I read these two books to help me ask myself what it is to be an evangelical gospel Christian in the 21st century. The Reformers spoke of constant reformation in the light of the Word of God, as we so often pick up habits, attitudes and beliefs from the culture around us rather than from the biblical gospel. Post-Christendom has already been reviewed in Headline by Geoffrey Clark, but I feel is worthy of commenting on for ongoing thought about being Christian in the 21st century.
Sadly it is not written that well, but it does ask some pertinent questions from the Anabaptist tradition concerning use of Bible and our understanding of mission. We often want to go back to the early Christian church before the Emperor Constantine was ‘converted’ and this book can help us in that search into the beginnings, but only so that we can look forward. Reading this book will open many Methodists’ eyes to traditions that we can learn from and help us to ask key questions about how we use the Bible, how we look at mission and how we think about one the great gods of today: tolerance.
It is a shame that some very challenging material is also housed in a poorly written book: The Gospel-driven Church. Ian Stackhouse has given us some of the results of his research but unfortunately it reads like his research! Nevertheless, it is worth persevering because, from his background in a new church network, he asks crucial questions about the new church movement and attitudes to revival that are pertinent for Headway. Headway members seek to be ‘gospel people’ but I sometimes wonder whether that helps us to assess our songs, preaching and pastoral care as thoroughly as it should.
I would commend both these books to Christian leaders - perhaps for discussion in groups. I would suggest it is worth persevering so that we can engage with vital questions for our mission and ministry in future days. It might also stimulate some good conversations with our new church brothers and sisters. In particular, worship leaders should critically read chapter 2, ‘Worship in Revival’, which probes whether worship may be done for effect or for God.