Friday, December 01, 2017

A Book Review: 'Connected to Christ'

Connected to Christ: Why Membership Matters. Peter Speckhard. ISBN: 978-0-7586-5725-1

I mostly like this book. But I have significant qualms about it too.

Here are the qualms.

First, it reflects the unbiblical notion that only men can be called as pastors. This is clearly not the case.

Second, I feel the book is ungracious toward alcoholics and others who are given the option of grape juice instead of wine at Holy Communion. While I believe that when the Bible says "wine," it means "wine," I think that the grace of God compels us to share grape juice with people who, whether they are alcoholics or have other health issues, cannot drink wine. I have the feeling that Jesus surely commends graciousness toward those who are genuinely present and believe in His real presence in, with, and under the elements.

Third, I think the argument that the wine of Holy Communion is always best shared from a single cup is dubious, at the least The author seems to believe that a common cup made of heavy metal will prevent all who partake from transmitting or receiving germs. No medical professional with whom I have spoken through the years would agree with this. (Besides, who wants to swallow the mustache hair of the communicant ahead of us?)

Qualms aside, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Except when it wanders off into these legalisms and culture-think, it presents sound Biblical counsel on the necessity of church membership to the Christian life.

The understanding of membership here is, healthily, not about occupying a spot on a roster, but about being an indispensable member of the body of Christ, as taught in the Bible and in the Lutheran Confessions.

The author understands the pitfalls and the challenges of living in a church community. In the last chapter, especially, he underscores the fact that these pitfalls and challenges have always been part of the life of the Church and always will be as long as congregations are composed of sinners saved by God's grace through their faith in Christ.

With lots of accessible metaphors and analogies, Speckhard honestly (and sympathetically) grapples with the reasons non-churchgoing people give for staying away from the church.

This is a short read and worth your time, though it would not be a good resource for congregational study and reflection; its biases get in the way too often for that.

[I'm the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

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