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City on a Hill: Reclaiming the Biblical Pattern for the Church in the 21st Century Paperback – March 1, 2003
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"When we look to the Bible we see God's plan for the church all times and in all places. So to understand how to live for Christ in the twenty-first century, we need to go back to the first century. This is not traditionalism; it is not irrelevance; it is not living in the past. It is timeless Christianity, which is founded on Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday and today and forever (Heb. 13:8)."
From the Back Cover
THE CHURCH TODAY STANDS AT A CROSSROADS. HOW WILL WE FULFILL CHRIST’S CALLING TO BE A “CITY SET ON A HILL”?
Many sincere and dedicated Christians point to the path of relevance as a means for enjoying a post-Christian witness. They want to explore new ways of “doing church”— ways that focus on seekers’ needs, that appeal to today’s entertainment-saturated audiences, and don’t make church “too hard.”
Philip Ryken, however, sees danger ahead. Rather than confronting the relativistic and narcissistic mind-set of our world, this way may very well accommodate it.
In City on a Hill, Ryken asserts that the church needs to walk a different path... a biblical path that leads to exalting God and Him alone by:
· Proclaiming the saving work of our crucified and risen Lord, Jesus Christ.
· Focusing on our holy God in our personal and corporate worship.
· Reaching our in Christ’s love to care for one another and share the Good News with the world.
When the church does what it was called to do, it will give the world what it needs most—the life-giving message that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord.
PHILIP GRAHAM RYKEN (M.Div., Westminster Theological Seminary; D.Phil., University of Oxford, England) is senior minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, where he has preached since 1995. His published works include The Heart of the Cross and The Doctrines of Grace (with James Montgomery Boice), Is Jesus the Only Way?, The Message of Salvation, and Jeremiah and Lamentations. Dr. Ryken lives with his wife, Lisa, and children, Joshua, Kirsten, Jack and Kathryn in Center City, Philadelphia.
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Top Customer Reviews
Consider for example the author's endless "expository preaching as the ONLY biblical way to preach" mantra. I read the New Testament and I find only rare occasions where Jesus preached expositorily - like when Jesus explained the purpose of his death to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. On the other hand, I find numerous occasions when Jesus told stories to illustrate biblical truth, used common objects as lessons, and rarely quoted the Scriptures when he preached - for example the Sermon the Mount, there are only a few short quotes from the OT. I have nothing against expository preaching, but I also don't think it is the only preaching tool in the toolbox. Expository preaching is one method among several is good for certain environments and situations. Other environments call for other methods.
I whole heartedly agree with the author that rampant relativism and narcissism are fundamental problems in Western culture. The author nailed that. However, I might add materialism - i.e., the material world is all that there is - equals narcissism and relativism as fundamental worldview problems.
The author proves to be a much better in-depth analyst of cultural and church problems than providing fresh, new insights to reaching the first Western post-Christian century in more than a millenia. And reverting back to the 1950s is surely not the answer.
I really wanted to like this book, but sadly I've read this same old, retreaded "biblical" answer to the world before which rely far more on the church the author grew up in than what is truly biblical.
Not only for a laymen of the church but pastors & staff
Also helped to reevaluate one's own beliefs and commitment!
Loved the leaders of our day that contributed to the book!
I, sometimes reluctantly, find myself predominantly in the third camp, though I sometimes also wonder if we really are doing so poorly. Philip Graham Ryken is also clearly in the third camp. He assumed the pastorate of Ten Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia after the death of James Boice with whom he co-authored the wonderful book The Doctrines of Grace. As if to prove his allegiance, he subtitled this book "Reclaiming the Biblical Pattern for the Church in the 21st Century." As with leaders of the other camps, Ryken examines the culture and seeks to find ways in which the church can fulfill it's God-given mandate to be a city on a hill.
This book began with a ministry retreat in early 1999 in which Ryken and the leadership of his church engaged in discussion about being a church that could successfully fulfill God's mandate in the post-Christian 21st century. When he succeeded Boice as pastor of Tenth, Ryken began his ministry by preaching a series of sermons on the seven committments of his church's mission statement. These messages form the basis for the book. Because of this they do read a little bit like sermons (which is not necessarily a bad thing).
City on a Hill begins with an introduction to postmodernism. Ryken identifies these post-Christian times as being characterized by relativism and narcissism. In order to combat those forces and to be a remedy to society, the church needs to return to the model of the 1st century church - a church that was modelled on teaching, worshiping and caring. These three forces, when combined, caused the church to grow. Ryken identifies seven objectives for the church: expository preaching, worthy worship, Bible study and fellowship, pastoral care, educational programs, missionary work and service to the church and community. Each of these objectives forms a chapter in the book.
While these objectives are hardly unique, and could as easily be found in a book written by John MacArthur or any of the other Reformed or conservative church leaders, Ryken does something that gives this book great value. He shows how relativism and narcissism negatively impacts each of these seven objectives, and also shows how returning to the biblical model can be an antidote to the influences that pervade our culture. For example, he teaches that in a post-Christian culture, worship becomes less about Scripture, and less about honoring God, while becoming predominantly about the individual. Church becomes a place where needs are met rather than a place where God is worshiped. He teaches that we need a theology of worship to guide our practice so that we can avoid society's negative influences. In the fifth chapter, which deals with pastoral care, the author teaches that "the revolt against the mata-narrative helps explain why people are so resistant to the gospel. Christianity has a story to tell. It claims to be the story, the story of humanity...However in these post-Christian times, people don't want to listen to God's story; they want to make up their own. When they read the script of salvation, they discover that it's all about God and His glory. But they were hoping to play a bigger part. Hence the postmodern revolt against the meta-narrative, which is really a rebellion against the authority of God" (page 94).
Ryken determines that if we are wise, "we will recommit ourselves to expository preaching, God-centered worship, loving fellowship, pastoral care, costly discipleship, global evangelism, and practical compassion. But none of this will matter unless we recognize our need - our daily need - for the gospel. The church can only be a city on a hill if it confesses its sin and trusts in the crucifixion, resurrection, and intercession of Jesus Christ for any hope of salvation" (page 179).
For the church to succeed in its ministry during the post-Christian era, it must take care that it presents a biblical alternative to the forces of society, all the while ensuring that it does not accomodate them. When church does what it is called to do - to be a city on a hill; a light shining in the darkness - it will give the world what it most needs - the message of life and salvation in and through Jesus Christ.
This is a book that is sure to challenge the reader. It is consistently biblical, returning constantly to the Word of God. It calls the church to return not to the model of the twentieth century, but the model given to us in the Bible. I enjoyed this book and recommend it to others.