In his first book, "The Heart of the Church", Joe Thorn discusses the essentials of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In this second book of the trilogy, Joe Thorn, who pastors Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles, Illinois, discusses what makes a church a TRUE church.
A plethora of congregations gather each week under the guise of being a church. They boast of spirit-driven worship, enthusiastic speakers, and even communion. But do those things make a church one that is true and healthy? In "The Character of the Church", Thorn discusses just what identifies a body of people as a "church", rather than merely a social club. While Dr. Mark Dever lists what he believes to be nine marks of a healthy church, Joe Thorn boils it down to just five.
Each of the five makes up a single "Part" of the book:
1) The word rightly preached
2) The ordinances rightly administered
3) Leadership biblically formed and functioning
4) Discipline practiced with grace
5) The mission shared by all
Within each Part, there are anywhere from two to four chapters that further describe the individual part. Two of the chapters that had a profound effect on my soul dealt with baptism and communion (chapters 4 and 5). I grew up in a denomination that merely expressed these two ordinances as observations and "remembrances", rather than as means of grace. Thorn explains, "Although baptism does not save, it preaches the gospel, announces the truth of Jesus Christ, and as such is a means of grace when received by faith." He continues, "Baptism is not merely a religious rite with rich symbolism. It is one of the means that God uses to work in us and make us who we are in Christ" (p.49). Likewise, "...the Lord's Supper conveys grace as it communicates the truth of the gospel and is received by faith" (p.52).
I continue to believe that book 1 ("The Heart of the Church") and book 2 ("The Character of the Church") will be good resources for a church's bookstore and in new member classes. They are simple reading, not requiring much effort or time. But they inspire the desire to dive deeper into various issues of interest.
RATING: I give "The Character of the Church" 5 out of 5stars. I look forward to reading the third and last book of the series.
DISCLAIMER: I received this book free of charge from Moody Publishers in exchange for my unbiased review of it. All opinions are mine, and I was not required to provide a positive review of it.