John Crotts’ book Loving the Church: God’s People Flourishing in God’s Family is a chatty, easy-to-read, unintimidating introduction to the Bible’s teaching about the church. It’s certainly no theological tome (it’s not trying to be), yet Crotts has managed to cram in a fair amount of good biblical material. It’s potentially a very helpful book for Christians who’ve never read anything on the subject and are keen to dig a little deeper.
Apart from its relaxed style, the book’s greatest strength is its full-tilt assault against the consumerist attitude to church that pervades much evangelical culture. This alone is enough to make the book wroth reading. But there are other strengths too. Here are just some of the highlights:
- There’s lots of great stuff about the practicalities of church life: accountability, involvement, serving others, relationships with Elders and Deacons; preparing for worship; spiritual gifts (some really shrewd practical advice here); parachurch ministries (again, really insightful); and much more.
- There are some helpful (though brief) comments on church discipline and cultural diversity in the church.
- It handles the distinction between the visible and invisible church neatly (though briefly) with a light touch; and there’s a good (though again brief) discussion of the qualifications for eldership that doesn’t compromise on the biblical requirement for male elders.
- There’s an attempt to handle the issue of submission to authorities, including ungodly authorities, which again is pretty good as far as it goes.
The book says little about the details of baptism or church government, but in a book of this length and style that’s probably a good thing, since there’s not enough space to say much more, and the attempt would probably have generated controversy without shedding much further light.
There are some weaknesses, however. A minor point first: the case for male-only eldership is extended rather simplistically into the context of mixed-sex Bible studies.
A more serious weakness, however, is the book’s teaching about children of believers. Basically, it says what you’d expect a good, clear Baptist to say. There’s nothing on God’s covenant promises to the children of believers. Children are viewed as unbelievers born outside the church, not baby believers needing to be nurtured within it. I suspect that many Baptists would give it five stars. But Paedobaptists (like me) are likely to get frustrated half-way through chapter 10, and may have second thoughts about giving out the book willy-nilly to church members. Despite these weaknesses, however, the book is still potentially valuable, particularly for group study.
[Disclaimer: I received a free electronic review copy of this book from Cross-Focused Reviews.]