Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Brief Review: Help for the newbie & refreshment for the seasoned faithful

Whenever we’ve been on the search for a new church, which is a task we never take lightly, there are a myriad challenges to overcome. Every Sunday with each visit to a new church there are many questions that need answering.

Which door is the “right” one to enter? Once inside, where is the sanctuary? Are there any seats reserved for parents with small children we need to avoid? If communion is being served, is it brought to us or do we have to go up front or to another location? And, most importantly, Is coffee available, and if so, where are the restrooms?

It makes little difference if the church is small or mega, these questions and more confront us newbies. The ability to get them answered quickly can impact our decision to return for a second visit or not.

(Tip: More and better signage is always a good thing.)

As someone who has always been a churchgoer, navigating the newness of an unfamiliar church is probably a little easier than it is for someone who seldom or never attends church.

Even more challenging is navigating the Faith by a fresh, new Believer.

Doctrine, dogma, and doxology can be daunting.

And then there’s that big, giant book to deal with. The Bible! Trying to sort through and grasp all the history, metaphor, poetry, prophecy, and more can be downright overwhelming for a new convert.

Instead of letting them flounder into discouragement and out the church door, there’s help at hand!

The new book, Core Christianity: Finding Yourself in God's Story (Zondervan) by Michael Horton, is a great resource for the fledgling faithful.

Horton adeptly covers the essentials of orthodox Christian doctrine, and then provides a sweeping yet compact survey of the entire story line of the Bible.

Scot McNight, quoted on the back cover of the book, sums it up nicely saying, “[This is a] book fit for a new generation the way John Stott’s Basic Christianity was for his generation.”

Horton, without being boring or overwhelming, offers a brief history of theology, touches on key heresies to avoid, and deftly ties everything together in a concluding chapter aptly titled, “Tying it all together.”

From creation to the end times, from Jesus’ birth and death and resurrection, from salvation to sanctification, from accepting Christ to knowing God’s will to living in the Spirit, Horton covers all this and more in a very readable and accessible manner.

Well, mostly. As with any Christian who writes, doing so while not falling into insider lingo is difficult. Horton often presumes the reader will understand his references when, for someone new to the faith and unfamiliar with even the best known stories from the Bible, this may not be the case.

For example, at one point he writes, “God tolerates things as they are not because he is unjust, but because he is merciful and using this era to bring in his guests for the wedding feast of the Son and his bride.” If you are not familiar with Matthew 22 and all that the passage points to, this sentence won’t make a lot of sense without additional explanation.

Also, Horton is Reformed in his theology so the book has hints of that influence. However, he has done an excellent job of tamping down this bias which means those who lean Arminian should not shy away from using the book. What’s essential is that all he covers is presented from a thoroughly biblical perspective.

Core Christianity: Finding Yourself in God's Story is an excellent resource for the new believer’s class or any small group study.

For seasoned believers, it’s a great way to refresh on the essentials and renew awe at all that God offers to His children.


NOTE: To comply with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: I selected this book to review and received it free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Are there other books you would recommend to new believers? What are they? Other than the Bible, what book have you found to be most helpful for deepening your faith? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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