Thursday, April 8, 2010

This review is a little complicated...

How do you call attention to concerns you have about the church? About how churches have become like the world? How business philosophies have taken over and churches run themselves not like churches, but like businesses?

If you're John MacArthur, you write a book and you preach sermons to call attention to what is burdening your heart. Ashamed of the Gospel is a book that he wrote over 15 years ago. A new, updated edition has been published this year.

A few weeks ago, I was discussing this book with my husband and I read him several excerpts and asked him questions. He felt the book was alarmist and not thorough. I knew that I was only sharing excerpts with him and he wasn't getting the whole picture of the book. He encouraged me to read Deep Church and contrast the tone of that book with this one.

I have started Deep Church and it is written differently. But, the subject matter is different as well. Both books are concerned about the church. Deep Church specifically examines the seven major concerns that the emerging church movement has with what they consider the "traditional" church. Whereas, Ashamed of the Gospel is a call to churches that are appealing to what people want to hear rather than preaching the Gospel. MacArthur did not update the bulk of the book. He wrote a new preface and an updated ending that does address the emergent church/the emerging church movement.

There are many people in and outside Christian churches who believe that the church should be more culturally relevant and should give people what they want--meet their needs socially, emotionally, and physically. In this book, MacArthur is calling people to trust God. He wants people to remember that it is God who calls people to Himself--not us and our efforts. He is not saying that the church has no responsibility to evangelize, but he calls people to do it biblically by preaching the gospel to one another--both the believers and nonbelievers that they know. When we turn to the business world for advice, we begin to take a marketing approach to evangelism--an approach which is about pleasing people first of all (the buyer and the seller), not about glorifying God.

The book starts out by explaining how modernist philosophy permeated our culture and then how that progressed to a postmodern and then pragmatic philosophy about life. From there, MacArthur addresses the foundations of what the seeker-sensitive movement called for the mainline Christian churches to change. The crux of what they called for in the 1990s was for churches to become culturally relevant. That has a lot of implications for church doctrine and ecclesiology--how church is done. Interestingly, it is now the Emergent Church/Emerging Church Movement that is now calling for the seeker-sensitive churches and other mainline protestant churches to change. It seems to be expressing a similar concern to the seeker sensitive church movement of the 1990s--that the church needs to be more culturally relevant.

I would use the word "thick" to describe this book. It is a biblical and strong defense that might be especially useful for pastors and lay people who are in leadership in their churches. This book is a thorough examination of why the church should not function the way the business world would recommend. At the same time, it is also a defense of why, above all else, we need to trust God and seek Him when we are sharing the Gospel with our neighbors in church and out of church.

If you enjoy MacArthur's books, then you will be encouraged by this one. If you haven't read one before, I would recommend that you preview it beforehand to make sure that his style of writing and presenting information is what you are looking for. At the Crossway website, you can preview the first chapter:

Please note that I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book for review by Crossway.

1 comment:

Kim said...

My friend....that was a very good book review. Thank you. I am curious to hear what you have to say about Deep Church.