Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church
by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson and Eric Geiger (B&H Publishing, 2012)
It would seem natural that any organization that labeled itself a church would be Jesus-centered. However, it does not take many pages in the new book Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson and Eric Geiger, to realize that being Jesus-centered involves intentionally conforming the entire being of the church to the gospel of Christ.
The authors have delivered an authentic and practical plea for church leaders to consider their first love and the call of the Creator – the gospel of Christ.
Creature of the Word is a 256-page theological call for gospel-centrality in the theology, philosophy and practice of the church. The authors make it clear that this is not about having the gospel and the flavor of the week. The authors write: “It is one thing to see the gospel as an important facet of one’s ministry. It is quite another to hold firmly to it as the centerpiece for all a church is and does, to completely orbit around it.”
The authors believe that the loss of and misunderstanding about the gospel has led to a loss of power in the church.
Many churches, they lament, “have developed gospel amnesia, forgetting that the gospel not only creates and sustains the Church but also deeply shapes the Church. Present and future.”
Within these churches community is not being developed because the gospel is not central. People are not transformed when the gospel does not fuel their time together, they write.
When the gospel is not central, believers are robbed of their God-given opportunity and adoptive responsibility to be ministers of the gospel, exchanging it for consumer-driven religious experiences.
The authors do encourage those readers who realize the gospel is not the centerpiece of their church. They write, “Without Jesus, your church culture is useless. But because of Jesus your church culture can be transformed … and become transformational. … If you are frustrated with the lack of gospel-centrality in your current church culture, understand that cultural frustration always precedes cultural transformation.
“The frustration is good and beautiful if it leads you to long for the grace of Jesus to permeate your theology, philosophy, and practice. Being gospel-centered is, for the authors, in part, about having a firm theological foundation that works its way out into every aspect of the functioning of the local church.”
The authors have composed a book that is also amazingly practical. Obviously speaking from experience, they have captured many of the nuances of ministry and poured out for the reader how the gospel should run through the minutest veins of life within the local church body. So often with books of this nature the reader is inundated with theological insight, but is left to fend for himself when it comes to practical application.
Or, practicality is presented so narrowly that the church leader only finds it useful if he can completely reorient everything in the local body toward the newest programs presented. This book is neither. The authors honestly examine the makeup of church structure and give gospel-driven commentary on how even the most seemingly irreverent goings on of the church should be molded by the gospel.
They examine areas of obvious import, such as preaching the Word and the Jesus-centered leader. They also make an impassioned plea for a gospel-centered ministry to children, as opposed to a babysitting service, and a Jesus-centered student ministry in exchange for a moralistic, legalism driven attempt at indoctrination.
These are real-life applications that force the reader to examine the motives behind some of the most cherished idols of church culture – from the budget to the social ministries of the church – through the lens of the gospel.
The authors close the book with three important ways that “God lovingly removes our self-sufficiency, reminds us of grace, and emboldens us for the call of gospel-ministry: prayer, suffering, and celebration.” These three enable the church to define success on gospel terms. Creature of the Word is an exciting and convicting read. The authors display a passion, not just for the gospel, but for the local church. This book calls believers to gather together under the banner of the gospel, centering their lives and work on Christ.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Micheal Pardue is pastor of First Baptist Icard in Connelly Springs.)