Monday, July 28, 2014

BookPastor >> "The Underestimated Gospel"

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on June 3rd, 2014. 


TITLE: The Underestimated Gospel
AUTHOR: Jonathan Leeman (editor)
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: B&H Publishers, 2014, (224 pages).

There has been much division through the centuries. Churches have split up in many different ways. History has not been kind to the Church. This is especially so when the gospel has been undermined, under-emphasized, and underestimated.   For the gospel is one that is able to bring people together in the truth, to be like what Paul writes in Philippians 2:2 to "make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose."

Under the umbrella of T4G (Together for the Gospel), Leeman gives readers a flashback on the First Great Revival during the time of Whitefield in North America, and to affirm that though the time is different, the longing for revival remains the same. Originally presented as papers at a pastor's conference of the same title in 2012, the essays have been re-edited for the reader instead of hearers. It is the underlying conviction that the gospel is more than mere words. It is power that comes forth from the faithful preaching of the gospel. It is power that transform people. It is power that empowers the Church to do the work of God. It is the power of the gospel that encourages pastors and ministry leaders. It is the power of God that is made manifest through the gospel. Unfortunately, for many people in many parts of the world, this very gospel of power has been underestimated. This book seeks to bring back our awareness of the power that lies within the proclamation of the gospel.

Al Mohler kicks off by arguing that the more we let the gospel articulate us to transform us into "gospel people," to draw us near, the more the power of the gospel can be revealed. I like the way he puts forth Christopher Wright's six points gospel summary that the gospel is:

  1. Telling a Christ-centered story
  2. Proclaiming a Hope-Filled message
  3. Defending a revealed truth
  4. Receiving a new status
  5. Living a transformed life
  6. Celebrating a Divine Power

While the first three often have to do with words, the latter three has to go beyond words.

Thabiti Anyabwile's powerful essay gives readers a new understanding of how the gospel can transform a "terrorist." It is a must read. David Platt throws light on gospel-driven missions expressed through three thrusts: 1) The gospel is for both local ministry and overseas mission; 2) Global missions are grossly neglected; 3) Pastors can lead the way in missions. Kevin DeYoung writes about how the gospel can fuel the "Young, Restless, and Reformed" movement through grace, holiness, and faith. Mark Dever warns us about "false conversions" that whenever the gospel is preached, there will be false prophets that throws people off from faith to unfaithfulness. He ends with three encouragements.C. J. Mahaney encourages pastors not to lose heart (especially when they bombed a sermon now and then), and when they do, to learn to be resolved by the grace of God, NOT to lose heart. Matt Chandler continues with more encouragement through hope of fulfilling the gospel, seeing Christ, and final restoration. John Piper gives his take on loving the ministry of the Word and to know that it is more of God keeping us rather than us keeping Him. J. Ligon Duncan III summarizes with a series of meditations on disappointments in several Bible characters. These disappointments do not diminish God. Instead, they show forth God's "relentless and ruthless pursuit" of us, in spite of the discouragements and disappointments.

Accompanying these essays are short testimonies that show forth the transformative power of the gospel. The testimony of Mez McConnell shows how a child traumatized by a broken family background, was transformed by the gospel. Stories like Harshit Singh's heartwarming work in a dark land of idolatry;  Matthias Lohmann's return to faith; John Joseph's discovery of a mentor; William "Trip Lee" Barefield III's gradual understanding of God's grace, and many more show forth the powerful working out of the gospel in the lives of ordinary people.

So What?
What makes this book very inclusive is the scope of geographical coverage. The testimonies and stories of individuals go beyond North America. Many of the contributors are household names in the North American evangelical scene. Some of them have also been associated with the popular "The Gospel Coalition" group, and evangelical movement seeking to be united in propagating the gospel of faith. It is hard not to come away unchanged. The eight essays are well structured and easy to follow. Each of them can stand as a sermon in itself. As I have said earlier, Thabiti Anyabwile's essay is a must read simply because it shows forth that the gospel is not just for nice or good people attending weekly Church services. It is a gospel for all people.

The title of the book nails a key problem in modern Christianity. The gospel is powerful, but Christians in general have more often than not underestimated the gospel through their inaction and unbelief. Let me end with two questions:

1) What is the biggest hindrance to the gospel?
2) What is the biggest hope for the gospel?

The answer is the same: Christians.

Indeed, before we can promote and share the gospel, the gospel needs to dwell on us, and in us. When fully taken root, the gospel can shine forth through us and from us. Let this book spur pastors, ministry leaders, and influential laypersons to shine a light on the gospel, and the let the gospel live through people, beginning with themselves.

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of B&H Publishing and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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