184pp. Published by Gospel Folio Press, P.O. Box 2041, Grand Rapids, MI 49501 - 2041. Available from John Ritchie Ltd., 40 Beansburn, Kilmarnock KA3 1RH. (ISBN 1-882701-62- 3)
This challenging book provides a timely reminder that we are ‘saved to serve’, and that work for God in the context of the church should be regarded as the very fabric of our lives. God never intended His church to be an institution where membership is the ‘beall-and-end-all’ for those wishing to join – a social group where tacit acceptance of an imposed set of regulations is all that is required of participants. It would appear that many believers see it this way, and the consequences are all too apparent. Brian Gunning’s book evolved from a series of articles published over a three and a half year period in Uplook magazine. Each of the articles makes up a chapter of the book; there are forty chapters in all, each headed by thought-provoking quotes taken from the Scriptures, and other sources (both theological and secular!). Virtually, every aspect of church life is considered, and no punches are pulled as the author states the scriptural position that members of the church must accept. Contentious issues such as the roles of men and women, or the case for democratic rule in the church (‘one man, one vote’; ‘power politics’) are confronted head-on. Throughout the book there is abundance of plain statements that could be regarded by some as provocative, but by others as ‘home-truths’ needing to be restated. Much stress is placed on unity in the local church, and in a review of assembly meetings the author deals with the obligation thrust upon all members of the church to exercise whatever spiritual gifts are granted to them in effective fulfilment of the Lord’s work. Difficulties, and problems that are likely to arise, are given mention (even the vexed matter of presumptuous participation by the ungifted in public meetings is included) with acknowledgement that those activities that mark out the church as entirely distinctive are likely to allow for such unwelcome incursions. Such matters must be dealt with scripturally, wisely and in love. Lest the foregoing comments give an impression that the book is a long catalogue of veiled criticisms, and censure, regarding the state of our churches let me hasten to dispel that impression. In fact, this book is inspirational as well as challenging. It presents to us a vision of the church vibrant with life, responsive to the dictates of its Lord and with all of its members utterly dedicated in life-long service to Him. It acclaims the uniqueness of our role in a day of grace and boundless opportunity – saints of other ages might well consider us to be the most privileged of all.