Brief Book Notes: How Jesus Runs the Church and Jesus + Nothing = Everything
How Jesus Runs the Church by Guy Waters
I just recently finished How Jesus Runs the Church by Guy Waters, and while I don’t have the time to write a full review, I thought it was worth mentioning. It is essentially a biblical examination of church government–so no, not necessarily a page-turner. But here are several reasons why I think it is a valuable contribution that is worthy of our time. (1) It gives a helpful theological grounding for church government. That is, the title is descriptive of what the book is about: how Jesus runs the church, not how we run the church.
(2) It gives a modern defense of Presbyterian church government. So whether one is in a Presbyterian context (like me), and needs to be stretched to consider how important our church government is, or whether one is in a Congregational or Episcopalian setting, and could be stretched to consider whether the Scriptures really indicate more about the topic than one might think, it is worth reading.
(3) Waters regularly helps the reader to see that while church government may seem irrelevant in the midst of a host of other issues, it actually is vital to the church fulfilling her mission. Here are some representative quotes on this point that I found encouraging:
…biblical church government is no obstacle to missions and evangelism. In fact, Scripture shows us that good church government is critical to the expansion of the church. After this Assembly has done its work, the church continues to grow by the Lord’s blessing. Jesus, then, is blessing his own means to gather and to perfect the saints.
Biblical church government, then, is a tremendous pillar and support to the church’s faith, a signpost of the church’s great hope. Church government reminds us that Jesus is presently on his throne, ruling over all things for the sake of his church. It assures us that Jesus will return in glory at the last day.
Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian
I have far too many thoughts about this book than I have time to write at the present, but here are a few. (1) Pastor Tullian gives a powerful condemnation of living to please people, arising from his own painful experience in the first part of his time at Coral Ridge PCA. I was challenged by this part of the book, probably in ways that I needed to be. (2) The book is very repetitive, and in my opinion, not in a good way. I felt like it could have been half as long, and really not left anything out. (3) I think that Pastor Tullian is excellent–both in content and presentation–when describing justification and its importance, but can be confusing and unclear when it comes to sanctification. He seems to equate sanctification almost entirely with resting in justification:
I think of it this way: the hard work of Christian growth consists primarily in being daily grasped by the fact that God’s love for us isn’t conditioned by anything we do or don’t do. Sanctification is the hard work of giving up our efforts at self-justification. Those efforts are what we’re all naturally inclined to do, and it’s what makes the sanctification process so grueling and counterintuitive.
Obviously it’s true that sanctification does include continually returning to justification. But Tullian seems to denigrate almost any other efforts at works or effort, and personally, while if we were to have a conversation, I would bet that we wouldn’t disagree on much, I found the book confusing in its presentation of how sanctification happens.
For more substantial reviews of the book, consider these:
Mark Jones’ Review