Book Review

Book Review- “Jesus Called, He Wants His Church Back” by Ray Johnston

Who this book is for: mainstream Bible/Community/Baptist church folks in America who want to continue in that tradition. (In fairness, Mr. Johnston does point out that he is writing to Americans).

Who this book is not for: those not listed above. While I believe Mr. Johnston to be a thoughtful man, who obviously loves God and His Church, this book is not directed to those outside of the Bible/Community/Baptist Church.

Mr. Ray Johnston has written a book that will be helpful for those thinking about church, such as “what is the purpose of church” and “what should church look like?” Mr. Johnson uses numerous illustrations to challenge the reader to wonder and dream about what is possible in church, I especially liked his examples from South Africa he presents at the beginning of the book.
Another strength of his book his his challenge to churches (and really to us) to live out compassion in our communities and world. He spend a significant portion of the book discussing finances. I am always a bit wary of pastors asking people to give or give more, but Mr. Johnston presented many creative things his church has done with money, such as sponsoring children overseas and helping to stop sex trafficking in southeast Asia. Mr. Johnston’s church is active in compassion to the world around them, something many American churches are obviously lacking.
Mr. Johnston also encourages Christians to treat unbelievers with love and respect. I appreciate that he is not viewing people simply as tools or a notch in his belt, but real people with real needs in need of the Gospel. This was refreshing indeed!
The two issues I wish Mr. Johnston kind of glossed over that I wish he had spent more time exploring: 1) He has been part of some very healthy churches and doesn’t seem to understand the very real hurt that many people have experienced in church and from leaders in their churches.  Pain from spiritually unhealthy places can be life altering and many people don’t just get over it. 2) He quickly assumes that liturgical services and theological terms are off putting to most people. The trends show that among people ages 40 and under, there is a shift to attending to liturgical churches, and Mr. Johnston doesn’t discuss this trend in his book. Plus you have to subscribe to the idea that “worship” is an emotional experience with loud music, and excitement is really worshiping.
Overall this book will add to the important discussion in the American church about what we should be, what we hope to be and how we as individuals can contribute. It is not a treatise nor is it intended to be, written for a specific audience, it will hopefully encourage those in the Bible/Community/Baptist stream to carefully consider how church is to function and be.
It will not be as helpful to those of us in churches outside of those traditions. I am not sure communion is even mentioned which is difficult to fathom for those in the liturgical community.
*I did receive an advance copy of this book to review from Family Christian. I was not asked to give a positive review for this book.*

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