Four gospel-centered books reviewed by Tim Challies
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In Who Do You Think You Are? Mark Driscoll steers away from controversy and writes his most pastorally sensitive book yet. He worries that Christians are “continually forgetting who we are in Christ and filling that void by placing our identity in pretty much anything else”: Instead of defining ourselves by who we are, we craft an identity based on what we are or on what has happened to us. Drawing from the book of Ephesians, Driscoll leads the reader away from false identities that neglect Christ and toward the true identity Christians gain through the good news of the gospel.
James MacDonald is the pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel Rolling Meadows, Illinois, and founder of Harvest Bible Fellowship, a movement planting churches all over the world. Vertical Church is a call for churches to leave behind the horizontal nature of church growth principles and to orient themselves vertically by offering attendees “a weekly experience with the manifest glory of God.” The book’s strengths include calls for powerful, expositional preaching and a desire to glorify God in all areas of church life. Several notable weaknesses, including a tone that is varyingly sarcastic and negative, and too strong a focus on the externals of worship and prayer, temper those strengths.
Creature of the Word
Though many books deal with being “gospel-centered,” most focus on the individual or the family rather than the local church. Chandler, Patterson, and Geiger call the church a “Creature of the Word” and apply the gospel to every part of her life and ministry. Heavily dependent upon the best of literature dealing with gospel-centricity, but extending it to new areas, Creature of the Word targets pastors and church leaders but is valuable for every Christian. After all, each of us forms a part of this living, breathing creature.
After the success of his bestsellers Crazy Love and Forgotten God, Francis Chan strikes out in a slightly different direction with Multiply, a printed book for sale but a free one online. Looking to the Great Commission and Jesus’ call to “Go and make disciples,” Chan says, “Every Christian is called by God to minister. You are called to make disciples.” Supplemented by online videos featuring Chan and David Platt, Multiply is useful for discipleship that introduces the Christian faith and the grand sweep of the biblical narrative. Chan’s dream is good: That Christians led through this material will then lead others.
Stand for Life by John Ensor and Scott Klusendorf (Hendrickson, 2012) teaches students how to make the pro-life case. The authors begin with the clarifying question: “What is it?” If the unborn is a human being, then all the arguments about choice and privacy are off-point. They show the power of questions to engage people, and the importance of showing respect to those with whom we disagree: “How we argue, in words and tone, ought to match the human dignity that we are arguing for.” The book provides examples of conversations and classroom interactions so that students can learn “how-to” from two men who have devoted their lives to making the pro-life case in words and practice.
Hendrickson also published in 2012 two updated versions of pro-life classics. Why Pro-Life by Randy Alcorn is an excellent handbook of science-based answers to questions about abortion. Answering the Call by John Ensor seeks to encourage Christians to join the pro-life fight, gives biblical reasons for doing so, and draws from history to show that Christians are the ones who must fight this fight. Some of the material from this book is also in Stand for Life. —Susan Olasky
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