Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Gospel-Driven Church

I've been reading Ian Stackhouse's The Gospel-Driven Church this week. This is one of the hardest books I've read in a while. Developed from his PhD Thesis it is incredibly dense critique of the charismatic/renewal movement. What makes it refreshing is that it is a critique from within. Ian has recently become the pastor of one of the popular student churches in my patch so his vision is highly pertinent to my work.

What strikes me first is that as well as being charismatic Stackhouse is thoroughly reformed. We Reformed-Charismatics do exist! He puts high value on the gospel and on preaching it. His plea that we use preaching to continually evangelise the church by biblical preaching of the gospel is very refreshing. This is something I value highly in our church, being weekly called back to the gospel.

As an insider he is also well able to critique Toronto and much of the Church-Growth fads that have plagued the church in recent times. Coming from my own experience of this movement in the late 1990s it is useful to see many of my own concerns echoed.

He also appeals for greater consideration of sacraments of the church and for a review of pastoral care, the latter influenced by the ministry of Eugene Peterson. I need to re-read these chapters in the coming days to digest them more fully.

Overall this book strikes me as one that has a great deal to say to charismatic and non-charismatic churches - calling us home to keep the gospel and its preaching central to our churches.
"Preaching the gospel, however, ought to be at the vanguard of the church's mission - the means by which the church is evangelised by its own gospel"
Stackhouse also takes a few well aimed pot shots at charismatic worship and songwriting which would make good reading for anyone involved church music. Particularly helpful here is some critique of excessive subjectivism, in what Mike Pilavachi is cited as calling "Jesus is my girlfriend" songs. He also notes a common lack of theological thought that marks much of what is sung today, often resulting in:
"a peculiarly pre-Christian hermenuetic that forestalls on the fulfillment of the promise of glory in the coming of Christ and the Spirit"
Those from outside the charismatic tradition will have to pass over much of Stackhouses interaction with it, but will find themselves much encouraged to see the common ground that there is. A common ground found in the priorities of the reformation, priorities that make the gospel central.

Ian Stackhouse is the pastoral leader of Guildford Baptist Church.
Sam Storms has written a more extensive review Part 1 | Part 2.
Adrian Warnock is pursuing an interesting discussion on preaching