I just received in the post a review copy of The Church: A Guide for the Perplexed by Matt Jensen and David Wilhite. David and I attended seminary together at Beeson Divinity School—I trust him as a brother as well as a scholar, so I am pleased to have the opportunity to give the book a careful read.
The book’s topic brings up a conversation. “Church” is surely one of the most evocative and provocative words out there.
“Church.” Go ahead, say it aloud as you read. What taste is left in your mouth? Is “church” a term referring to “those people” in your own personal vocabulary? Is it a word haunting you from your past? Is it a word that haunts your future, as in, “Yeah, I should be going to church… I will one day.”
Maybe it is a word haunting you in the present.
“Church” brings up for some a lofty, abstract concept, that universal collection of believers who are sharing all over the world in the life of God. But the theological concept of the global community of the redeemed is often an easier definition to deal with than the sociological reality of the local community of the allegedly redeemed. It is nice to think about all the saints of God across field and forest, vale and mountain. But “church” is a much more difficult conversation topic when you are dealing with the local manifestation of that glorious company… like the folks down the road with whom you rub elbows in the pews on Sunday mornings.
“Church.” Yes, many of us are perplexed. I will be reporting on David and Matt’s treatment of this messy and glorious topic as I work through it.
(I am grateful to T & T Clark / Continuum for the book. The Guide for the Perplexed Series is really helpful if any of you want to check it out on the publisher’s website).