This is a book for and about the Church living in a postmodern, post-Christian culture. It is book that should be read and discussed by pastors and all officers who are called to serve the Body of Christ. Philip Ryken has written another fine book calling the church to practice the biblical pattern of ministry.
The book is written around the theme of Acts 2:42-47 and 4:34, 35. Ryken sets forth with great clarity and conviction what it means to be a teaching, worshiping, caring, and growing church. He diagnoses the two sins of relativism, and narcissism as major problems facing the church. He describes how the church should defeat these problems by asking what the Bible teaches about the ministry, not by asking what do people want or what the culture says is relevant.
In the chapter on worship he reminds the reader that worship is for God and not for some other purpose, however noble. With regard to music Ryken says, “Although all good music has an entertaining quality, its primary function is not to entertain, but to glorify God, and as it does so, to teach.” He also makes the point that worship is not primarily for the benefit of non-Christians. He quotes Marva Dawn that some worship leaders “confuse worship with evangelism and evangelism with marketing.”
Elders should take care to read the chapter on “Shepherding God’s Flock.” He points out that the pattern for biblical leadership is not hierarchical, but collegial. “A Christian church has a team of shepherds who provide loving pastoral care for every member of the church family.”
Deacons likewise should give attention to the chapter entitled “Serving with Compassion.” His handling of the text in Matt. 25 about the parable of the sheep and goats is essential reading for all deacons. Ryken writes about the six acts of charity, and shows how they are not the cause or basis of salvation, but are the way of showing one has been saved by God’s grace. As a matter of fact, Christians will have to give an account of their works before the Lord. He also describes how these six acts of charity describe six aspects of salvation. Go and read for your edification.
The chapters on fellowship and small groups, and thinking and acting biblically regarding discipleship are rich in application for biblical patterns. The book has an action guide in the back that leaders can use for discussion, evaluation, and finding other resources. Philip Ryken is setting a great pattern of writing books on the church that are much needed in this twenty-first century. Leaders should not let these go unread.