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West Union, OH
5 Stars Out Of 5
An Important book
January 24, 2013
West Union, OH
How's this for a timely subject? Not only is the world writing off church, but more and more professing Christians are. This book by Mr. Crotts and published by Shepherd Press enters the fray to stop the bleeding. Christians ought to face his arguments head on. There is simply no doubt that the Lord meant for the local church to be part of every Christian's life.
Mr. Crotts writes with a pastor's sensitivity and persuasion. Having pastored since 1995, he likely has had plenty of time to consider these things. He wisely divides his manuscript into two halves: 1) What is God's family?, and 2) How you fit into God's family.
He uses a story of a group of people with varying attitudes about the church gathering at a coffee shop to discuss the topic. That's a somewhat novel approach that some will like and some will not. Even if you don't like it, it really doesn't distract from the more theological discussion.
He hits upon the idea that deep down we all know we should go to church. I couldn't agree more! He admits that many churches have given people a "bad church" experience and churches have such a variety of ways to fail. Whether it be theologically or either extreme of entertainment centered to reach people or extremely harsh on the other hand, there are many options. In some churches the people are off while in others the pastor might be. In a few, they might both be. In other words, church bashing is an easy sport to play.
From there Mr. Crotts lays out the Scriptural case for church. I agreed with his analysis on most every point. He even touches hot-button issues like church discipline, but writes with restraint and care.
He concludes with a plea for us to make church a priority in our lives and families. All in all, a worthy contribution.
I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.
The book begins at a coffee shop. As the beginning chapter unfolds, each of the main characters progressively enters the shop and engages in a multi-layered conversation about the local church. The reader finds out the most of the individuals are either disenchanted and/or frustrated at their present ecclesiastical situation. John (who plays the role of leader and facilitator) encourages each of these individuals to commit to a weekly study on what the Bible has to say about "church". The group agrees and the rest of the book attempts to present a biblical ecclesiology while stationed at their coffee shop base.
I am pleased to write that Pastor Crotts does a satisfactory job answering questions such as, "What is the church?", "Why we go to church?" and "Who is supposed to lead the church?" To his credit, the author is generous with biblical references and yet does not overwhelm his audience with theological terminology.
Furthermore, I appreciate Crotts' clarity and boldness with regards to the importance of church discipline (p. 69) and church membership (p. 80). In multiple chapters, Crotts reminds the readers that the writers of scripture assumed a commitment to a local church and argues convincingly that living out the "one anothers" is an impossible (and unbiblical) task for the autonomous Christian.
There are two omissions of the book that surprised me. First, the assumption of male elders. I was taken aback that the author did not address the issue of women in ministry (except for a few sentences on page 81). Our society is actively blurring gender differences and this philosophy has crept into every mainline denomination in Protestant Christianity. To simply "punt" the issue of egalitarianism, especially in the 21st century church, is a missed opportunity (in my humble opinion).
Second, the authorial silence regarding the concept of mission or missiology. To be clear, Crotts does address the mission of the church, but give no commentary on its excesses or its misapplications. Again, a missed opportunity in the mind of this reviewer.
Overall, Loving the Church is a solid, biblical presentation of God's blueprint for the local church. I am confident newer Christians will enjoy the brevity (131 pages) and winsome style of Crotts' work.
LOVING THE CHURCH: GOD'S People Flourishing in GOD'S Family. The cover on this books says it all- the Church is made up of people-Married people, unmarried people, young people, old people. Every person who has truly repented and trusted in Christ and been regenerated by The Holy Spirit is in the Church, the Body of Christ. That is the Church invisible, universal, the Church that will only be together all at once in Heaven as the great multitude from every tribe, tongue and nation. The Local Church is the focus of this book. Obviously, the two concepts work together in perfect harmony. I love this definition of the local Church-"A local expression of the Body of Christ-complete in itself. Each local assembly has the various body parts working together, making it a whole body."
There are a lot of gems in this book- thoughts about why we need the Church, why the Church needs us, why "coffee shop" services are not a Church, why the best place for Christian fellowship is in Church. There is also a LOT of conviction here for those of us who believed that we would be fine without a Church fellowship.
God has commanded us to be part of the local Church. It means opening ourselves up to correction. It means committing ourselves to a body of people. It would require that we repent when we sin and that we give Grace to the sinners there. Sounds a lot like what we do in our families. Christianity 101.
This is where the blessings come though.
"As the blueprint for the Church is sketched out for you and your family, it will be obvious that there are tremendous spiritual opportunities in front of you. From gifted older couples providing an example to you and your spouse, service opportunities to enjoy as a family, godly interaction with brothers ans sisters, encouragement and counsel when you need it, to the accountability provided by loving leaders..."
This book reminds us of the beauty of the Local Church, and is filled with Scripture on the Church, reminding us why God commanded us to be in our Church.
There is one chapter on Spiritual gifts, and how God had equipped each of us with these gifts to serve the Church. I make a distinction between sign gifts, like tongues and prophecies, which some Christians believe to have passed away, and serving gifts like teaching, preaching, encouraging and comforting, the sort of gifts we all need today.
Perhaps the best term for these gifts is Spiritual Abilities. I found the section on Church leadership very interesting. I had heard that there was more than one kind of Church leadership- Pastor rule, Elders, and Congregational, but I did not know how they work. I learned a little bit about Elders here. This is an area I need to study.
I have a question about a few quotes about family integration that seem to suggest that the movement might be unbalanced. Kevin is the character in the book who is home churching and leading Family worship, and he believes in family integration. John Crotts previous book is Mighty Men, about leading your family as a Father and Husband, so I think he is knitting the two together carefully, Family led by father and Church led by Elders. Both very much needed.
I do believe in family integration.
Scott Brown, Doug Philips, Kevin Swanson, Voddie Baucham and Otto Scott have done a wonderful work by explaining the roots of dividing families and children in the Church, and showing that the Church for centuries was family integrated. An ideal Church would be made up of families with Fathers whose knowledge of the Scriptures equaled that of a deacon or elder, who led their own Children in Worship at Family Altar, who were part of what is called Family integrated Churches. This quotes says it best "Your children provide the greatest ground to cultivate Gospel seeds by your works, lifestyle, and prayers."
That is the family's role- to have Family Altar, to Pray together, to Study the Scriptures. The Church is absolutely needed as well! "Just as the ambulance's siren alternates tones as it races down the highway, catching the attention of drivers in its way, so also hearing the Truth from different voices can pique our children's ears and hearts."
There is one comment I would change, the idea that a family could ever be "too tightly knit." I think there is no such category. A family that has made family an idol is in sin- not too closely knit.
This book is designed to remind us that God is building His Church to Glorify Him and Bless His people. Part of the way we are blessed in Church is by having a Church family that can watch our family and help lovingly, truthfully show us our sin in ways only a Church can do. This book reminds us that the command to be in the Church is a blessing for us and our brethren.