12 books every Christian should own and read
A series of book reviews used for the monthly church bulletin of 2013
Book no. 11: Today’s Gospel Authentic or Synthetic? by Walter Chantry
This book addresses the question “what is the Gospel”? The author contends that many professing Christians appear to be little different to those who have no profession of faith. He believes that the problem exists due to a flawed understanding and presentation of the Gospel. People are being called upon to merely ‘decide’ for Christ rather than exercise faith and repentance which is the fruit of spiritual transformation.
In reading the introduction Walter Chantry could be describing the church scene in Sydney 2013. But he isn’t, he is describing the state of evangelical churches in 1960’s America. He observes that in trying to reach a generation increasingly disinterested in Biblical Christianity churches have sought answers in relevance and respectability. Preaching has lost its power and church attendees are as carnal as those on the outside.
There are a number of more recent publications which provide insight into the state of the current church such as ‘This Little Church Went to Market’ by Gary Gilley; ‘No Place For Truth’, and ‘God in the Wasteland’ by David Wells. The thing I like about ‘Today’s Gospel’ is that in small scope it looks at this issue by explaining the Gospel.
Chantry outlines the substance of Gospel preaching from Jesus discussion with the rich young ruler in Mark 10. This outline forms the chapter headings: 1) preaching the character of God; 2) preaching the law of God; 3) preaching repentance toward God; 4) preaching faith towards God’s Son; 5) preaching assurance of acceptance with God; 6) preaching with dependence upon God. In essence sinners need to be confronted with who God is and what they are like before Him. It is through these truths that God’s Spirit renews the heart and gives birth to a felt sense of need. For many today the Gospel is little more than a convenience which improves their lives and keeps them out of trouble rather than a rescue mission. Sinners should not be directed to ‘make a decision’ for Christ or ‘ask Him into their hearts’, they need to repent and cast themselves upon Him by faith as their only hope. This they will not do unless they know their need; they will not know their need unless they see themselves before God under judgement.
Chantry is addressing a problem from another country in another time. Clearly churches throughout the west face the same challenges, and nothing in the last fifty years has changed. This book obviously has special relevance for preachers, youth workers, and Sunday school teachers. But its usefulness isn’t limited to those who teach in a more formal capacity. Everyone who wants to gain an understanding of the church’s present condition will be helped. Everyone who wants to understand the Gospel more clearly will be helped. Everyone who wants to be better equipped to share the Gospel with others will be helped.