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 believe that John Crotts makes 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.
I give Loving the Church four stars
About the Author:
John Crotts has been the pastor and teacher of Faith Bible Church in Sharpsburg, Georgia since 1995. He graduated from Liberty University and received his M. Div. from The Master’s Seminary. He serves as a board member of the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals. He co-authored the book Tying the Knot Tighter: Because Marriage Lasts a Lifetime with Martha Peace, and is the author of Mighty Men: The Starter’s Guide to Leading Your Family and Craftsmen: Christ-Centered Proverbs for Men.