The Character Of The Church: The Marks Of God’s Obedient People, by Joe Thorn
[This book was provided free of charge by Moody Publishers. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
For a variety of reasons I find myself deeply interested in the character of the Church . What is it that makes a church godly? To be sure, we and anyone else we encounter are going to be imperfect, and so mere imperfection alone does not mean that something is amiss. It does appear, though, that more is necessary than simply having the right belief system, because it is fairly easy to affirm truth and far harder for that truth to be practiced. It is also–as we see all too clearly from the raft of religious scandals within our times–all too easy to see that even where ordinary members may be working with considerable skill in applying God’s ways as they understand them, those in church leadership may not view themselves as accountable to the membership for following God’s standards, and may indeed act in a consistent manner in order to avoid showing the extent to which the lives of leaders may fall short of the standard that members are held to. In that light, therefore, I was interested in seeing what this book had to say, and in general I found myself pleased by its contents.
This short book of less than 150 pages is divided into five parts and fourteen chapters and gives a very concise discussion into various aspects that form a church’s character. After an introduction that sets this book in the context of the author’s own religious background, the author begins by discussing how the Word of God is rightly preached (I) in noting that the Bible has authority over believers (1), is sufficient for insight and guidance into any area of behavior for believers (2), and is useful for correction and reproof within the lives of believers (3). After that the author discusses various ordinances/sacrements rightly administered (II), such as the baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (4), the taking of the bread and wine as part of the NT Passover, although he does not phrase it that way (5), and the way that the bread and wine (strangely, he does not discuss footwashing) should be fenced to encourage that it is taken in a worthy fashion (6). After this the author talks about leadership in the church that is biblically formed and functioning (III) including the pastorship (7), elders (8), deacons (9), and the congregation as a whole (10). There are a couple of chapters on church discipline practiced with grace (IV) including private (11) and public (12) discipline to correct those in sin, before the author closes with a discussion of the mission shared by all believers (V) in evangelism (13) and discipleship (14).
There is a lot to appreciate about this book. For one, the book is quite short, and for another, it is short without leaving a great deal out, although there are clearly some areas where the author does not fully understand the biblical aspects of the laying on of hands or the holy days or the footwashing in association with the unleavened bread and wine of the Passover. Likewise, there are plenty of disagreements that I have with the author concerning the proper degree of openness of the bread and wine. Be that as it may, though, the author’s efforts to ground his discussion in the Bible is worthy of praise. This is a book that can certainly be read profitably by those who want to know what the Church provides that is special and worthwhile to the lives of believers, and that alone justifies its price of purchase and the time it takes to read and apply its insights.
 See, for example: