Books I Like: Why Church Matters

Why Church Matters: Worship, Ministry, and Mission in Practice by Jonathan R. Wilson bridges the gap between theologians of the church and practitioners of the church.  Though the book is short (158 pp.), Wilson’s ambition is large:

In this book I intend to give a relatively comprehensive account of the practices of the church: the role of the pastor, the proclamation of the gospel, the celebration of the sacraments, worship, evangelism, discipline, and many more activities are developed as practices.

“Practice” is an important word to Wilson.  By “practice,” he means regularly developed, intentional acts that create and shape a culture or community.  He includes worship, communion, baptism, discipleship, preaching, and other acts of the church.

He begins by examining worship from four different angles:

  1. Worship as Work, Warfare, and Witness
  2. Worship as True, Good, and Beautiful
  3. Worship as Trinitarian Practice
  4. Worship as Language School

The final category is especially important to Wilson.  Following Lindbeck and Holmer, he views religion as a language that we must learn and be taught, and the pastor, then, is the grammarian of the church, helping the church correctly learn the language that God has revealed to us. 

In the final two sections of the book, Wilson looks at, first, practices that need “renovating” – witness and discipleship – and then, practices that form the foundation of what the church is all about – communion, baptism, footwashing (which he includes with communion and baptism as a sacrament), confession (by which he means confession of the Creed), and suffering. 

He considers suffering side-by-side with power, and it’s an important lesson for the church to consider.  Here is my previous post about Wilson’s view of suffering. 

Finally, perhaps as interesting as the book itself, the appendix examines the ecclesiologies of four well-known evangelical practitioners: Francis Schaeffer, Charles Colson, Rick Warren, and Brian McLaren.  Though short, the appendix provides some key insights into these influential writers’ view of the church (or lack thereof). 

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