I have been reading “Creature of the Word” by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson and Eric Geiger and have found it be one of the most thought-provoking books on the church that I read in a long time. The premise of this book is that gospel must be the centerpiece for everything that the church is and does. They write, “without the life-giving gospel driving and defining both us and our churches — there really isn’t much of anything that makes us alive, nothing that other people, groups or organizations aren’t doing.” (p.5) This is an essential point and one that every member of the church needs to taker seriously. If the gospel is not at the center and driving force behind what we are and do as a church, we have lost our distinctive nature and purpose. The authors go on to say, “…just as an individual must continually return to the grace of Jesus for satisfaction and sanctification, a local church must continually return to the gospel as well. Our churches must be fully centered on Jesus and His work, or else death and emptiness is certain, regardless of the worship style or sermon series. Without the gospel, everything in a church is meaningless. And dead.” A key point in their discussion is the confusion that exists concerning the nature of the gospel. They point the fact that in many churches the gospel is thought of primarily in terms of as an “individual message that causes individual transformation” rather than efficient cause, which forms the church. This is a key theological premise of the book— the gospel forms the church. Furthermore, they build on the idea that the gospel is the center from which we understand all of Scripture and it is the Word of God that forms the church. This is a key point and one that was fiercely debated during the reformation. The Roman Catholic church taught, and still teaches, that the church formed the Word of God. The reformers argued that the Word of God forms the church.
Having laid out this basic premise the authors then go on to show how the church is formed by the Word of God through a specific pattern— indicative then imperative. For those, who are not familiar with these terms the indicative is used to describe what God has done on our behalf and form the basis (or reason) for the commands (imperatives). So for instance, in 2 Peter 2:9 the Bible says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession [indicative], that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous life.[imperative]” This pattern is repeated throughout the Scripture and in the remaining chapters of the book the authors show how the church is shaped by the Word of God.
Every Pastor needs to read this book and carefully consider how to get it into the hands of his people. This will not be an easy book for many in the church to read and it will challenge many of the preconceived notions that people have about the church and the gospel. In my own ministry, I am considering using this book in our Sunday night small groups during the summer months to help ground the church more deeply in its understanding of the gospel. I would highly recommend that every Pastor and church member read this book and deeply think about how it can apply to their local situation.