Well I’ve come to the end of a 5 books series on the modern day church. Leaving David Wells’ truly remarkable 20+ year project is bittersweet, I must say. This book, if I could recommend any of them, is the one I would read if I were you. “Courage” is an encompassing look at all facets that Wells has described in the previous 4 books. In fact, reading them back to back as I have makes him sound a bit repetitive at times! I read this book about a year ago and you can read my initial thoughts about it here.
Wells breaks down the chapters into 7 different aspects (only one which I will discuss at any length). I have linked the book that talks about the contents of the chapter (as it is a culmination, I’ve already written at length about everything discussed; so as not to be redundant, I will link my other reviews in the hope that you will read them and understand the contents of this particular book):
The Lay of the Evangelical Land
Christianity for Sale
As you see, I have left the last chapter blank. Throughout the series, Dr. Wells has presented a lot of problems with very little solutions. He actually acknowledges this in the book. In the last chapter, he actually lists some ways in which the Evangelical Church must turn from the culture and back to Christ (it only took him four books).
He begins by saying that God is sovereign and therefore, He is in ultimately in control; His purposes cannot be thwarted and His divine will will be accomplished. Next, he cites three ways in which the Reformers saw church that would be helpful to the Evangelical Church: 1) Sola Scriptura, no Sola Cultura; 2) a return to Biblical preaching; and 3) Church Discipline. Dr. Wells has presented a strong case that the Church is being heavily influenced by the culture. When people are bored and the solution you as a Church leader come up with is to change the worship style, preach a feel-good message, and leave out sin and evil from the pulpit, you are systematically tearing down what the Reformers fought for: Sola Scriptura, which is Latin for “By Scripture Alone.” If God has spoken to us (and He has) and it is through the Bible (and it is), then this should be the cornerstone for our Churches. In addition, Dr. Wells speaks about the loss of doctrine within Churches as well. This is something that I am particularly passionate about and I can see Churches flourish that have returned to doctrine and teach in.
Secondly, Dr. Wells talks about the primacy of preaching. Dr. Martyn Llyod-Jones in his book “Preaching and Preachers” spends the first two chapters talking about how important preaching is to the Pastor. Dr. John MacArthur does something similar in his book “Pastoral Ministry.” Without a doubt, preaching is incredibly important. The Reformers thought so and we need to return to Biblical preaching. Our culture has influenced this more than anything. We believe in order to be successful, Pastor’s sermons need not exceed more than 30 minutes lest you lose the audience (yes, that is how some pastors treat their congregation); we need to bring in a hot band so we don’t lose the interest of the people and therefore relegate preaching as secondary. But as Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, “… the moment you consider man’s real need, and also the nature of the salvation announced and proclaimed in the Scriptures, you are driven to the conclusion that the primary task of the Church is to preach and to proclaim this, to show man’s real need, and to show the only remedy, the only cure for it” (Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers, 37).
Lastly, Church discipline is one of the most underutilized premises of the Bible in our Churches today (Evangelical anyway). Dr. Wells says that our culture is concerned with the outside, the temporal and our solution to problems in our congregation is to form groups and sermons that act as “therapeutic” helpers. What we have lost, then, is the idea of the holiness of God. We believe that more therapy is what we need and less responsibility; the irony of this is that we need more responsibility and less therapy. Responsibility brings with it a healthy fear of God because you approach God as Isaiah did in Isaiah Chapter 6; he realizes how great his sin was because he had seen the holiness of God. What ultimately this brings is “…that the name of Christ and the reputation of the church are protected.”
Perhaps not this one as much, but the four others that preceded it, I think, are the best book reviews I have written to date. I am extremely proud of them and I would encourage you to read them. But, as I said, if you were to read just one of these books, I would say this is the one you need to read. It is packed with applicable and intensely practical insights on our culture and the Church.