Book Reviews

Book Review: Why Church? (Scott Sunquist)

What is church, why are there so many, why are they so different, and why should I go? Should I go to only one, or can I go to all of them? Scott Sunquist, president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, believes that church should be, to a certain extent, both foreign and odd when compared to the other six days of the week (6). Sunquist has been to many different kinds of churches, and he writes, “With all of these frustrations and imperfections in churches, I have come to realize that I am really the main propblem” (7). After Jesus, the church was God’s best plan, and it has two main purposes: worship and witness/mission. The church is a community who adores (worships) Jesus and who are sent by Jesus (mission) to witness about him.

But how did we get to where we are today with such complex and different church structures?

Sunquist structures his book according to five different postures found in many churches. Each chapter rehearses the basic movement in worship, the reasoning behind that particular movement, and how that movement reminds us of the church:

  1. Come
  2. Stand
  3. Kneel
  4. Sit
  5. Go

Come: We come to Jesus by repenting of our sins and being converted. Then we come to the body of Christ and join a community where we come to worship. We come to Jesus by repenting of our sins and declaring loyalty to him alone through baptism (p. 38; 1 Pet 3:21-22). Our life is filled with continued repentance which should lead us to easily forgive and support others (45). We come to church and see the value it has in the rhythms of life as our community. We support each other. We don’t come and go as we please to the church service like most other religions. We are there together (even if some do come a little late). A local church should welcome all kinds of people. Our christian life begins and continues remembering what we are thankful for.

Stand: In church we stand and praise God for what he “has already done” (59). Praising moves us away from being self-focused. We look at all that God has given us and, knowing we couldn’t do it on our own, thank him for his wonderful grace to us. We praise God for who he is, what he has done, what he has done for me, and what he will do. The more we read Scripture the more we will understand the God we worship. So our worship will be “mindful, not mindless” (62). Praise is, in a way, a “contact sport” (74). It is fueled by our mind, emotions, body, and will. It can be orderly, and it can be “an explosion of joy” (74).

Kneel: In the act of kneeling we confess our sins. It is a very personal act that leads us to repentance. We know who we are because we know to whom we belong. This requires and creates humility. We have to admit we were sinfully wrong, and doing so allows us to see that God accepts us as in Christ. We don’t have to be perfect. We see that we cannot do it on our own. We need Jesus.

Sit: Here we receive the word. We hear the word taught, and preaching is meant “to help the hearers to live into the passage” (113). Preaching requires time and prayer, prayer that God would bless it for the community to whom you are speaking. The Holy Spirit works in the moment of preaching to apply God’s Word to our hearts. We receive the word, and we receive communion together as the body of Christ. We live off “the body of Christ” which he gave for us on the cross.

Go: After having come to Jesus, having praised him, confessed to him, and listened to his word, we are filled up and can go out into the world. The church lives in enemy territory, and it is a signpost of God’s kingdom. It is not perfect, but it points to that which is perfect, that which is to come. People don’t have to be sent to another country. We “go” to our jobs, our schools, our neighborhoods, or barbershops, our families, etc.

Coming before all of these movements is chapter two, which gives the history of the church in a nutshell. Coming after chapter eight, “Healthy Body Movements.” This chapter offers practical suggestions for life in a church (such as small groups).

Recommended?

This book is a basic introduction to the church for for high school and college students and for those who were not raised in Christian homes but who have become Christians, people who are either confused or just uninformed about the church’s purpose (13). At times I found it hard to follow the flow of thought, but that may be my own fault more than that of Sunquists. All in all, it’s a helpful book on how to to think highly of the church. It is imperfect, and there is no ideal church (because we are all sinners!), but this is part of God’s design, and he is glorified through our praises to him and love for one another.

Lagniappe

  • Author: Scott W. Sunquist
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (July 9, 2019)

Buy it from Amazon or IVP Academic!

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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