I hardly ever read a book from cover to cover in one sitting. I was glued to this book from beginning to end because it is so relevant, so logical, so engaging, so insightful, and most of all – full of practical helps and solutions in penetrating culture with the gospel!
Every once in awhile a book comes along that as a pastor I hold it up in front of my congregation and say, “You need to get and read this book and then give it away – or buy two copies so you can use one as a resource and get another to give away.”
Jonathan Morrow’s book is such a book. I think we are living in as James White says, “Serious Times,” and as such it’s important for Christians to think seriously about how our faith and our influence in culture intersect. In this book Morrow takes on a monumental task – in four idea packed sections he addresses how our faith and culture intersect; secondly, how we can prepare ourselves to engage culture; thirdly, particular areas where we must engage; and lastly, ways our churches can engage in culture, and insight into why we think and act the way we do.
The book addresses issues like science, bioethics, relativism, sexual issues, and the stewardship of creation. There are very interesting interviews with experts in nineteen different areas where Christians are already engaging culture, and how we can learn from their examples (e.g., Craig Hazen, William Lane Craig, Scott Klusendorf, Dennis Rainey, Jay Wesley Richards, Scott Rae, and C. John Collins).
Each chapter has helpful statistics, questions, and insights to help you engage the issues. Also, in each chapter there are recommended books, websites, and DVD’s on the topics and as mentioned above – helpful interviews with experts in the different areas covered.
I highly recommend this book for all Christians who desire to penetrate culture intelligently, effectively, and in a gospel-centered manner. It is absolute MUST reading for college students, pastors, youth pastors, and anyone in church leadership. However, I think every Christian who reads this book will benefit from the plethora of helps offered by Morrow and the resources at your fingertips in this very helpful book. I would also recommend that this book be used in small groups, or in discipleship groups for maximum impact – so that some of the ideas will be put into practice and thus our culture really will be impacted with the gospel.
How The Gospel Impacts and Transforms Culture for Christ
Darrin Patrick (Pastor of The Journey in St. Louis, MO) and Matt Carter (Pastor of Austin Stone Community Church in Texas) both tell the stories of their calling to plant churches – specifically in the city. The two pastors’ inspire existing churches to think through how we proclaim and live out the gospel, and extend a call to the masses to influence our cities with and for the gospel.
I love Carter’s description of his “church model” taken largely from His reflections on reading about Charles Spurgeon’s amazingly effective ministry in London, England in the mid-1800’s:
“Imagine an urban church so influenced by the power of the gospel that it seized every opportunity to proclaim and live out the gospel for the good of the city. Imagine that this church physically and spiritually served the poorest of the poor, but also lovingly rebuked the wealthy. Imagine this church as the epicenter of straight-up, God-fearing, Spirit-filled, revival, leading thousands of people to eternal life in Christ in just a few years. Imagine a church that built elderly housing, housed all the orphans in the city, and taught wealthy business people to have a ‘double bottom line’ so they could run a profitable business in order to support the work of the church and meet the needs of the city. In other words, imagine a church that boldly preached the gospel and lived out the values of the kingdom. Don’t you want to be a part of a church like that?”
My answer is “yes” I do! Along the way the authors show what a gospel centered ministry looks like from their perspectives of planting and pasturing in Mid America and in the South. The subjects they address are how the gospel relates to contextualization, building community, serving in the city, equipping the saints, suffering, and sharing their weaknesses, failures, and by God’s grace – their successes too.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to grow in their understanding and application of the gospel and how to penetrate the culture with the gospel through the ministry of the local church.
“There needs to be infiltration into our communities – identification with our communities rather than isolation from our communities. For there can be no significant impact without significant contact. We need to get close enough to people to make shouting unnecessary.” – Alistair Begg