The Rebirth of the Church: Applying Paul’s Vision for Ministry in Our Post-Christian World
by Eddie Gibbs
Baker Academic, P.O. Box 6278, Grand Rapids, MI 49516, 272 pages, 2013, $20.99.
—Reviewed by Brian Lays, MDiv student, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.
There is little doubt that the Western Church is in an epochal transition. The long age of Christendom, in which the Church enjoyed considerable social, political, and cultural influence, is waning. As Western culture becomes more secularized, the Church faces rising indifference, obscurity, and hostility. In order to respond to such challenges, the Church must reevaluate its leadership to ensure that its capacity to engage Western culture remains intact. Eddie Gibbs approaches this reevaluation by engaging Paul’s approach to mission as recorded in Acts and the Pauline epistles.
Gibbs’ initial two chapters outline the basic characteristics of our modern context and Paul’s first-century context, offering preliminary comparisons and making the case that the Church, not government entities, must strive to transform Western cultures. From this foundation, he considers the strategic importance of cities, where social networks can serve as conduits for evangelism. Chapters four through six assess birthing, caring for, and growing churches, as Gibbs argues for the Church’s need to be reproducible, well-connected, and transformational—capacities Paul always sought to foster.
After discussing church growth, Gibbs reaffirms the need to maintain the integrity of the gospel in all missional endeavors. The temptation to compromise the teachings of the New Testament to appease a particular audience befalls the Church, from within and without, and must be resisted with bold humility. The book concludes with a strong exhortation to community—relationships within the Church can serve as a powerful witness to the rest of society. When a church community is unified in its commitment to the core values of the gospel, it can mobilize its ministry for the sake of God’s mission to the world.
The book remains general in its approach, and doesn’t derive much from specific case studies or extensive analysis. Yet Gibbs’ succinct, direct style is comfortable and engaging. His extensive, careful research is evident as he draws upon several contemporary missiologists and theologians on nearly every page. Each section is relevant to the larger discussion as Gibbs’ passion for evangelicalism and missions emerge.
Throughout the book, Gibbs is careful to affirm that the Church cannot solve its current dilemmas by simply reproducing the attributes and approaches of the fledgling first-century Church. A degree of application is required of each principle Gibbs expounds. Through careful exegesis and attentive practical evaluation, Gibbs offers hope that God’s mission for the Church can bear fruit in the post-Christian world.
Check these titles
Gehring, Roger W. 2004. House Church and Mission: The Importance of Household Structure in Early Christianity. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson.
Hirsch, Alan, and Debra Hirsch. 2010. Untamed: Reactivating a Missional Form of Discipleship. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.
EMQ, Vol. 50, No. 4, pp. 381-382. Copyright © 2014 Billy Graham Center. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.