Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Book Review: The Enduring Community 

The Enduring Community by Brian Habig and Les Newsom is a book on the subject of the Church. It discusses what the church is, why it exists, and why it's important. It addresses the very commonly heard sentiments today about church, like "I don't need church, I can worship God anywhere" or, "Churches are just full of hypocrites" or things like that that we who work in churches or who value churches hear all the time.

The Enduring Community addresses these questions and issues without condemnation or just dismissing the sentiments expressed, but recognizing the false teaching that gives rise to such sentiment. Habig and Newsom take us to Scripture to see how the church is defined by Jesus and the Apostles both in their teachings and their practices. We then see those applied to the issues that face our churches today, which are not really different than the issues the church has always faced.

Habig and Newsom addresses some issues which are often difficult to explain to the modern believer, such as the need for church membership and the importance of the right administration of the sacraments. The touchy subject of discipline is also raised. And all of this is addressed in a very accessible yet firm manner. They discuss why these issues are important; why the church needs these things to be what the church is supposed to be, without resorting simply to statements like "the church has always done it" or "the Bible says so".

On the subject of church discipline, for example, he says:
...The inertia in the Church will always tend toward disintegration. The mark of the Church of discipline is therefore not only a theological necessity but a practical necessity as well. We need the Church, yes; but we need the Church together, involved in each other's lives, engaging in each other's business. Only this humility of community can set in motion the perpetual equipping of the saints and coversion of the lost for which the church exists. Without church discipline, there is no Church. (p. 105)
The Enduring Community did not convince me of anything that I was not already convinced of. But it helped me a great in equipping me with ways of talking about these subjects with others, and it energized my belief in the importance of these things. It helped me understand that many of these issues were about more than bare submission to authority, more than "we should do it because God said so", althouth that ought to be reason enough for us. It reinforced in my mind the importance of considering the purpose of the church and the nature of the church, and how ignoring the Scriptural requirements for how a church ought to look and to function undercut and destroy the purpose of the church in the believer's life. A big recommendation for this book for anyone struggling with these issues themselves, either in their own minds or in discussions with others around them.

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