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Book Review – 20 Controversies That Almost Killed A Church

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Richard Ganz is pastor of a vibrant, growing church in Ottawa, Canada. I have had the privilege of attending that church many times over the years and have always been blessed by Richard’s exposition of Scripture. He truly is a very gifted teacher. While he is primarily a pastor, he has also written several books, the most recent of which is “20 Controversies That Almost Killed A Church.” The book examines Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, touching on twenty major themes. While Scripture is featured prominently throughout, the book avoids becoming a dry commentary. It focuses on thematic discussions rather than a thorough verse-by-verse exposition.

Ganz does a great job of interpreting the words of Paul in the light of their historical context while at the same time making the book equally relevant to the twenty first century believer. He shows how the issues faced by our brothers and sisters in Christ nearly two thousand years ago are really no different from the issues we face today. The tone of this book matches the tone of Corinthians. While First Corinthians is a pastoral book, written by a man who deeply loved and cared for his flock, so “20 Controversies” is written in a pastoral tone. Just as Paul was not afraid to call his church to task, so Ganz emulates the apostle’s example, being harsh when necessary, yet maintaining a respectful, loving tone.

It takes courage to tackle the issues of Corinthians, yet Ganz does so unapologetically. He writes forcefully about the gifts of the Spirit, speaking in tongues, headship and situations regarding marriage and divorce. Each topic is interspersed with examples from Ganz’s own years of ministry which lends a helpful authenticity to the book. More than mere exposition, this book is built on pastoral experience. Other topics he writes about are baptism with the Holy Spirit, baptism for the dead, lawsuits against the church, divisions in the church, the scandal of the cross and idolatry.

There were two little nagging problems that I found with “20 Controversies That Almost Killed A Church.” The first was that the book was inconsistently formatted. Some chapters were presented ordinally (ie topics were listed 1) 2) 3) and so on) while others were presented with subheadings. A small problem, I admit, yet I find it is easier to read a book when the formatting is consistent. The second was that the book was not terribly well-written. While certainly readable, it is a bit clumsy in parts, especially in regards to sentence structure. However, neither of those problems significantly detracts from the book.

I found this book thought-provoking and, as Jay Adams says in his endorsement, “thoroughly biblical.” It is filled with practical guidance that allows Paul’s words to ring loud and true through two thousand years of history. I am happy to recommend this book without reservation. And as the author includes discussion questions about each chapter, I would also recommend the book for group study.

As an aside, if you have never read Richard Ganz’s testimony, I highly recommend it as an awesome example of God’s grace. You can read it here.


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