Many of us are content going "to" church without thinking about what it means to "do" church, to carry out the mission of making disciples. In The Life of the Church, Joe Thorn identifies three environments in which the church lives out its mission of making disciples: the table, the pulpit, and the square.
He calls the small gatherings of the local church "the table" because it's usually around a table that these relationships deepen and grow. He develops three brief chapters addressing this subject, but the one on hospitality challenged me the most. There he calls readers to be intentional about inviting others into our lives (and homes), and not just the few people we've already made friends with.
The pulpit does not refer merely to Sunday morning preaching. He emphasizes the fact that our corporate gatherings are to be centered on the worship of God. Thorn points out how we should conduct our gatherings in accordance with Scripture, being careful not to stray from it's explicit and implicit commands, while explaining that the "essentials" may have different expressions in differing contexts.
The square is the public square, and there Thorn points out ways the church, both corporately and as individuals, can engage the world with the gospel. I found it very affirming because I've sometimes felt like I should follow a specific format or method for sharing the gospel, whereas Thorn points out very natural ways for believers to participate in their communities and be a witness. When he talks about doing good works, he explains that they are not only a means to sharing the gospel, but that doing good deeds is part of the gospel's work in our lives.
I've read Thorn before, and I appreciate his devotional style and personal openness, as well as his ability to condense a lot of thought into few words. The book could be read in one sitting, or it could be taken chapter by chapter in a small group or one-on-one setting. He's one of the few authors I keep track of to see when he has new books are coming out because he takes you right to the point and directs your thoughts to God and his word.
I received this book from the publisher in order to provide this review.