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Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church

by Matt Chandler, Eric Geiger, Josh Patterson

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The 12 chapters of this book are an overview of how a local congregation can seek to place Jesus at the center of the Church’s work:

Our churches must be fully centered on Jesus and His work, or else death and emptiness is certain, regardless of the worship style or sermon series. Without the gospel, everything in a church is meaningless. And dead.

The authors rightly note that there is a difference between knowing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and knowing the Gospel as the mainspring of the Church’s work. Over the recent years, “Gospel” has been a word to attach to any number of ideas; often with no clear purpose for the use of the word “Gospel.” The authors seem aware of that unfortunate trend and thus seek to clarify their aim:

Although the gospel does impact everything, everything is not the gospel. If everything about Jesus and the Bible becomes “the gospel” to us, then we end up being gospel-confused rather than gospel-centered. That’s why we’ve chosen to use “The Jesus-Centered Church” instead of “The Gospel-Centered Church” as the subtitle of this book.

Having made plain their intent, they then seek to give some particular substance to their thesis.

For example, in chapter 2 “The Creature Worships”, they set out some practical understanding of how worship must be centered in Christ. Being a practical book, they set out some things which could be barriers to worship & shows what worship and can should achieve (“Worship gatherings are not always spectacular, but they are always supernatural.”).

As they work their the various aspects of church life, they rightly aim at showing how the church should produce a culture centered upon Jesus — not merely pronouncements:

As a church leader, you must assume responsibility for the culture of your church. While strategy and structure are essential, culture trumps them both Peter Drucker once remarked that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” If you have strategies and structures inconsistent with your culture, the culture will swallow them. But if you have a healthy gospel-centered culture, the culture will create momentum and carry an impact far greater than any strategy.

Should you read the book? It depends upon what you are after. The book is an introduction to the idea of centering a local congregation rightly upon Christ. It is written for a general audience, particularly for those who have not thought much about this issue before. This is both the strength and the weakness of the book. If you are familiar with the general theme, there will be little here which is “new”. If you have not considered this issue at all (you have just taken your current church culture as a given), then this book will raise the issue and point you in the direction you must go.