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The Church and the Surprising Offense of God's Love: Reintroducing the Doctrines of Church Membership and Discipline (9Marks) Paperback – January 8, 2010
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"What happens when you bring together one of the most misunderstood subjects (love) and one of the most ignored practices (church membership and discipline) in the church today? A book like this one. Unlike the generation raised on Mr. Spock's child-rearing advice, the Good Shepherd cares for his flock by loving discipline. There is a lot of talk these days about radical discipleship, but what we need more today is a lot more ordinary discipleship, where we realize not only in theory but in practice what it means to be conformed to Christ's image. This is the best book I've seen on this subject in a long time."
—Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary California; author, Calvin on the Christian Life
“It has been a frustrating reality that there are so few resources on church discipline. This book is not only timely, but definitive. I highly recommend it to those who seek to learn about and desire to practice biblical church discipline.”
—Darrin Patrick, Lead Pastor, The Journey, St. Louis, Missouri; Vice President, Acts 29; Chaplain to the St. Louis Cardinals; author, The Dude's Guide to Manhood
About the Author
Jonathan Leeman (MDiv, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is an elder at Capitol Hill Baptist in Washington, DC. He serves as director of communications for 9Marks and is the editor of its eJournal. Leeman is the author of The Church and the Surprising Offense of God's Love and has been published in several major newspapers and Christian periodicals. He is currently a PhD candidate in theology at the University of Wales.
Mark Dever (PhD, Cambridge University) is senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, and pastor of 9Marks Ministries. Dever has authored over a dozen books and speaks at conferences nationwide.
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Top Customer Reviews
Rediscovering the Doctrines of Church Membership and Discipline is about discovering exactly WHAT the love of God is all in the context of why it is important to be a part of a church fellowship. His primary thesis is that we (the world and many Christians) have made love into an idol that serves us and so redefined love into something that never imposes judgments, conditions or binding attachments. Such a love is NOT the love which God shows and gives. God's love brings BOTH salvation and judgment. In other words, God's love creates and affirms us, but it's purpose is so that we can glorify God. And t is this model which we MUST take into our Church structures.
Leeman expresses it brilliantly on pg122. He writes:
God's love is a boomerang that natural man loves and despises. We love the embrace of the boomerang as it flies outward; we despise the demand of the boomerang as it calls us back to loving him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. We also despise the suggestion that his love will cause him to judge.... God's gospel is a boomerang that natural man loves and despises. We love the announcement of forgiveness and love through no merit of our own; e despise the call to repent, forsake everything and follow Jesus....God's church is a boomerang that natural man loves and despises. We love the idea of a warm fellowship that will embrace us; we despise the fellowship's requirement that we abandon the familiar blandishments of family and friends and submit to its oversight and disciplines.Read more ›
In my library I have three older books on the topic: two from the 80s and one from the 90s. That's it. Thus it is good news indeed that Leeman has addressed this issue, and in substantial fashion: this volume is nearly 400 pages in length.
Church discipline has become a lost art partly because the church has slavishly imitated the world and bought into its distorted concepts of acceptance, tolerance, and so on. Are Christians and Christian churches supposed to be loving? Absolutely. But the biblical concept of love is a far cry from modern trendy notions of love.
Leeman reminds us that Christian love is intimately connected with holiness and righteousness. The church is not some social club where people can come and go as they please, but is a holy assembly of God's people, and there are entrance conditions as well as ongoing membership requirements.
Indeed, the subtitle of this book is: "Reintroducing the Doctrines of Church Membership and Discipline". Both practices are nearly extinct in many churches today. But as Leeman rightly shows, there is a proper place for boundaries, for regulations, and even for institutions.
Of course to speak of such things today is to risk being theologically incorrect. We have had a huge pendulum swing against one extreme, only to go to another unhelpful and unbiblical extreme. Much of the emerging church movement is an over-reaction to a legalistic, rigid and overly-institutionalised church.Read more ›
"Membership and discipline are not artificially erected structures," Leeman writes. "They are not legalistic impositions upon new-covenant grace. They are an organic and inevitable outgrowth of Christ's redemptive work and the gospel call to repentance and faith. Missing local church membership is like missing the fact that Christians are called to pursue good works, or love their neighbors, or care for the poor, or pray to God, or follow in the way of Christ. Submitting oneself to a local church is what a true believer does, just like a true believer pursues good works, loves his or her neighbor, and so forth. Someone who refuses to join--or better, to submit to--a local church is like someone who refuses to pursue a life of righteousness. It calls into question the authenticity of his or her faith (16)."
Surprisingly broad in scope (375 pages, with footnotes on about half the pages), Leeman's book impressed me with the depth of its scholarship, critiquing and synthesizing the ideas of thinkers as old and current as Jay Adams, Augustine, Karl Barth, George Barna, Jacques Barzun, Craig Blomberg, John Calvin, D. A. Carson, Rene Déscarte, Jonathan Edwards, Michel Foucault, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Paul Hiebert, Søren Kierkegaard, Dan Kimball, Martin Luther, Brian McLaren, Leon Morris, Mark Noll, Karl Popper, Ayn Rand, William P.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A much needed book for a much needed recovery of a biblical understanding of God's love as it relates to church membership and discipline.Published 15 months ago by David Garza
Great book. Took me a while to get through. Quite a bit to think about as I made my way through the book. By the end, my view of church membership is much higher than before!Published 18 months ago by Chad Carpenter
This book is a very thorough and biblical defense of the the doctrines of church membership and church discipline. Read morePublished 19 months ago by A Cross-Cultural Servant
Speaks to the culture of today and why church membership and discipline seems to be "strange" ideas compared to the past. Well written and clearly outlined. Read morePublished on November 1, 2013 by Liz Stepanian
I found Jonathan Leeman very articulate in conveying the clear understanding of Biblical doctrine. This has been very impactful in my life with Christ, demonstrating my love for my... Read morePublished on June 16, 2013 by Tim McKinley
Mark Deaver made this comment in a talk he gave so I purchased it. WOW! In the first chapter Jonathan lays out what Love is and articulates it beautifully. Read morePublished on June 5, 2013 by Paul
In today's fog of ever growing confusion on the nature of God's love and the church, Leeman's pivitol work is a beacon of clarity on the topic of the local church. Read morePublished on May 28, 2012 by Cooper
I bet you didn't think anyone could write a 360-page book on church membership and discipline, did you? Me either, but Jonathan Leeman did and it is great. Read morePublished on January 24, 2012 by Tyler Holloway