Book Review--10/22/12

The Life of God in the Soul of the Church: The Root and Fruit of Spiritual Fellowship, Thabiti M. Anyabwile, 2012, Christian Focus, Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland, ISBN 9781845509231, 242 pages, $14.99, softcover.

Far too often, we take the Church for granted. This can play out as a complacent comfort that relies on the routines and activities of the local church for social structure, an attitude of vague, "spiritual-but not religious" frustration with the ordinariness and stagnation of certain local churches, or any number of expressions along that continuum.

In The Life of God in the Soul of the Church, Thabiti Anyabwile calls believers to recapture the wonder of the gathered Body of Christ and recognize and cherish it for what it is-the living expression of God Himself on earth. Building on the foundation of Henry Scougal's classic work The Life of God in the Soul of Man, Anyabwile expounds the New Testament passages concerning Christ's family to give readers a framework to understand the purpose and practice of the local church.

The book is laid out in two parts. The first discusses the nature and goal of the church as the outworking of Christ's presence in the world. In expositing passages from 1 John and 1 Corinthians, Anyabwile makes the case that the spiritual life of believers only finds its full expression when they are part of a local body. The second portion of the book outlines several expressions of the shared spiritual life of believers: loving one another, spiritual gifts for mutual edification, partnership, correction of sin and restoration, suffering together and comforting one another, forgiveness, corporate worship, giving, mutual acceptance, and a reiteration of the importance of love in all these areas.

Anyabwile tells readers up front that the material for this book was prepared and delivered as a sermon series to his congregation at First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman, and was edited very little for this printed version. This style both hinders and helps the book-repetition of points for emphasis and episodic (rather than sequentially building) chapters may frustrate some, while a prophetic urgency and emphasis on application typical of good sermons brings life to the very practical discussions of church life. The numerous examples from his own church that Anyabwile uses help bring his points to life and bring home both their importance and accessibility.

The parachurch organization IX Marks endorses this book as part of their teaching tools, and it does fit well with their focus on helping churches become and stay healthy and active. Readers will not likely find groundbreaking insights here (which is not the purpose of the book), but will be refreshed and encouraged to take seriously the call to be a part of the Body of Christ, local and global, and serve each other to the glory of God. Like a sermon, its purpose is both to teach and to spur to action.

Justin Lonas

Target: All
Type: Church Life
Take: Recommended

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