Joe Thorn's The Character of the Church: The Marks of God's Obedient People is a simple and rewarding exploration of the question, "What makes a church?" What are those biblical attributes that compose church?
What makes for a true and healthy church can be boiled down to five essentials: (1) the right preaching of Scripture, (2) the proper administration of the ordinances, (3) the development of biblical leadership, (4) the gracious implementation of church discipline, and (5) a clear focus on the mission that Jesus gave the church (p. 13).
And The Character of the Church explores each of those with depth and specificity without utilizing too much theological jargon. Thorn carefully explains what each means and looks like in a healthy church. Some of the finer details around these topics can be controversial. Thorn's approach is never heavy-handed. However, he doesn't back away from difficult topics. He delivers clear answers backed by scripture. Granted, he is Baptist and his explanations are from a Baptist perspective. For example, not everyone will agree with his explanation of why he doesn't practice infant baptism or why he practices immersion. That's his specificity.
But there's also depth here. In particular, I think the most rewarding section is "Part 4: Discipline Practiced with Grace". Communion discipline has been one of the most neglected areas in studies of the Church (with the most memorable exception being Tom Oden's Corrective Love).
Thorn's Character of the Church is a must-read for pastors and other congregational leaders.
I received a free copy of this book from Moody Publishing in exchange for my honest review here.