Church in Hard Places Book Review
Not surprisingly, this book looks at how to have and build a church in a hard place. 'Hard place' in this book it is talking about a poorer area. Usually, when people think of how to make a difference in a poor community, they don't think 'the church' is the answer. They think of all sorts of other things. But this book makes the case that it is possible to have strong churches in hard places and, Biblically speaking, the church is the best answer for any community, including poorer ones!
Written by Mez McConnell, serving in Scotland, and Mike McKinley, serving in Virgina, the book looks at the gospel, the church, and the work in hard places. They discuss things like 'What is poverty?' and the limitations of parachurch ministries. They also discuss how things like the gospel, doctrine, evangelism, preaching, church membership and discipline are crucial in hard places. They close by looking at specific ways a person can prepare themselves and their church to be more effective in hard places.
I found the book incredibly encouraging. I have been involved in church-planting in two areas that many would deem 'hard'. Both places had their unique challenges, as I am sure your area does as well, but the best answer in both areas was and still is the gospel of Jesus Christ, preached and taught by a strong local church. When we look at the Great Commission summaries in Matthew 28:19-20, it is impossible to see how it can be fulfilled without a church.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
I think that this book would encourage those who are currently working in hard places to keep on loving, keep on preaching, keep on teaching, and keep on calling people to commit to the church. I think this book would also challenge those who have a burden for a hard place to know how to pray, prepare to go, and to support others who are working in these areas. The only major place I disagree with the authors is in their view of election, but I really appreciate so much of what this book has to say. I hope that you will pick up a copy and give it a read.
Here are a few quotes from the book that should give you a flavour of what it includes:
A false or even an incomplete gospel is like a sugar pill. It might fool the patient into thinking he will get better, but it doesn’t have the power to cure him.
The issue is not that people don’t believe in God. The problem lies with the kind of god they believe in. They view God as irrelevant…disinterested…lenient.
...the world can watch Christians ladle soup or paint over graffiti for a thousand years, and they’ll never come to the conclusion the Jesus died for their sins and rose again. We must open our mouths and speak the content of the gospel to the world, or no one will be saved.
Despite the glitz and glamour that surround many parachurch ministries, they have not been ordained by God in the same way as the local church.
Despite the failings and weaknesses of churches, they remain the one institution on earth established and sanctioned by God for the explicit work of gospel ministry...
It is simply unthinkable to separate Jesus from the local church. If the gospel is the diamond in the great salvific plan of God, then the church is the clasp that supports it, holds it up, and shows it in its greatest light for the world to see.
All believers, therefore, should be members of a local church and under the care and oversight of the elders. Believers who are not a part of a local church are simply not obeying God. In fact, they are sinning against him.
The Bible is where we find the gospel message, the power of God for salvation. If we have the Word of God applied by the Spirit of God, we have all of the resources we need to minister in any community.
We live in a world where authority is distrusted and denigrated, and in such a world what sinful humans need most is not a friendly chat between equals but a declaration of God’s truth in monologue.
[Church] Membership requires commitment, and it clarifies in biblical terms what it means to be a part of the church. When people become members of the congregation, they are promising to love and care and pray for and be accountable to all of the other people in the church.