Over the past week or two, I have been blessed to be able to order quite a lot of books because of my “blog design for books” campaign. Being the impatient type, I will consider myself even more blessed when they are sitting on my bookshelf (or lying open before me), but Amazon and Monergismbooks have never let me down before, so I am sure I will receive them in due time. I tend to keep a rather extensive wishlist at Amazon, and ordered books from this list. Any time I read a book review that sounds interesting, or receive an email with a solid suggestion, I add it to the list. Over the past week I sorted through the list and ordered the books I thought looked most interesting. It was not until I had completed my ordering that I took a step back to get an overview of what I had ordered.
I realized two things. First, I have a lot of reading to do. And second, I was surprised to find that the majority of the books I ordered had to do with the church. I ordered titles such as:
- Biblical Authority: The Critical Issue for the Body of Christ
- With Reverence and Awe: Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship
- Dining With the Devil: The Megachurch Movement Flirts With Modernity
- The Market-Driven Church: The Worldly Influence of Modern Culture on the Church in America
- Stop Dating the Church!: Fall in Love with the Family of God
Those are a few of the titles. There were others whose titles did not betray the fact that they, too, are focused on the church. Add those to books like Revival & Revivalism and Evangelicalism Divided and it does not take a genius to conclude that I have an obsession with the church.
It may seem obvious to some who have been reading and participating in this site for a while, but it came as a surprise to me. I can see, of course, that it is true. I have this insatiable hunger to know about the church – to know what she was founded upon, to know where she has come from, and to try to determine where she is headed. I love to write about the church and to examine the claims of those who believe that they can teach the rest of us how to “do church” better.
The more I see our world falling apart, with wars and rumors of war, with terrorism and violence, and with people becoming ever-more embittered against God, the more I have come to believe that the church of Jesus Christ is the hope for our world. The church is not God’s “Plan B” for the world, but it is his “Plan A” and there is no backup – no substitute. The church is the hope for our world. And I love the church. I fear that I love her with only the smallest fraction of the passion with which our Lord loved her, yet I know that my affection is pleasing to Him, and I know that He is the One who has placed this love in my heart.
The church is the hope for our world, and it seems to me that the church can only bring to the world the hope she possesses if she is strong and healthy. All around us we see people proclaiming news of the church’s illness and offering both diagnosis and cure. Yet most of these cures are not working, for they are not drawn from Scripture. Bookshelves at Christian bookstores are groaning under the weight of books about how to make churches bigger, stronger and more appealing to unbelievers. Some authors have interviewed new believers to ask what drew them to church, and others have turned to hardened unbelievers to ask what might draw them to church. I have read many of these books – probably too many – and it seems that none of them hold the answers, for while churches are springing up all over our continent, the number of church-goers continues to decline. Furthermore, the theology of the “average church-goer” continues to worsen as new and exciting teachings are introduced to the church, many of which have no biblical basis.
All of this has contributed to my desire, or even need, to understand the church. If the church is God’s “Plan A,” and I believe that it is, to bring hope to the world, we need to get church right! I know the illness, having seen the symptoms all too clearly for far too long. But confusion remains. How relevant is too relevant? How irrelevant is too irrelevant? How much are we to focus on the size of the church, and how can we measure the strength? How can we know what constitutes a healthy church? The questions go on and on. But I am hoping and trusting that God will lead me, as He has so many others, to answers and to the cure. I trust He will do this through His Word and through the words of other men whom He has guided.