The Barnabas Ministry
Book Review

Reclaiming God's Original Intent for the Church
Wes Roberts and Glenn Marshall  (NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO, 2004). 191 pages.

Wes Roberts and Glenn Marshall have written a thought-provking book on the church for the twenty-first century. Amidst the challenges of post-modernism and the trend towards the so-called "seeker sensitive" mega-churches,  authentic Christianity remains an elusive goal. Roberts and Marshall discuss the values driving the expectations and designs of the various modern church models.

From the foreword by Larry Crabb:

I once gave up on Christianity as I knew it and discovered Christainity as the Spirit reveals it. I'm now giving up on church as I've experienced it and looking for church as the Spirit designed it.

Reclaiming God's Original Intent for the Church is bringing the picture into focus and creating enough hope to keep me looking. If, like me, you want to trade in illusion for reality, if you're a pastor or church leader or hungry Christian who loves the church and longs to participate in authentic community led by people who are more broken than confident and more Spirit-dependent than naturally talented, if you desire to see the church reformed into a place where character counts more than credentials, where life is lived in humble trust rather than by careful method, where organic growth matters more than organizational growth, where serving nudges aside controlling, then glance at the chapter titles of this book.

Though the book at times is critical of big-church dynamics, it is careful not to lump all big churches into one category. The authors speak to the reality that trends towards bigger churches, more "effective" programs, slicker presentations, and the like, often obscure the central point of biblical Christianity-- that Christians are broken people who have been redeemed. A lost and hurting world doesn't need bigger mega-churches, but the gospel lived out in lives of individuals. The church doesn't need to build large organizations (and succumb to all the value-shifts that are a part of that), but rather it can flourish as an authentic, Spirit-directed faith community. In a nutshell, the glory of the gospel isn't in Christendom (the fading identification of Christianity with the dominant culture) or the large church organizations and buildings that are currently in vogue (though they aren't absolutely bad or wrong), but rather in the transformed lives of individual believers and churches that bring the transformed life to the forefront.

As Crabb suggests in the foreword, the chapter titles are worthwhile:

  1. It’s Not About the Old Ways—It’s About the Much Older Ways
  2. It’s About Authenticity—Not Size
  3. It’s About Making Disciples—Not Simply Recruiting Volunteers
  4. It’s About a Calling—Not a Career
  5. It’s About Character—Not Credentials
  6. It’s About Community—Not Just Management
  7. It’s About Trusting God—Not Technique
  8. It’s About Following the Spirit—Not Mere Strategizing
  9. It’s About Servanthood—Not Power
  10. It’s About Fruit—Not Achievement
  11. It’s About Listening—Not Just Preaching
  12. It’s About Love—Not Being Right
  13. It’s About Our Triune God—Not Us

The authors don't come out and say, "do it this way or else you're wrong." But their focus is to encourage Christians to see how God has always worked, and will still work, through the things that often seem unattractive or unpopular about the church in our day.  It is a thoughtful discussion of topics of interest to everyone strategizing "now what" for the Christian faith.

Copyright © 2004 John Engler. All rights reserved.

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