Jonathan Leeman's Word Centered Church: How Scripture Brings Life and Growth to God's People is simultaneously an exciting book -- and a frustrating book.
First, my frustration. I wish the place Leeman gives to the importance of Scripture he gave, instead, to Jesus Christ. I don't believe in the Bible -- as shocking as that statement may sound. I do believe in Jesus Christ, known through the testimony of Scripture. But I think that's an important distinction Leeman fails to make in this book. So, in the end, Word Centered Church, I think, gets wrong where its center really lies. The Word God has spoken is Jesus, not Scripture. Scripture is, however, the testimony, the witness, of that speaking. And therefore Scripture is important, but only as a witness to the Word God has spoken in Jesus Christ.
Now for the exciting bits.
The Spirit, working through that testimony, gives birth to the community of which this Scripture is our life's work. Scripture, in other words, is the ongoing story of God's witness in Jesus Christ, to reconcile the real world -- the world of space and time and people -- in relationship with God.
Without that Scripture, our lives as witnesses simply wouldn't make much sense. Scripture is, as Leeman puts it in Part One, God's action in inviting and gathering the community of those who follow Jesus Christ.
Part Two, then, explores the relationship of this Scripture to the Church's ongoing witness in preaching. Preaching exposes us to the richness of that life with God in Jesus Christ through the Spirit in the community. It passes along the message even as it witnesses to the Good News that God is at work in Jesus Christ.
Finally, Part Three connects Scripture and Preaching to the creation of the Church. Scripture is our song, our prayer, our invitation and our sending.
Overall, Leeman's Word Centered Church privileges Scripture to a place I'd personally reserve for Jesus, and in that way is disappointing. But, he certainly helps us think about the interplay of Jesus-Spirit-Scripture-Church-Preaching in ways that some preachers never really think. So in that way the book is exciting.
I received a free copy of this book from Moody Publishing in exchange for my honest review here.