My rating: 5 of 5 stars
One of my nagging frustrations as a minister is how many unconnected people I have run across through the years. They claim to be Christians but refuse to affiliate with a congregation for a host of reasons, some substantial and others superficial. Dennis Bill, an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America, addresses church membership in his 122 page softback, “A Church You Can See: Building a Case for Church Membership.” This down-to-earth manual is ideal for disciples of Jesus wherever they are in their life’s journey.
The author uses a building metaphor as the backdrop and developmental structure of the book. He looks at the builder of the Church, Jesus Christ, and what our Lord said about the church and what makes someone a Christian. Then Bills unrolls the blueprint to set out the contours and framework of what the Church is and what churches are, echoing the Westminster Confession of Faith’s assertion that outside the visible church there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. Next, the author sets himself to framing the structure and shows how the “church is a polymerized plurality of particular churches” (26). Further, he brings the reader to see that there are valuable and essential features of a church that is genuinely Christian. Additionally Bills works through the privileges and responsibilities of a church, and that the primary way a church and its leadership know who gets these privileges and deserves these responsibilities is by formal church membership. Subsequently the author challenges the reader if they are ready to join a local church, and if so, how it is normally done. He also takes on denominationalism in a surprising, but helpful, way, claiming that in “the end, then, denominationalism is what unity looks like when the Golden Rule is practiced in the visible church” (86). Finally the author cleans up the building site by showing how Presbyterians do not believe in baptismal regeneration and why they only baptize once.
“A Church You Can See” is truly straightforward and sensible. It’s written for new members classes, or interested Christians. In many ways it’s a working stiff’s study of ecclesiology. The simplicity of the style and substance may well by-pass most prejudices posed by those who are unconnected, and want to remain that way. But it will also communicate well to those who are already members helping them to understand better what their membership means, and how they can explain the value of membership to others themselves. I highly recommend the book!
Thanks to Dennis Bills for sending me a copy of this book at my request, with no strings attached The views are all my own.
If you're looking for a copy, you can purchase it here: "A Church You Can See"
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