It’s sexy among young people — my generation — to talk about ditching institutional religion and starting a revolution of real Christ-followers living in real community without the confines of church. Besides being unbiblical, such notions of churchless Christianity are unrealistic. It’s immaturity actually, like the newly engaged couple who think romance preserves the marriage, when the couple celebrating their golden anniversary know it’s the institution of marriage that preserves the romance. Without the God-given habit of corporate worship and the God-given mandate of corporate accountability, we will not prove faithful over the long haul.

What we need are…

an excerpt from The Glory of Plodding, an article Kevin DeYoung wrote for Tabletalk back in May, 2010


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The Glory of Plodding by Kevin DeYoung

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The church exists for unchurched people. Does the Bible teach this idea? Yes and no. “Yes” in the sense that God’s evangelism plan involves congregations that display his gospel as they embrace his rule (Jn. 13:35, Eph. 3:10-11) and cling to an unshakeable hope (1 Pet. 3:15). We should want every person to hear the gospel, and so everyone should be welcome to attend.

But “No” in the sense that the Bible places the focus of the church’s corporate gatherings on building up Christians (1 Cor. 14:4, 12, 17, 26). The church is made of people who are born again. Non-Christians are welcome to come when the church gathers, but in a very important sense, they don’t belong: they are not part of the body (1 Cor. 12), or part of the new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), or part of the people of God (1 Pet. 2:10). They come to witness these supernatural realities, yes, but not to be lulled into thinking they are part of something supernatural when they are not.

Zach Schlegel’s book review:

Image of Deep & Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend Deep & Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend

Church membership is a commitment of holy love. It’s a commitment to love other sinners,… to love one another. It’s not just any love with which we love. It’s not what Hollywood calls love, it’s not what two homosexual men call love, it’s not what parents who spoil their children call love, it’s Christ-like love, holy love, I want to look like Jesus and help you look like Jesus love. Because I have a Godward affection for you, beloved! I want you to look like Him cause I know that’s the most satisfying way to be.

Jonathan Leeman

(from The People of God Conference)

The People of God Conference
(November 9 – 10, 2012)
What Every Christian Needs to Know about
Love, Authority, and Church Membership

River City Grace Community Church of Sacramento (Greg Stoever, Pastor-Teacher) hosted “The People of God: What Every Christian Needs to Know About Love, Authority, and Church Membership”. Our speaker was Jonathan Leeman, Editorial Director of 9Marks ministries. The topic focused on the importance, privilege, and responsibility of local church membership for every Christian – for the display of God’s glory.

About the Speaker
Jonathan edits the 9Marks series of books as well as the 9Marks Journal. He is also the author of The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s LoveReverberation: How God’s Word Gives Light, Affection, Freedom and Action to His ChurchChurch Membership, and Church Discipline. Since his call to ministry, Jonathan has earned a master of divinity from Southern Seminary and has worked as an interim pastor. He is also working on his Ph.D. in ecclesiology. He lives with his wife and three daughters in Cheverly, Maryland.

Audio Recordings:

  • Love (Friday Evening Nov. 9)
    • Session 1: The Idolatry of Love [download]
      Leeman discusses our culture’s idolatry of love, and what this looks like in the local church. Then he contrasts this with the Bible’s own view of love. 
    • Session 2: The Display of Love [download]
      God means to display all the attributes of his character, including his holy love, in the life of the church. This means that church membership is a commitment to such love and a witness of it. 
    • Q & A [download]
      Q&A Session on Love
  • Membership (Saturday Morning Nov. 10)
    • Session 3: A Vision of Membership [download]
      Church membership is not about joining a club; it’s about being recognized as a citizen of Christ’s kingdom. 
    • Q & A [download]
      Q&A Session 1 on Membership 
    • Session 4: The Submission of Membership [download]
      How should we submit ourselves to the local church? We should submit publicly, physically, socially, affectionately, vocationally, ethically, and spiritually. 
    • Session 5: The Discipline of Membership [download]
      Church discipline is a tough topic, but it’s critical for protecting the gospel, the good of the saints, and the reputation of Christ in the world. Here’s a guide to the basic of what church discipline is, and how to practice it. 
    • Q & A [download]
      Q&A Session 2 on Membership 
  • Authority (Saturday Afternoon Nov. 10)
    • Session 6: The Power and Preaching of the Word [download]
      It’s tempting for church leaders to put their trust in their own ideas and ingenuity. But God’s Word alone gives life, and the power of ministry depends on exposing people to God’s Word, whether inside or outside the church 
    • Session 7: The Reverberation of the Word [download]
      The ministry of the word may begin in the mouth of the evangelist and preacher, but that Word should reverberate through the church’s music, prayers, and relationships. The echoing word gives life to the church in all its parts. 
    • Q & A [download]
      Q&A Session on Authority 
  • Sermon by Jonathan at RCG (Sunday Morning Nov 11) [download]
    Psalm 68 - “God’s Good Authority and the Church” 
  • Evening Service Q & A (Sunday Evening Nov 11) [download]
    General Q&A
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John Owen, Gospel Church Government

by Jeffrey T

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Article summary:

Book Review John Owen, Gospel Church Government, simplified and abridged by Jeffrey T. Riddle (Grace Publications, 2012):  110 pp. Reviewed by W. G. Crampton, Th.D.  Gospel Church Government[1] is …

How to Behave in Church | Instructions for Us All

  • Track Name


  • Album

    Janet Mefferd Show

  • Artist

    Janet Mefferd with Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile

Janet talks with Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile about his book The Life of God in the Soul of the Church. Show/Hide Player | Play in Popup | Download

I loved this book and highly recommend it,… heck, just listening to this for 19 minutes and I think that would help Christians and our often low view of ecclesiology.

Prior post on this:

I am not a huge fan of Tim Keller but this is a great quote [16:22-19:00]

"Christians tend to be consumers. Christians tend to say they have no loyalty to a particular church, they don’t see it as a family. If you are apart of a family you don’t pickup and leave every year because you don’t like the turkey at Thanksgiving…

Christians think of themselves more as customers more than they do as brothers and sisters, as family members… They don’t see themselves as ministry providers but as ministry consumers. They go to wherever they can get fed the most, which is somewhat of a euphemism. Under which we basically go to where our felt needs are met the most.”

I realized the other day that I have both an emotional and a factual relationship with baseball. One of the things about baseball that I love is the way that stats keep bringing me back to reality. I see a player struggling and I say, “They stink! What a waste of money! They don’t bring anything to the team!” And then the stats come up on the screen showing me what the player has really done and what they really are and what they have really done brings me back to cold hard facts.

I was thinking about this in relation to the body of Christ. What? Stay with me! Paul recognizes that believers have both an emotional relationship with one another as well as an objective relationship. This is summed up in the words of 1 Cor. 12: 16, “ And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body?” You get the picture, don’t you? The subjective experience of Brother Ear is that because he is not as ‘useful’ as Brother Eye he is not part of the body. Case closed. Time to find a new church. But those are not the facts. The fact of the matter is, regardless of how he feels about himself (or how others feel about him), he is part of the body–because the Lord has made him so.

It is often said by commentators you are the back of your baseball card. That is, you are defined by facts. The same is true of the Child of God. They are what they are according to God’s Word and not how they feel about themselves at any given moment.

Facts, Feelings, and Plain Stats

One Sentence Review: A book I wish that every Christian would read, so that they would have a greater love for what God has done (in uniting us to Himself and to fellow Christians) and know what God says about how they are to act in His Church.

The Life of God in the Soul of the Church

The Root and Fruit of Spiritual Fellowship

Thabiti Anyabwile

Pages: 256
Trim: Large trade paperback 
Isbn 13: 9781845509231
Imprint: Christian Focus
Category: Christian Life > Practical Life > General 

This generation and myself has rediscovered the great doctrine of regeneration, but we’ve only applied that to ourselves. We have forgotten that God is not just making us new creatures but is making a new humanity, of which you and I are just one part of it.

God has saved us, for His glory, to be apart of Christ’s body, the church. This book goes through the foundation of our union with God and with one another.

It is really sermon manuscripts so it has the feel of preaching. I really liked it at that point because it is very direct and aims for our hearts and challenges us in good ways.

It really challenges our default positions of wanting to run away when issues arise and really encourages us to show our love for God by showing our love for others, first and foremost to our fellow church members.

I can’t encourage you enough to pick up this book and live it out.

Read inside (PDFs): Sample Pages

Beginning & end of chapter 2

The truth is, there’s a certain type of personality that doesn’t want accountability, but affirmation. If one wants to divorce someone one shouldn’t divorce or marry someone one shouldn’t marry or do something one shouldn’t do, he seeks out a pastor’s “accountability.” When the pastor tells him the opposite of what he wants to hear, he leaves and goes to find a pastor or counselor who will. And this goes on and on.

This isn’t being shepherded. It’s the same old autonomy of the self, that first manifests itself in the life-cycle of a child saying, “But Dad said it was okay…” except now grown up into something with a far more malevolent motive and a far more dangerous outcome.

How Church Discipline Can Be Like Doctor Shopping

Intro & Outro of Thabiti Anyabwile’s “The Life of God in the Soul of the Church” [Chapter II]

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"JONATHAN LEEMAN WROTE THE FOLLOWING parable as an introduction to Mark Dever’s book, ‘What Is A Healthy Church?’

Nose and Hand were sitting in the church pew talking. The morning service, led by Ear and Mouth, had just ended, and Hand was telling Nose that he and his family had decided to look for a different church.

‘Really?’ Nose responded to Hand’s news. ‘Why?’

‘Oh, I don’t know,’ Hand said, looking down. He was usually slower to speak than other members of the church body. ‘I guess because the church doesn’t have what Mrs. Hand and I are looking for.’

‘Well, what are you looking for in a church?’ Nose asked. The tone in which he spoke these words was sympathetic. But even as he was speaking them he knew he would dismiss Hand’s answer. If the Hands couldn’t see that Nose and the rest of the leadership were pointing the church body in the right direction, the body could do without them.

Hand had to think before answering. He and Mrs. Hand liked Pastor Mouth and his family. And Minister of Music Ear meant well. ‘Well, I guess we’re looking for a place where people are more like us,’ Hand finally stammered. ‘We tried spending time with the Legs, but we didn’t connect with them. Next we joined the small group for all the Toes. But they kept talking about socks and shoes and odors. And that didn’t interest us.’

Nose looked at him this time with genuine dismay: ‘Aren’t you glad they’re concerned with odors?!’

‘Sure, sure. But it’s not for us. Then, we attended the Sunday school for all you facial features. Do you remember? We came for several Sundays a couple of months ago?’

‘It was great to have you.’

‘Thank you. But everyone just wanted to talk, and listen, and smell, and taste. It felt like, well, it felt like you never wanted to get to work and get your hands dirty. Anyway, Mrs. Hand and I were thinking about checking out that new church over on East Side. We hear they do a lot of clapping and hand-raising, which is closer to what we need right now.’

‘Hmmm,’ Nose replied. ‘I see what you mean. We’d hate to see you go. But I guess you have to do what’s good for you.’

At that moment, Mrs. Hand, who had been caught up in another conversation, turned back to join her husband and Nose. Hand briefly explained what he and Nose had been talking about, after which Nose repeated his sadness at the prospect of losing the Hands. But he again said that he understood since it sounded like their needs weren’t being met.

Mrs. Hand nodded in agreement. She wanted to be polite, but truth be told, she wasn’t sad to be leaving. Her husband had made just enough critical remarks about the church over the years that her heart had begun to reflect his. No, he had never burst into an open tirade against the body. In fact, he usually apologized for ‘being so negative,’ as he put it. But the little complaints that he let slip out here and there had had an effect. The small groups were a little cliquish. The music was a little out of date. The programs did seem a little silly. The teaching wasn’t entirely to their liking. In the end, it was hard for the two of them to put their fingers on it, but they finally decided that the church wasn’t for them.

In addition to all that, Mrs. Hand knew that their daughter Pinkie was not comfortable with the youth group. Everyone was so different from her, she felt out of joint.

Mrs. Hand then said something about how much she appreciated Nose and the leadership. But the conversation had already run on too long for Nose. Besides, her perfume made him want to sneeze. He thanked Mrs. Hand for her encouragement, repeated that he was sorry to hear of their departure, then turned and walked away. Who needed the Hands? Apparently, they didn’t need him.

Have you ever been in a situation like this? If you are Nose, what do you say to someone like Mr. and Mrs. Hand? Have you ever felt that almost self-defensive response that concludes, ‘Well, we don’t need you’? Or, if you are Mr. and Mrs. Hand, what could be said to you to help you through these issues? Your needs are not being met, so how should you think about the church? What are your needs exactly? Given the Bible’s teaching regarding the church, are your issues and needs really legitimate? What are you looking for in a church? For that matter, what do you think the church is?…”

Thabiti M. Anyabwile. ‘The Life of God in the Soul of the Church’ (Kindle Locations 490-535). Christian Focus Publications Ltd.. 

"…Were Mr. and Mrs. Hand right to look for another church because they did not fit in or because they disliked some aspect of the public service? Was Nose right to conclude, ‘We don’t need you’? Both were wrong according to the Bible. We are the body of Christ, arranged by God, with every member playing a necessary part. Were you feeling or thinking like Nose or like the Hands when you started reading this chapter? Have you changed your mind? I pray that you would see how indispensable you are to everyone in your church according to God’s design."

Thabiti M. Anyabwile. ‘The Life of God in the Soul of the Church’ (Kindle Locations 817-821). Christian Focus Publications Ltd.. 

Read chapter 1 in its entirety here [pdf]

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