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Thursday, November 1, 2012

City on a Hill by Ryken

City on a Hill: Reclaiming the Biblical Pattern for the Church in the 21st Century
by Ryken, Philip Graham.

I found that Ryken’s book was a very interesting evaluation of the local church and it’s responsibilities. He pointed out that in many areas we have strayed far from the biblical model. What Abraham Lincoln once said still applies to today, “We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation. But we have forgotten God.” (15) 
Truly, the church of today is confronted with many unique challenges. The author points out the narcissistic attitude which prevails society today. “Whether they admit it or not, their minds reject absolute truth, and in their hearts they love themselves more than anyone else, especially God.” (18) In order to reach the current generation she must confront these mindsets.
As Ryken described the church and God’s plan for it, he laid down a list of essentials which every church must be participating in. At the top of the pile was a need for Scripture saturation. “The only church that will survive in post-Christian times is a church with a passion for God’s Word.” (25) This passion must not be in unique to the church when gathered, although the exposition of the Word is of utmost importance. The Scriptures must be a part of the church member’s daily life. Without this essential diet, both corporate and personal, the church cannot and will not survive.
The pastor plays a unique role in this area. A duty given to him by the Lord Jesus Christ is to feed the flock, preach the Word, teach everyone. His job is not to speak his ideas, ideals, or intentions but God’s Word. “A minister who sees himself as an expositor knows that he is not the master of the Word, but its servant.” (49)
Another aspect highlighted in the book was the description and necessity of worship. “The reason worship is at the center of church life is that in worship, God is placed at the center of our attention.” (26) Too often our times of “worship” are mere rote observance, devoid of emotion and meaning. Worship is not founded upon feelings, but it cannot leave one without any. The author states, “The principle - that worship is for God and His glory - has several implications. One is that true worship demands everything we have.” (65) For the church who seeks to know God through His Word, worship should be a time to express God’s greatness back to Him.  One way which this is accomplished is through the avenue of music. The author references a helpful quotation from Luther. “Music and notes, which are wonderful gifts and creations of God, do help gain a better understanding of the text.... We have put this music to the living and holy Word of God in order to sing, praise and honor it. We want the beautiful art of music to be properly used to serve her dear Creator and his Christians. He is thereby praised and honored and we are made better and stronger in faith when his holy Word is impressed on our hearts by sweet music.” (62-63) 
Ryken gives many other insights into the pastor’s duty and the churches responsibility in today’s world. One of those was the pastor’s task to address not only conduct but convictions. “Good shepherds not only distinguish between Christian and non-Christian behavior, but the also discriminate Christian from non-Christian belief.” (107)
The Bride of Christ truly faces many unique challenges today, but God has provided everything needed for her witness, edification and sanctification. May the leaders of this Body seek to do all for His glory, by His Word, and through His Spirit. 

Favorite Quotes: “What we ought to do is take the time to stop and think. That is what people usually do when they lose their way. A motorist looking for a street in a strange neighborhood eases off the gas pedal and turns down the stereo. But in these post-Christian times, we do exactly the opposite. We sense that we have lost our spiritual way, but instead of taking time to think things through, we go faster and faster, cranking the music louder and louder.” (123)

“But Christ does not conform; He confronts.” (134)

Stars: 4 out of 5

It would be worth another read and I would recommend it.

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Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. (Philippians 3:8)