The church at worship:
“If there is to be a ‘committed people as the sign and agent and foretaste of what God intends, it can only be insofar as their [church’s] life is continually renewed through contact with God himself’ in worship . . . ‘True worship enables us [as church] to be conformed more and more inwardly to the Cross of Jesus.’ The cross of Jesus means a total and costly identification with the world [around us], on the one hand, and yet a radical separation from its idolatry, on the other. Worship renews us in this life of Jesus.”
~Michael W. Goheen, in his The Church and Its Vocation, as he reflects on Lesslie Newbigin's concept of God’s missional means of grace.
I read a lot. Sometimes more than one book at a time.
At the end of each year, I post the ten or so top books that have been influential to me, which I think other Christians and those in church ministry would benefit from reading as well. I don’t list journal articles, but I read a lot of these as well. But since you all will more likely buy a book than dig up an academic journal, I give you the most significant books I have read in 2018.
I don’t have to agree with everything an author has written to be influenced—to rethink, to expand my thoughts on church, the faith, the gospel, mission, evangelism, discipleship, culture, justice, etc. These eleven books make the list because their subject matter will have lasting value on me. And, I believe would greatly help you on your discipleship journey as well.
They are not in any particular order; more or less the order I read them throughout 2018. Nonetheless, I strongly suggest the two books by Richard Beck and Michael Goheen’s book on Newbigin’s “Missionary Ecclesiology” as very important and significant reads for those in church ministry. And, I highly recommend Stephen Backhouse's book on Kierkegaard is a fun (enjoyable) read that will help you think about your faith out of the box (out of the Christendom box the church finds itself in at this time).
Church and Its Vocation: Lesslie Newbigin’s Missionary Ecclesiology
by Michael W. Goheen
Church Forsaken: Practicing Presence in Neglected Neighborhoods
by Jonathan Brooks,
Stranger God: Meeting Jesus in Disguise
by Richard Beck
Mañana: Christian Theology from a Hispanic Perspective
by Justo L. González
Loving the Poor, Saving the Rich: Wealth, Poverty, and Early Christian Formation
by Helen Rhee
Delivered from the Elements of the World: Atonement, Justification, Mission
by Peter J. Leithart
Saved by Faith and Hospitality
by Joshua W. Jipp
Exegeting the City: What You Need to Know About Church Planting in the City Today
by Sean Benesh
Urban Hinterlands: Planting the Gospel in Uncool Places
by Sean Benesh
Kierkegaard: A Single Life
by Stephen Backhouse
Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Mortality
by Richard Beck
Lesslie Newbigin “believed that the ‘whole thrust of the 20th century [last century] rediscovery of the missionary nature of the church is lost if it does not lead to a radical re-conception of what it means to be a local congregation of God’s people.’ And so he frequently expressed his conviction that the local congregation is the primary reality of the church and therefore the only possible hermeneutic of the gospel” (Michael W. Goheen, The Church and Its Vocation: Lessie Newbigin’s Missionary Ecclesiology, p. 108).
Amen and amen.
But this means getting our “local” ecclesiology right (as in biblical). We confuse our form for church, yet our form (and its institution) will determine much in how we (and the public) understand what we mean by the gospel. We tend to read back our form and way of doing church into the New Testament (a bad hermeneutic!). We need to think more deeply about ecclesiology and the local, gathered-church. Frankly, we need a "radical re-conception" of the nature, purpose, and meaning of the local church, what I prefer to call, the local, gathered-church.
And this is why church, that is ecclesiology, is so so important.
I have been wrong on many things theological over the years (e.g., nature of man and nature of sin, God's sovereignty and election, the importance of the Lord's supper, and too many more to be embarrassed over, which I hope I know better now), but the biggest “didn’t get” was “church.”
I, like most of us, define “church” by and through our culture, our sociological history (i.e., our story), even my personal story, and my social location as (now don’t get offended, or maybe you should)—my social location as a white, suburbanite, living in America, and a person within a westward marching, European cultural history (story).
Really need to rethink church and do so within the context of the biblical story.
Chip M. Anderson, advocate for biblical social action; pastor of an urban church plant in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven, CT; husband, father, author, former Greek & NT professor; and, 19 years involved with social action.