Archives For Book Review

Center Church is Timothy Keller’s text book for pastors. It is Keller’s goal that this book be used to help pastors “maximize their fruitfulness for the sake of the gospel,” and there is no doubt that this book will have a lasting impact on evangelicalism.

And there is much that is helpful in Center Church (CC). Yesterday I summarized the book, and you should really read today’s post in light of that. And I noted that there are three major areas of disagreement that I have with the approach to pastoral ministry presented in CC:

  • Contextualization—this immediately shapes our view on the methods of evangelism and equipping, how the church is built, who gets the credit for building the church, and how we evaluate ministry efforts
  • Common Grace—this immediately shapes our view on the cultural mandate of the church and the goal of the church in the world
  • The Church—the definition of who makes up the church has an immediate impact on how the gospel is manifested to the world

Today’s post will focus on that second point: Continue Reading…

Timothy Keller’s recent work, Center Church (CC), is a substantive book on ecclesiology and philosophy of ministry.  It has received a lot of attention since it was released last September.  With its graphic, glossy hardcover, and double columns throughout, the 395-page volume has the look and feel of a textbook.  I believe that is what it was intended to be—a textbook for pastors (particularly in an urban context) to maximize their fruitfulness for the sake of the gospel.  Keller’s popularity and acceptance within mainstream evangelicalism have positioned this book to hold significant influence on the American church.

After thoughtfully considering this book and weighing it against Scripture, I have a few concerns.  In spite of areas of agreement, I found the heart and soul of the book to be biblically off-center.  I fear that the theological vision of CC will cause more harm than good in American churches.

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All true Christians understand how the cross has an effect in the past—because of it, we have our sins forgiven; and in the future—because of the cross we will go to heaven when we die. In other words, the cross directly affects our justification and our glorification. But what about the present? How does the cross affect our sanctification?

Time out. Stop. When you read that question (“how does the cross affect our sanctification?”), did you think I meant “how does the gospel affect our sanctification?” I didn’t. I meant the cross. The wooden cross on which Jesus was crucified. The actual death of Jesus. How does the death of Jesus affect our sanctification?  Continue Reading…

swashbucklersWith the publication date of Things that Go Bump in the Church only eight days away, the marketing machine is in full swing. I’m not as well-connected as the other authors, Mike Abendroth, and Byron Yawn, but int he tradition of the little drummer boy, I have this blog’s Monday slot to give…

The book deals with intimidating and misunderstood doctrines, poking some fun at the Amityville Horror genre. Here is an excerpt from my chapter on demons, called “Spiritual Swashbuckling.” 

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It was a dark night. Raining. I awoke to frantic knocking on my cabin door. Youth camps often come with various genres of drama, from relationship angst to teary confession sessions. As a camp counselor I had encountered my diverse array of spiritual emergencies on my watch, ranging from the need to rebuke a bevy of mean girls, to confiscating contraband magazines from the guys’ dorm. But the look in this kid’s eyes was one of genuine terror. Something was wrong. I grabbed my Bible and charged through the pouring rain in pursuit of the young man who had been sent to summon me. When I got to the dorm room, all twelve teenage boys were standing outside, shivering wet.

They sheepishly confessed that they had been experimenting with an occult game, glassy-glassy. This is where people supposedly channel spirits, which move a glass over a lettered board to eerily spell out instructions from the netherworld. The boys breathlessly recounted what they had witnessed. Shortly after they had turned out the lights and sealed the door, they heard an intense crying sound in the room like a baby had been pinched. This was followed by hissing noises and more high-pitched cries. The stunned boys all looked thoroughly traumatized. This was no prank being played on the camp counselor. I wanted to ask which one of them was disturbed enough to bring Satanic paraphernalia to a Christian camp, and why none of the others were man enough to put a stop to it. Instead, I clutched my Bible, boldly kicked open the door, and flipped on the light switch.

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The book, Things that go Bump in the Church (Harvest House) is being released on April 1st (no, really).Bump Cover

The work deals with intimidating doctrines that Christians sometimes fear. I was privileged to co-author the work with Mike Abendroth and Byron Yawn. Our goal was to provide accessible, biblical presentations of teachings that are often misunderstood, and to do so in an engaging style (we at times lapse into satirizing the Amityville horror genre). The subjects we cover include demonology, elder rule, election, homosexuality, controversial liberties, among several others.

You can pre-order the paperback or Kindle version by clicking here.

To get a taste, here is an excerpt of the introduction to my chapter on church membership, titled…

“Anuptaphobia and Church Membership”

He was new to the creepy little town, but not a visitor. This dot on an Appalachian map was now home. His Christian upbringing had left his conscience averse to the “Solo Lobo Syndrome”— a lone wolf is a dead wolf was Grandma’s sagacious mantra. So that first Sunday he dutifully visited the only church in town. Its shabby, unkempt exterior didn’t put him off. It matched the ageing appearance of all the local buildings, and their occupants. He wasn’t expecting much from the service that morning, but still there was something slightly off-kilter about the experience, like when a painting has been hung askew, just enough to pique one’s awareness but not enough to be called crooked.

The bald greeter at the door seemed genuinely happy to meet the stranger. And although he never removed his right hand from the pocket of his suit pants, he warmly gripped the visitor by the shoulder and led him toward the sparse, seated congregation. The evidently tight-knit cohort of a dozen or so regulars greeted him enthusiastically. Everyone was friendly, though one or two could not mask their bemusement that this stranger had chosen to worship with them.

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It’s been several months after the Strange Fire conference, and there has been no shortage of protest, complaint, misrepresentation, rudeness, and downright malicious slander and false witness against people and perspectives on both sides of the charismatic divide.

It’s like the conference bombarded the evangelical world with gamma radiation (namely the “evangelical sin” of saying someone is wrong) and a whole lot of people underwent a change.

hulk Continue Reading…