The Life of God in the Soul of the Church: The Root and Fruit of Spiritual Fellowship. By
Thabiti Anyabwile. Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications. pp. 256. 2012. ($14.99 Print)
This book is great. Anyabwile’s examination and explanation of the various Bible passages for each chapter is both enlightening and encouraging. I never came to a point where I said, “Where is he getting this?” or “Why does this matter?” He takes his readers straight to the work of Christ as the foundation of our fellowship and then explores the various aspects of that fellowship and how it should play out in our churches. If more people were presented with the truths in this book when they first join a church, they’d know exactly what is expected of them as members of the church and how the church should function as a body. This kind of discussion is sorely lacking in many churches today.
I do have a few minor quibbles with the book, not so much in content as in format. The book is more or less a cleaned up transcript of Anyabwile’s sermon series that he preached in 2008. The audio is even available to download on his church’s website. My quibble is that the book reads too much like a sermon transcript. There are a few instances where it reads like this: “We’re really glad you’re here this morning.” Also, although I appreciate that he tries to connect with the unbelievers in attendance at his church on Sunday, those pieces could have been taken out of the book or revised so as to better address the audience that will be reading the book, which is going to be different than the audience which was in attendance when these messages were first given.
Still, I would recommend this book to any believer. It clearly and biblically explains what it means to be a member of Christ’s body and gives very practical direction in how we are to live that out, embracing the “spiritual fellowship” that we should have, one with another.
I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of review.
Space does not permit me to include all my highlights from this book, but let me share a few below:
The reaction that comes so naturally when we are concerned about family or a close friend is the biblical reaction we should have when we hear about someone less familiar to us who is a part of the Lord’s body.
We must crucify our pride in either not wanting others to know— or thinking that our problems can only be addressed by the pastors. We must let the body be the body by each member showing equal concern for every other member.
One priority for us should be a much bigger benevolence budget to ensure the needs of the brothers and sisters of this family are supplied. It is not only a vision or goal but also a test of our love as a church.
Something like correction may be seen as either a nuisance or worse, a judgmental, tyrannical invasion into other people’s lives. But if we are to enjoy authentic community, we must be a group of people committed to the sometimes painful and messy work of restoring others. Such commitment and restoration require a fellowship that embraces the grace of correction.
Christians suffer because Christ suffered, and His life continues in us. Christians are comforted because Christ was comforted, and His life flows over into ours.
Sometimes God comforts us directly, but that’s not His only strategy. Normally He comforts us through His people— so if our lives aren’t open to one another, they’re closed to the Father’s comfort. Let’s share our lives; let’s fellowship in suffering so that we can fellowship in His mercy.
When we think of giving, do we think of Jesus? In the act of writing that check or sealing that envelope, do our thoughts go to the cross? Do our thoughts go to Him who was rich and became poor for our salvation? If we were to think of Jesus when we give, would our giving be evidence of sincere love? The Lord tests the sincerity of our love through our giving.
When we judge other Christians in disputable matters, we are really saying that in our view they’re not in right standing with God.
What we have seen is something of the vision God gives us in His Word for how we are to live together as one family of faith in Christ. We become God’s family through Christ. Our life together leads to a holy and joyful family life: of service to one another; of love that corrects and restores; of forgiveness, unity, and acceptance; and of singing and sharing. It’s a rich family life made possible and vibrant by the fact that Christ lives in us and His life leads to these realities.
Fake love has no place among Christians. When our love is insincere it proves that it’s not really love at all. If we say, ‘Yes, we go to the same church,’ but we fail to greet the person in public, that’s fake love. If we say, ‘Yes, I’ll pray for you’ and never do, that’s fake love. ‘Far be it from me to sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you’ (1 Sam. 12: 23). If we see a brother or sister headed toward trouble or sin but do nothing about it, that’s fake love. If we see a sister or brother in need and refuse to give, that’s fake love. Sincere love honors others above itself (Rom. 12: 10). Those with sincere love attempt to ‘outdo one another in showing honor’ (Rom. 12: 10, ESV).