During a time when the apparent distinguishing mark of the church – the public gathering for worship – has been minimized, is a better time than any to consider our own values and beliefs about the church, as well as dig into what scripture teaches us about what and who it is.
The season has been causing us to think a little deeper about who the church is and why it is important especially as we navigate pandemic restrictions and our place in all of it. We see loneliness, increasing anxiety, and isolation when our gathering is absent, and, in contrast, the swelling temptation toward individualism, a "just me and Jesus" approach.
"The Church: An Introduction" by Gregg Allison, is part of the 'Short Studies in Systematic Theology' series, here he gives us the theological basics of the doctrine of church.
In part one he shows us how the study of the church begins with what we believe about God - Father, Son and Spirit - and how the church reveals the Trinity as we are noted to be the people of God, the body of Christ, and the temple of the Holy Spirit.
He traces the assembly of God through the Old Testament and the New, and in light of the new covenant given in the work of Christ, the basic concepts of the church: The local church who gather to worship, grow in maturity and take the gospel out, the global church consisting of all those who love and follow Jesus, the believer after passing away becomes part of the heavenly church, enjoying rest and worship with the Father, and the longing for the return of Christ and the wedding supper of the Lamb.
The second part of the book looks at the identity and function of the local church. He describes who she is as the chosen people of God, who leads the people, and how the group is led. He looks at the celebration of the sacraments, as we remember the work of Christ, the ministries within the local church, as each member serves one another with their gifts, and the glorious future of the church, as we await our bodily resurrection.
In each of these chapters he compares and contrasts the commonly held beliefs the church has held throughout history, and how they have diverged in different church traditions. I found it helpful to see these differences and consider how that has impacted where we are today, especially in the context of spiritual gifts. It's also important to see the similarities and how united the church stands in together in Christ.
This book is a very helpful guide for the believer who is interested in learning more about the doctrine of the church, and some basic differences in church traditions. It leans heavier on the theological side, and so I would characterize it as more academic.
# of pages: 192
My Rating: 3 stars
*I received a complimentary copy of this book as part of the Crossway Blog Review Program. A big thank you to Crossway for the book and for the opportunity to post an honest review.