We now turn to a new book for our Friday is for Friends series: Why Church Matters by Jonathan Wilson. Those in low church traditions need this book, and those in stodgy high church traditions need this book,and those in the emerging movement need this book. I have been reading Jonathan’s stuff for years, and I hope you find him as stimulating as I do.
Now a brief word about book purchasing: I have for two years linked most of the books I mention on this blog to Amazon, but today I am making a change. All my links now go to Abunga.com, a new internet book provider that I will support. I hope that you support Abunga.com as well. They now have almost 1.4M books in their database, which is growing.
We need to think more about the church. Low church evangelicals have turned the church into little more than a voluntary association society; church is not necessary and it is not central enough to low church perceptions. So, Jonathan’s book should provide for many of us the opportunity to converse together about what the Church is and how we are summoned by God to participate in the redemptive society God creates.
Now to Jon Wilson’s fine book. The first chapter is about “practices” — and he will discuss in detail the following: worship, witness, discipleship, baptism, eucharist, footwashing, confession, and suffering. Essentially, this 1st chp is a chp that introduces the theory of the book: that “practices” define what the Church is and does. Here’s his nice way of putting it: “Are we churching together? Did we ‘church’ today?” He doesn’t like the grammar or the words, but he puts it this way to get us to think. What do we mean when we say we are “churching”? Good question.
Now here’s an important observation: what “practices” make “church”? Many, I fear, think of the same practices that make up an individual Christian life. But is this so? What practices do you think “constitute” the Church? What do practices actually “do” and “create”?
First, Jonathan contends that the gospel is “fundamentally not a set of ideas or a system of belief but the grace of God made known in human lives” (11) and that the greatest threat to the church today is “absence of vibrant and vital practices of the gospel” (11).
Now I like this: “In the absence of such vibrancy, the church becomes more wordy” (11). What do you think of this claim?
Here are his central theses:
1. Practices embody a concept of the good.
2. Practices constitute a community.
3. Practices are oriented to internal goods (Jesus, God, etc).
4. Practices extend our conception of the good.
5. Practices enable us to participate in the good.