Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and Eric Geiger have written a book together called Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church. Lots of books today encourage pastors to be focused on Jesus in their preaching and teaching. But Creature goes beyond the teaching ministry and instructs church leaders on creating a gospel-centered culture in the church, a culture that shapes all levels and areas of ministry.
The title may first sound strange, but it comes from the description the Reformers gave to “the Church.” The Church is a creature of the word in that it is birthed by God’s Word, not invented by human beings. The Word births, and then sustains the church.
“A church is alive and full when she is sustained by the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ and is drawn back to that precious reality again and again, every time she gathers.” (17)
The first half of the book looks at what the gospel does to the hearts of people, their relationships, and how they understand their position. The second half focuses on a Jesus-centered culture within a church – how to form and sustain it.
Three Different Authors
Rarely do you see a book with three authors. Some may wonder why three were necessary. The unique contribution of Creature of the Word to the pantheon of “gospel-centered” resources is that these three authors represent the general strengths of specific giftings. Many leaders today categorize giftings in terms of “prophet,” “priest,” and “king” roles. Here you’ve got the prophet (Chandler), priest (Patterson), and king (Geiger) together.
Sometimes when you read a book by a pastor whose gift is preaching and teaching, you get the feeling that everything necessary to bring about change in your church is prophetic in nature. It has to do with your preaching ministry. Or maybe you read a book from a pastoral, priestly type of leader and come away thinking that spending more time with individual church members is the best way to effect change. Meanwhile, books from those with “kingly” leadership styles focus on structures and methods to achieve a vision.
The great thing about this book is the theological and ministerial balance on display by having three authors united by the same passion (to make disciples), but who work toward this goal according to their unique gifts. It makes for a well-rounded book that shies away from easy solutions, and instead focuses on gospel-centeredness from all three perspectives: from the pulpit, in the hearts of people, and in the structure and culture of the church itself.
Before leaving you with some of the favorite lines I marked up in my copy, I want to mention the Creature of the Word Simulcast on October 23. This is the kind of event a church staff can benefit from, without even leaving the church office.
Quotables from Creature of the Word
A church that understands where its power comes from is a place where individuals are transformed and empowered to join God’s corporate family and participate in God’s plan to reconcile all things to Himself. (21)
Worship always suffers when man is exalted and God is belittled. (33)
If your church doesn’t understand the nature of their sinful condition, they will be stunted in their adulation of salvation. (33)
Heaven is filled with a people satisfied in the very character of God, not just the benefits He gives. (40)
Worship gatherings are not always spectacular, but they are always supernatural. And if a church looks for or works for the spectacular, she may miss the supernatural. (42)
On Missional Community
Community is only as strong as what it’s built upon. (50)
Gospel-centered community exists with the grace-filled tension of receiving sinners while simultaneously making war on sin. (57)
If a lack of serving pervades a church culture, the answer is not to crank up the guilt and arm-twisting but rather to instill a new, intense focus and awareness on the gospel. (69)
Wise church leaders will preach the gospel and provide opportunities for people to serve in response. Without such opportunities, people will live with all this frustrated, unused spiritual energy balled up inside them, and the Church will not be who she should be. (81)
People who own the gospel themselves don’t want to be the only ones who own the gospel. (92)
On Church Culture
A church culture is healthy when there is congruency and consistency between what the church says is important to her and what others know really is important to her. (97)
If the culture of a church is at odds with the stated beliefs of the church, the culture is typically the overpowering alpha male in the room. The unstated message speaks louder than the stated one. (98)
For a church culture to be centered on the gospel, there must be harmony between theology, philosophy, and practice. The more these three are connected, the stronger a church culture is. (106)
If your theology does not impact your philosophy, your theology is worthless to you. (110)
The preacher must courageously and ferociously believe that transformation occurs through the interplay of God’s Word and Spirit. (123)
There is only one Hero in the Church, and it is not the preacher. (134)
On Gospel-Centered Teaching
Flimsy sermons will create a flimsy flock. (135)
It is foolish to feast on the life-giving gospel in one area of the church while using a placebo in another. (138)
Perhaps many churches fail to teach the gospel to children because law is more attractive. (140)
The hearts of children ultimately do not need protection but transformation. (143)
When students believe that God only engages them at big events, they unconsciously accept that God will only speak to them in those places. (148)
On Leading Well
God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the called. (161)
Gospel-centered leadership is essentially leading by following. (168)
Because David was awed by God’s greatness, he was melted by His goodness. (179)
For the Church, the end does not justify the means. The means matters. (201)
Prayer (or the lack thereof) is a litmus test regarding our beliefs about self-sufficiency and dependence. (219)