Zealous For Good Works: Mobilizing Your Church For The Good Of Your Community, by Todd A. Wilson
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Moody Publishers. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
There is a small error made here that is somewhat telling. Towards the beginning of the book, on page 21, the author makes the statement that surely there are some parts of the Bible, like the pastoral epistles, that are more relevant to the church, while commenting that the author wishes to focus on the short book of Titus, perhaps not knowing that Titus (along with 1st and 2nd Timothy) was in fact a part of the pastoral epistles. This is a small error in an otherwise immensely enjoyable and worthwhile book, but it is a telling one. The author is concerned with great things, like the encouragement of Christians in living a godly life and not being distracted by twiggy issues, having an almost ecumenical interest. That said, details matter, and sometimes the author, in his desire to encourage a broad-based unity, can neglect some of the details that separate truth from error. For when the world examines Christians and whether we live up to our ideals, they are not only thinking of the broad scope but also the details and the niggling issues, the little deeds that we might be quick to consider of secondary or tertiary importance in the broad scope of life but which mean a lot in how others see us.
The author has written in this book a short book (less than 150 pages of almost pocketbook size) that uses the book of Titus as an entrance into encouraging good works among believers. The author begins by introducing Titus as ancient wisdom for today’s church. After that he asks (and answers) the question of why it is that Titus was chosen (1). He looks at what turns a place upside down through using the example of Spurgeon (2). He comments on how people will never rise above their leader and how there are patterns of behavior that followers learn from leaders (3). He comments on the decipleship deficit that shows that the knowledge and faith of American Christians is a mile wide and an inch deep, possibly including himself (4). He comments on what God does mattering more than what we do–perhaps trying to avoid being considered as a legalist of some kind (5). He talks about the need to stop, look, and listen (6) and give attention to the chief things in life and not the little ones (7). He then closes about the need for the church to be devoted to good works (8), along with an epilogue about the Church being a city on the hill, an appendix with thoughtful questions for small group discussion, acknowledgements, and notes.
The author clearly meets his purpose of encouraging good works in a broad and general sense. There are various ways that one can encourage good works, through seeking to meet the needs of the broken and outcasts of our present fallen world, and through obedience to the laws of God as defined in the scriptures. The author, as is common in this sort of work, strongly focuses on the first rather than the second. One can encourage good works through seeking to deal with large-scale social evils, often through small-scale ameliorative efforts, or through personal obedience to God’s moral standards. There is no need to do one or the other–one can and should do both. But it is telling where the author’s focuses lies. The author comments on the shallowness of the faith of many Christians, but a lot of that shallowness comes from a lack of obedience to God, because there are some things that one simply cannot understand without obeying them, and this book, and many others like it, could stand to do better on that count. Again, the details matter, including the details about how closely our own lives align with the ways and laws of God, not that we might earn salvation, but that we might demonstrate that we are being transformed into His image and likeness through God’s Spirit dwelling within us, connecting us with God and with our brethren and filling us with compassion for our fellow people suffering in the midst of a dark and evil world.