes." He goes on to describe the fundamentals of Biblical worship.
Chapter 6 - The Membership of the Local Church - In this chapter the author gives a refreshing overview of the importance and necessity of church membership. He writes, "Going to church is not to be squeezed into the Christian's weekly schedule, but rather it is to be the principle activity and focal point of the Christian life." He outlines the sad result of our culture of individualism. Most Christians view the church as something to meet their particular needs with membership being optional. There is little commitment and church hopping is common. Johnson describes church membership as being both a privilege and a responsibility.
Chapter 7 - The Discipline of the Local Church - As an excellent followup of the previous chapter, this chapter covers the important topic of church discipline. When a member persists in continual, unrepentant sin, the church must deal with it in order to maintain the spiritual integrity of the church. Johnson outlines the procedure of church discipline.
Chapter 8 - The Authority of the Local Church - When the primary emphasis of the church becomes adding to the membership the church loses its authority. Johnson describes it as "putting the potential visitor in charge." In this chapter he describes the government of the church and the leadership of the elders within the congregation.
Chapter 9 - The Doctrinal Standards of the Church - In this final chapter the author stresses the importance of confessional statements in the local church. He warns against the danger of mysticism, which he defines as an subjective experience void of objective Biblical truth--where the experience is sought out more than God Himself. Johnson writes, "There is no personal encounter with God apart from the truth." The church needs to clearly define what it believes. Every church member or potential church member has a right to know how the church interprets the Scriptures.

According to the Barna Research Group, 10 million self-proclaimed, born again Christians have not been to church in the last six months. Even many sincere believers fail to recognize the importance of the local church. Job and family are the priority. While they may see the church as important, their life's decisions demonstrate that they see the church as something that fills in the periphery of their life. The Church, Why Bother is a wonderful reminder of the importance and necessity of the local church in the life of every Christian. In our hyper-individualistic society, the truths of this book need to be taught over and over.

Here is a video by the author describing his book.