Letters to the Church by Francis Chan. David C. Cook. 224 pages. 2018
I haven’t been challenged so much by a book since I first read Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love several years ago. This book has a lot of similarities to Crazy Love, as the author looks at what a church should be according to scripture and shows where the American church is lacking. I read the book in two days, and I’m sure I will read it many more times, just as I have Crazy Love. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year.
The author begins the book by discussing why he left Cornerstone Church eight years ago. He admits that he didn’t lead very well, and that leaving Cornerstone was not an easy decision. After some time overseas, he felt that the Lord was leading him to come back to America to plant churches. Five years ago, twenty years after planting Cornerstone out of a living room, he planted We Are Church In San Francisco.
Each chapter, or letter, of the book addresses a different issue a church may or may not need to work on. The author writes that the book is about the most obvious commands repeated throughout the entire Bible. He tried to pay attention to the times when God seems most bothered by what His people were doing. He has tried to point out only the most obvious biblical truths about God’s desire for His Bride—truths that he writes none of us can afford to ignore. He states that he has written from the perspective of not worrying about the fallout from the book, but sought only to be faithful to God.
Throughout the book he provides encouraging examples of international churches. However, he writes that as he examines the state of the Christian Church today, he can’t help but think that God is displeased with many of the churches in America. He states that the more he studies the Gospels, the more he is convinced that those of us who live in the United States have a warped view of what it means to be a “Christian”, and it is for that reason our churches are in the state they are in.
The author uses a lot of scripture in this book. Aspects of church that he addresses in the book include devotion to scripture, prayer, unity, community, love, serving others, leadership, humility, suffering and children.
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BOOK REVIEW ~ The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down: The Lord’s Prayer as a Manifesto for Revolution by Albert Mohler
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age by Jonathan Leeman
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He uses one chapter to describe some things they have done at We Are Church in an effort to be obedient to the commands he reviewed in the previous chapters.
His hope is to motivate the reader to change anything necessary in order to be obedient to scripture. He believes God is leading a movement in this country toward simple, smaller gatherings (which he refers to as Churchbnb), and he longs to see this movement gain greater traction.
The author encourages us not to blindly follow the things he has written. Instead, he wants us to study the scriptures, get alone with the Bible and the Holy Spirit, seek Him with all our heart and surrender everything to Him.
I highlighted a large number of passages in the book. Here are 25 of the best quotes:
- It is imperative that we differentiate between what we want and what God commands. Not that our desires are all bad, but they must take a back seat to what He emphasizes.
- In our impatient culture, we want to experience biblical awe without biblical devotion. At the core of our dysfunction is not necessarily style or structure but lack of devotion.
- What would it mean for us to strip away the distractions and become a people who devoted ourselves to Scripture? I firmly believe that we would see a power in our churches like we’ve never experienced before.
- If Communion has become boring for us now, it could be that we’ve lost sight of the value of Jesus’ sacrifice. When Communion feels like an obligation rather than a life-giving necessity, a serious heart scan needs to take place.
- If prayer isn’t vital for your church, then your church isn’t vital.
- If you can accomplish your church’s mission without daily, passionate prayer, then your mission is insufficient and your church is irrelevant.
- One thing the New Testament makes clear is that the Church is supposed to be known for its love. Jesus says our love for one another is the very thing that will attract the world. But can you name a single church in our country that is known for the way its members love one another?
- Scripture is clear: there is a real connection between our unity and the believability of our message. If we are serious about winning the lost, we must be serious about pursuing unity.
- Obedience often grates against our natural desires, but if we obey only when it feels natural, then Jesus is not truly Lord of our lives.
- You can’t shape the life of your church around who might leave if things start to feel too much like the New Testament.
- What if we followed God’s design for the Church and in doing so allowed the Church to be pruned down to only those who wanted to obey His command to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12)? We might actually find that a pruned tree would bear more fruit (v. 2). We might discover that the branches that weren’t bearing fruit were actually sucking all the life out of the tree.
- Biblical unity is achieved not by overlooking sin but through firm pruning, which can lead to repentance.
- At the core of our faith lies this belief that almighty God humbled Himself to serve us and die for us. At the root of our calling is a command to imitate Him by serving one another.
- It’s no secret that most people who attend church services come as consumers rather than servants.
- It is our inability to take our eyes off ourselves and put them onto others that destroys us. This is what Jesus saves us from. This is what the Holy Spirit wants to do in us. The most humble people are typically the happiest.
- We have to stop viewing church leaders as people who minister to us. God clearly explained their role. It was not to coddle you but to equip you. Think personal trainer, not massage therapist.
- Turn around and look. If there is no one following you, something is wrong with your life. God has called you to the work of making disciples.
- God has always championed the humble person who passionately seeks Him.
- My goal in shepherding has changed so much. Long gone are the days when I am content with a bunch of people who sing loud, don’t divorce, and give to missions. I now want to know I can drop off any member of my church in a city and that person could grow in Jesus, make disciples, and start a church.
- The Church is in dire need of a fresh wave of godly leadership. I pray all existing leaders would be renewed or replaced.
- There are millions of people in our country who call themselves Christians because they believe the Christian life is about admiring Christ’s example, not realizing it is a call to follow it. If they really understood this, the numbers would drop drastically.
- Run from any teacher who promises wealth and prosperity in this life. The call to follow Christ is the call to joyfully endure suffering in this life for the promise of eternal blessing in the next.
- Until we embrace the suffering that so many Christians embrace around the world, we’re not going to have an unstoppable Church.
- More and more often, people are starting to water down their convictions because they don’t want to offend anyone. Instead of embracing the persecution that comes with standing out from and against the world, we have begun to embrace the world to try to convince it to tolerate us. That’s not the way it was supposed to be.
- I think we have become much too accustomed to allowing sin to invade the church because it’s part of our culture.
The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down: The Lord’s Prayer as a Manifesto for Revolution by Albert Mohler. Thomas Nelson. 209 pages. 2018
In this helpful book, the author, a respected seminary president and the host of The Briefing podcast, explains what the words in “The Lord’s Prayer” mean and how we are to pray them. He tells us that the Lord’s Prayer is the prayer that turns the world upside down. He tells us that there is no clearer call to revolution than when we pray “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” But this is a revolution only God can bring … and He will. He writes that the Lord’s Prayer takes less than 20 seconds to read aloud, but it takes a lifetime to learn. But sadly, most Christians rush through the prayer without learning it, and that is to miss the point completely.
The author tells us that Jesus did not only teach his disciples to pray – he commanded us to pray. But many Christians simply do not know how to pray. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us how to pray.
The author tells us that like anything of great value, prayer takes great effort, tremendous care, and Spirit-filled discipline. The Lord’s Prayer must be seen not only as a model of what prayer is, but also as a model of what prayer is not. What we believe about God is revealed most truly not in what we say about him but in how we approach him—in prayer or in worship. He tells us that a failure to pray is therefore not only a sign of anemic spiritual life, it is disobedience to Christ. We need the Lord Jesus Christ himself to teach us to pray because, left to our own devices, we will pray wrongly.
Below are ten quotes from this excellent book:
• Do you notice what is stunningly absent? There is no first-person singular pronoun in the entire prayer!
• One of our greatest problems and deficiencies in prayer is that we begin with our own concerns and our own petitions without regard for our brothers and sisters.
• The Lord’s Prayer is for revolutionaries, for men and women who want to see the kingdoms of this world give way to the kingdom of our Lord.
• Prayer does not change God; it changes us.
• There is simply no way to reconcile the general prayerlessness of the typical modern American Christian with the teachings of the New Testament and the example of Christ.
• The Lord isn’t looking for impressive words; he is looking for humble hearts—hearts that trust him enough to work, even when our words are few.
• The petition “give us this day our daily bread” reminds us of our dependence on God for even the most fundamental needs of life.
• Jesus’ words on forgiveness are clear. Without forgiving others we will not be forgiven. Again, the grounds of our forgiveness is never our own works. But forgiveness is a necessary evidence that we have received forgiveness. If we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven.
• The most dangerous thing a Christian can ever do is believe that he is somehow immune to temptation. In fact, failing to account for the dangers of temptation betrays a severe misunderstanding of the gospel.
• The Bible does not teach that God helps those who help themselves; instead, God helps those who are at the end of themselves.
A companion resource is Dr. Mohler’s 12-part Ligonier Ministries teaching resource The Lord’s Prayer. You can watch the videos from the series free online here.
- Christianaudio Free Book of the Month. The October free audiobook from Christianaudio is a biography of Steve McQueen written by Greg Laurie.
- Girl, Wash Your Face? What Rachel Hollis Gets Right and Wrong. Alisa Childers writes “Hollis is a self-proclaimed Christian, and the book is published by Thomas Nelson (a Christian publisher). References to the Bible, Jesus, her faith, and Christianity are peppered throughout the book. It’s not some kind of devotional—but it is marketed as Christian. And yet much of Hollis’s advice isn’t Christian, though some of it is still good.”
- Letters to the Church. Tim Challies reviews Francis Chan’s new book Letters to the Church. He writes that the book “lacks the nuance and balance that could have made it much better”.
- Tim Keller on a Fishy Story. Matt Smethurst interviews Tim Keller, asking him about parallels in Jonah with Luke 10 and Luke 15, as well as lessons from Jonah regarding racism, evangelism and social justice, and more.
- 20 Quotes from Tim Keller’s New Book on Jonah. Matt Smethurst compiles 20 great quotes from The Prodigal Prophet, the latest book from Tim Keller.
- Love Thy Body: An Interview With Author Nancy Pearcey. In her latest book, “Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality,” Nancy Pearcey argues that, “Human life and sexuality have become the watershed moral issues of our age.” It’s impossible, Pearcey says, to escape the relentless news of the “advance of a secular moral revolution in areas such as sexuality, abortion, assisted suicide, homosexuality, and transgenderism.” ByFaith editor Richard Doster asked Pearcey about a few of the book’s key points.
- Love Came Down at Christmas: New from Sinclair Ferguson. Nathan W. Bingham writes “Love is at the center of Christmas—it’s the reason behind all our gathering and gift-giving. In his new Advent devotional, Love Came Down at Christmas, Dr. Sinclair Ferguson seeks to refresh our hearts as we reflect on the source of it all—love incarnate, Jesus Christ.”
BOOK CLUBS – Won’t you read along with us?
How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age by Jonathan Leeman. Thomas Nelson, 272 pages. 2018
We are reading through an important and timely new book from Jonathan Leeman, editorial director at the ministry 9Marks, which helps Christians discover the most effective path forward amid battling worldviews: living as citizens of another kingdom and offering the world a totally new kind of politics.
This week we look at Chapter 4: Bible: Not Case Law, but a Constitution
- How do we maintain unity with one another inside the church when we disagree on what the Bible teaches on important political matters?
- Christians often disagree on what the Bible does or does not “say” on different political issues.
- Should a pastor endorse or denounce a political candidate? Should he share his position on various policy matters like immigration or health care? Tax policy or global warming? Same-sex marriage or abortion?
- The first question is how to interpret the Bible politically. The second is whether we should work to “impose” biblical teaching on non-Christians through our political activity. The third is how much room we should leave for Christians in a church to disagree. The fourth is the pastor’s role in all this. And on and on the questions collide.
- When it comes to thinking about politics, the Bible is less like a book of case law and more like a constitution. A constitution does not provide a country with the rules of daily life. It provides the rules for making the rules. It establishes who the rule makers are and what the purpose of rule is.
- First, the Bible is the book by which all our political activity will be judged. This is true for Christians and non-Christians.
- It doesn’t matter if a majority of the American public, the justices of the Supreme Court, and the US Congress do not acknowledge God or God’s Word. He is their God, and he will judge them by his standards, not theirs.
- Most of the Bible’s emphasis, in other words, is on the people of God, not on principles for good government.
- Distinguishing between law and wisdom is absolutely critical for knowing how to read the Bible politically.
- The relationship between law and wisdom can be likened to the relationship between the rules of a game and the strategy you employ to win a game.
- Most of the political questions citizens face day to day are biblically unscripted. Instead, they occur in wisdom’s territory.
- The Bible cares more about whether a government pursues justice by the wisdom of God than it cares about what form of government a nation possesses.
- Party membership remains an area of Christian freedom.
- Most political issues are jagged-line issues. There are only a few topics that we can put on the straight end of the spectrum, specifically, those issues pertaining to life, family, and religious freedom.
- Christians should unite around straight-line issues while leaving room for Christian freedom around jagged-line issues.
- When something is clear in the Bible, let’s be explicit and clear. But when the Bible isn’t explicit and clear, let’s leave room for Christian freedom.
- Christian liberty is crucial to church unity. When we speak beyond where Scripture authorizes us to go, we risk dividing the church where the Bible does not, and one day we will have to give an account to King Jesus for that.
October 10, 2018 at 3:47 pm
I just started a blog a month ago, wanted to mix it up with a weekly book review. Your blog has very helpful information. Following, to check out any books that I have missed reading. CHRIS
October 11, 2018 at 8:26 am
Hi Chris! Check out the “Books” and “Work and Leadership” tabs across the top of the blog for our book review archives in different genres. Thanks for reading! Blessings, Bill