Title: Word-Centered Church: How Scripture Brings Life and Growth to God’s People
Author: Jonathan Leeman
Genre: Church & Ministry/ Church Life
2 Timothy 3:16–17 (ESV)
16All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
17that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Jonathan Leeman in his book, Word-Centered Church, sets forth to answer a crucial doctrinal question that has practical implications for all Christians. “How important, really, is preaching the Bible and the ministry of the Word more broadly to the life and health of local churches? Not important? Kind of important? One of several components that are important?” Leeman’s answer to the importance of the Word in the church is seen on each page of his book. His answer is that the Word is uniquely essential. In fact, so essential is the Word that it is God’s primary instrument, through the work of his Spirit, for growing his church.
As the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to his son in the faith, Timothy, all Scripture finds its source in God’s very words. What Scripture says is what God says. On top of that, the Bible is profitable in all the aspects the church deals with. The Word is profitable for teaching. How will the church instruct people about God, faith, and life? Answer: the Word. The Word is profitable for reproving. What does the Church use to reprimand someone caught in sin? Answer: the Word. The Word is profitable for correction. What instrument can the church use to bring a sinner back on the right path of holiness? Answer: the Word. The Word is profitable for training in righteousness. What “weights” must a person use to grow in righteousness? Answer: the Word. The Word equips the saints to glorify God. All of these profitable things are included in Word-Centered Church.
The three parts of this book, containing 11 chapters overall, spells out exactly what role the Word plays in the maturing of God’s church.
In part one, the Word is powerful to transform hearts through the working of the Holy Spirit. The Word invites sinners to taste and see that the LORD is good. God’s Word divides humanity into two groups: those that accept God’s Word and those who do not. The Spirit uses the Word to free man from sin by showing man the truth. Sin is ugly, God is more precious than our sin. The Word unites and gathers the people of God together in local churches. The Word is like a magnet drawing individuals together to be transformed.
Part two focuses on the use of the Word in the sermon. Leeman explains that the preacher’s job is to faithfully and simply expose what God’s Word says. Basically, the preacher is delivering the King’s mail and says: “Here you go. Here’s what the King says.” The sermon must expose the Bible’s announcement of what God has done or promises to do. The sermon must also confront. There must be an application made from the expositing of the Word and its great announcements.
The author in part three now turns to how the church uses or should be using the Word. The church should sing the Word. In our singing we own and affirm the Word, we sing to engage our emotions with the Word, and we sing to demonstrate and build unity. [This was by far my favorite chapter!] The church should have their prayers heavily seasoned with the Word. Praying the Word is a way of aligning the church’s heart with God’s will. Then, in the last two chapters of this third part, Leeman describes the work of the Word in church membership, discipleship, counseling, church discipline, and the ultimate plan of God to reach the world through the working of his Word in the church.
Using Jonathan Leeman’s own words, this is a summary of the 11 chapters:
“The declared Word of God both creates the church and gathers the church. Therefore, church gatherings center themselves on that Word. The sermons do. The songs do. The prayers do. The relationships do. The Word, then, reverberates out the church doors as the church scatters, each man and woman equipped as the evangelist and discipler.”
Churches must center themselves upon God’s Word. No instrument of man can do what God’s Word does.
This book was an enjoyable read. Leeman’s thoughts and propositions kindled a new flame of desire for the Word of God. Word-Centered Church is not just a book for the leaders of the church. It is a book for all Christians to see the beauty, power, and glory of God’s Word. I highly recommend it to you!