Terry L. Johnson
Reviewed by: Robert S. Arendale
Who Needs the Church? Why We Need the Church (and Why the Church Needs Us), by Terry L. Johnson. Christian Focus, 2022. Hardcover, 128 pages, $13.99. Reviewed by OP pastor Robert S. Arendale.
I was born a covenant child, raised in a Christian home, and taught the truths of the gospel from my earliest days. My parents faithfully took us to worship. I am ever thankful for the Christian heritage my parents gave to me. When I arrived on campus for college, I desired to live as a faithful witness to Christ. Yet my desire to be an example was not matched by a commitment to a local church. God in his kindness, however, used those early years on the college campus to impress upon me the centrality of the local church in the purpose of God and in the life of the believer. I needed the church. I needed to be reminded of the truths set forth in Terry Johnson’s excellent work Who Needs the Church?
In this brief work, Johnson clearly and crisply sets forth the doctrine of the church. In a refreshingly readable fashion, Johnson touches on all the major aspects of our ecclesiology (e.g., the church as the body and bride of Christ, role of elders, keys of the kingdom, necessity of membership, Jesus as the shepherd of his sheep). Two features of the book uniquely struck me. First, I appreciated Johnson laying the foundation in the first two chapters from Christ’s words in Matthew 16:18 and Matthew 18:15–17. The implications he draws from our Savior’s words include ”standards of belief and conduct, membership, a process of discipline, a form of government, meetings at which matters are discussed, and officers who administer the whole.” Second, I appreciated Johnson highlighting various theological matters and areas of confusion related to the doctrine of the church. Due to the brevity of the book, Johnson can only briefly address such topics, but I am thankful he at least touches on them. Such matters include how the church is to be in the world, but not of the world; distinguishing things true of the “church as the church” from things true of Christians individually (the church as organism distinguished from the church as organization); the role of parachurch organizations; and the significance of denominational identity.
In our hyper-individualistic and increasingly spiritual (and pagan) age, the centrality of the church to the life of the Christian is absolutely vital. May many take up and read this helpful book. It would serve as an excellent guide for a youth or adult Sunday school class and would be excellent to work through in a small-group setting.
Let me close with words from the final page of the book: “It’s Sunday morning. My wake-up routine has been completed. What am I now to do? . . . Do what the Scriptures require and what Christians have done for 2,000 years. Go to the public assembly, gathered under the discipline of Christ’s appointed officers to be ministered to by the word read, preached, sung, prayed, and displayed in the sacraments.” Put simply, each Lord’s Day may we gather in the church to worship our glorious Savior and King! Who needs the church? We need the church!
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