The purpose of my reading the book was to see whether it would be a helpful resource for people who attend our church but had not joined yet – not to “convince” them to join but more to help them diagnose what specific things gave them cold feet about the whole thing.
The book easily met my expectation. It is short and easy to read. He writes it in the first person which makes it seem much more like a conversation than a theological book. In fact there are many other better books on the doctrine of the church I would recommend ahead of this one but I agree with Tim Challies that the ease of reading here was perhaps its greatest strength. It’s hard to believe an open minded Christian could read this book and walk away saying that they should just keep their local church relationship at arm’s length. It’s a solid effort all the way around.
In addition to the readability of the book, I really appreciate how unashamedly he promotes the need to passionately love God’s people because God loves them passionately. If we Christians want to be like David (a man after God’s own heart) and love what He loves then we need to be crazy in love with God’s people in the context of the local church.
Chapter 4 is a very practical outline of what it would look like if you were really committed to your local church. It would be a helpful diagnostic to anyone wanting to see whether their level of commitment to a local church was an appropriate expression of God’s love in their lives. It’s well written, concise and very practical.
I don’t have a lot of reservations about the book but I did have a few. Since it’s written from his experiences, the scope of the book is pretty limiting. In this way the book’s biggest strength is also it’s biggest weakness. The Bible says that we should be active in the sharing of our faith so that we may come to know every good thing in Christ Jesus for a reason. Our own experiences will never give us a full picture of how God is working and Josh’s own experience of coming from a weak love for the church to where he is today is not everyone’s experience. He also seems to have let his direct contact with people equal the sum total of why professing Christians are not committed to local churches and those may not line up well with everyone.
One other issue I had with the book was his statement in chapter 3 that we need the ministry of others – especially pastors – to encourage us, to help us apply God’s word to our lives and to help us see our sins. That followed on a quote of Hebrews 10:24-25 (provoke one another to love and good works…encourage one another) which really has nothing to do with pastors. These are commands to every believer and most often come into play when ordinary Christians minister to each other. I don’t think most pastors, especially in churches over 200 people, even know their people well enough to do what these verses command. This is a point he makes elsewhere in the book so I don’t want to be too hard on him but having studied that passage recently it struck me as odd that he’d emphasize a pastor angle that I don’t think is in the verses.