Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Reverberation by Jonathan Leeman

I had the opportunity to meet Jonathan Leeman over a month ago when I attended The Weekender at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. While I was there, I was given several free books, including his book, Reverberation. He states his purpose in his introduction when he says, "I want to help you see that God's Word, working through God's Spirit, is God's primary instrument for growing God's church" (19). Throughout the book, he consistently points to how God's people should be using God's Word for their spiritual growth. He explains the meaning of the title of the book when he says, "The ministry of the Word indeed begins in the pulpit, but then it must continue through the life of the life of the church as members echo God's Word back and forth to one another" (24). That's reverberation. This book is primarily about how individuals who are part of churches should rely upon and trust in the Word of God for their continual spiritual growth. 

We know, of course, that the Word of God is often under attack. There are many who deny it completely. But those are not the ones who do the most damage to the name of Christ. It is those people who claim the name of Christ, yet subtly deny the power and importance of the Word of God in the life of the church that do more damage. He says,
"If the Word of God divides, it's not hard to guess which temptations will lurk before Christians. First, we will be tempted to unite people around something other than God's divisive Word, like music, or style, or acts of service . . . Second, we'll be tempted to water down God's Word. To soften it. Bringing up the Bible can be like walking into a room waving a sword. People are going to fight or flee. So keep it in the scabbard, right? Of course not. When we do, we invite people to something Jesus is not inviting them to, like inviting friends to a basketball game when Jesus means to invite them to a wedding. Jesus has specifically invited people to a wedding, knowing that many will refuse to put on wedding garments (see matt. 22:11-13). Believe it or not, Jesus means to divide people through His call to repentance (Matt. 10:34f). When we soften the invitation, leaving out the tough bits, we oppose His very purposes." (35-6) 
My favorite part of the book was Part 2: The Sermon. Of course, I am a preacher, and I want to be the most powerful preacher I can be. His words helped reaffirm to me that the power in my preaching comes when I "plainly and modestly relate whatever [God] has already said in the Bible" (110). He says, "After all, what builds the church--our creative ideas or God's Word" (110)?

If you would take my advice and read this book, I might guess that your favorite part would be Part 1: The Word, where he articulates how the Word of God invites, divides, acts, frees, and gathers. All very important concepts, but let me emphasize just one part: How the Word of God frees. He makes the argument that the Word of God is what God uses to rescue the heart of mankind from sin and set him free. Let's just assume that is correct (which I do believe), then why wouldn't we use it all the more. He says,
"If the individual heart is freed and given life exclusively through the Word, then priority in the local church must go to Word ministry--sharing the Word, preaching the Word, singing the Word, reading the Word, and praying the Word." (72)
Now, I wouldn't say that what he says is anything new. That's not the value of this book. It's value is appreciated in his articulation of these thoughts. He is a very gifted writer that flows from one thought to the next. In addition, he has a great way of phrasing thoughts in the form of questions that make the reader ponder their own life.

If you have ever wondered what role the Word of God should play in the life of the Christian, this is a book for you. Read it!

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