“Word-Centered Church”, one of many excellent resources in the 9Marks line of books, is a worthwhile title to add to one’s bookshelf. In fact, some readers may already have this one under its previously-released title, “Reverberation”, from 2011. I didn’t read the first edition, so I can’t speak to what has been changed, but can speak of the book on its present merits.
As the title so aptly suggests, Mr. Leeman’s intent is to inspire pastors, teachers, and members alike that the Bible – God’s Word – must be the center of our worship, for it is the Word of God that creates His people, gathers His people, sanctifies His people, and sends His people. It is divided into three parts – Part 1: The Word (Acts; Invites and Divides; Frees; Gathers), Part 2: The Sermon (Exposes, Announces, Confronts), and Part 3: The Church (Sings, Prays, Disciples, Scatters and Once Again Gathers).
Jonathan Leeman unashamedly makes the case that Christian gatherings must absolutely be distinct from the world, for God’s Word is different from that of the world. God’s Word reveals to us that God that God is holy, that we are sinners, that God’s wrath over sin looms over sinners, that we need a Savior, that Jesus Christ is that one-and-only Savior, and that we will all face God’s judgment – either with or without Jesus as our Substitute.
This book is full of helpful insight for not only pastors/elders, but also for small/community group leaders and church members alike.
For pastors, it will serve as a solid reminder that leaning on worldly church growth models is a hopeless endeavor. While numbers may increase for a season, what will personal growth be built upon, new programs, cool music, merely motivational sermons?
For community group leaders (and this hit home with me), this book is a strong reminder that we Christians are brought together by the Word of God, and we gather corporately and in small groups under the Word of God. Like the pastors, community group leaders should be focused on reminding members of the group of the gospel, of the hope we have, and of the joy of sins forgiven. It reminds us to pray God’s word together.
Finally, for the church and community group member, this book helps establish a strong foundation that we ought to be looking for God’s Word in our large and small gatherings, and that our worship and daily lives must be centered on His Word. To expect new programs, cool music, or merely motivational speeches misses the mark of the true gospel of Jesus Christ. We are not saved by or for the next greatest song; we are saved only by the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ, and the gospel is revealed to us in God’s Word!
In other words, the Word must be the center of all we do as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Rating: I give “Word-Centered Church” 5 out of 5 stars. It contains both rich theology AND practical application to daily living.
Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge from MP News Room (Moody Publishers) in exchange for my unbiased review of it. All opinions are mine, and I was not required to provide a positive review of it.