In The Character of the Church, Joe Thorn outlines what are considered to be the distinctive marks of a church. Thorn focuses on the essential elements such as the preaching of the Word, participation in the ordinances of the Lord’s Supper and baptism, faithful biblical leadership by elders and deacons, gracious yet firm church discipline, passionate evangelism, and effective discipleship. Although different denominations hold varying perspectives on how these marks are to be expressed, Thorn takes a balanced approach that incorporates the differing views while also voicing his own viewpoint on the issues. The part of the book that served as a timely reminder for me is the discussion on the mission of the church. Thorn points out that many churches today seem to gravitate towards being overly committed to social justice and community care instead of concentrating its resources on sharing the gospel. The author argues that churches should focus on spreading the gospel to the lost as its primary mission as this is the command that we are given by Jesus upon His ascension. This does not mean that the church should not care for the welfare of its neighbourhood but that our commitment to spreading the gospel should be of first importance.
I would recommend this book to all Christians as a proper understanding of the marks of a true church is particularly relevant for our times. Many Christians today subscribe to a low view of church that is not in line with what the Bible teaches. The material in this book is simple enough for non-believers and recent converts while also being helpful to Christians who may have developed a distorted understanding of the identity and purpose of the church. As followers of Jesus and members of God’s family, we need to have a biblically informed theology of the church and this short book serves to be an excellent starting point in this endeavour.
In compliance with Federal Trade Commission guidelines, I received a review copy from Moody Press in exchange for a book review.