Every so often I take on a few books to read and review for various sites and publishers, and this was a book that caught my attention. Within just the first few pages, I couldn’t put it down. In fact, I put aside many other things on my to do list and pretty much consumed this book. There is a lot that I like about this book, but even more that I loved. It spoke right to my heart about things I already believed, and challenged my thinking on other aspects of the church. And… it struck a cord and convicted me too.
I think there are important books being written for the church & ministries. Word-filled Women’s Ministry, for example, I think is an incredibly important book for Women’s Ministry. But, as I read through Jesus Called, He Wants His Church Back, I may be so bold to say that this may be one of the most important books that I have read. Right off the bat, author Ray Johnston comes out swinging with some big points.
Jesus is still popular in America. We currently have better resources, than ever. Our buildings are world class buildings, corporate level leadership, mega churches scattered about, and better communications thanks to the explosion of technology. With all of the resources we have available, we should be seeing exponential growth in the church. However the prevailing question that Johnston asks (and answers throughout this book) is:
Why is it that nobody wants to go to church anymore?
To find his answer, Ray Johnston had to go to Africa.
What an introduction, right? Readers, all of this and I hadn’t even gotten into the first chapter yet! I was invested in riding this through, put my highlighter to the test, and I’m blown away. Ray Johnston was able to put his finger on the pulse of the church, detecting that slowing rhythm, and then puts himself to task to understand what is happening in the American church and how to fix it.
By the time you finish with Chapter Two, a quick journey spanning seven decades of decay in the American Culture is outlined right before you. It seems so obvious, as you read decade to decade. However, when you look at the cumulative of seven decades of loss… you almost have wonder:
Why aren’t we losing even more people from the church?
The good news is that everything we have lost can be found in Jesus, and there are those of us in the church who know this. However, we are doing a poor job in ensuring that everyone walking through our church doors know this to be true. We are doing a worse job making sure the world is pointed to the answer, the Truth.
As the book continues, Ray Johnston tells it like it is. We are starting off with cracked foundations that are being influenced by the world around us. Christians are taking the initials steps of seeking Christ, and saying the prayers for salvation… but coming up short of real trans-formative change. If we want to really have an affect on the exodus of people from the church, we must repair these foundations.
If you know me personally, Bible Literacy is a big topic for me. I’ve written about it before on the blog, talk about it more often, and even teach small groups on how to study the bible. I’m pleased by how often throughout these pages Johnston points us toward Bible literacy in order to shape our biblical worldview.
After addressing the cracks in our personal foundations, we need to look at the church as it sits today with very honest and open eyes. Johnston helps us to gain the perspective of those who are leaving (or not coming in the first place) and you can’t get through these passages without a sting of conviction. Sure, some will feel a stronger sting than others… but I don’t think any of our churches are immune from these thoughts. Johnston doesn’t stop there has he also calls attention to the lukewarm churches who may have numbers but lack substance.
It is at this juncture in the book, we begin a new course. The overall problems are identified and now it’s time for the solutions. What holds us back, how do we get beyond them, and why is this so important?
How do we give Jesus back His church?
As I said, I think this is one of the most important books written for the church. I would highly recommend this book for not only your Pastor Staff, but any leader in the church who is part of that vision cast. Church Planters should start here, and even our ministry leaders need to ask how this applies to their ministry.
Jesus called, and He wants His women’s ministry back…
…and His youth group, children’s ministry, MOPS group, worship band, and every other part of it.