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Douglas Bursch: The Community of God

Douglas S. Bursch, The Community of God: A Theology of the Church from a Reluctant Pastor (Seattle, WA: Fairly Spiritual, 2017), 240 pages, ISBN 9780692868386.

As the last word of the title of this book indicates Douglas Bursch is a pastor; he is affiliated with the Foursquare Church. In addition to pastoring he serves on the Doctrine Committee and Education Commission of his denomination. He has also taught theology at Life Pacific College and Life Ministry Institute.

The Community of God consists of 18 chapters. At the end of each chapter there are discussion questions to help the reader remember, and reflect on, the significant topics covered in the chapter. In the book Pastor Bursch shares some of his own experiences in ministry. However, a significant portion of the text, as the title indicates, is given to developing a theology of the church. That being the case, the book contains a considerable amount of biblical teaching. This teaching demonstrates that community is God’s idea. The author points out that the larger culture in America is moving away from the practice of community (pages 15-16). The church, however, is not to follow this trend, we are called to be a community.

Bursch points out that before creation, God existed in community (and He still does); the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit interact with one another regularly. He goes on to show that with the creation of Eve community was introduced to the human race.  He also shows that the concept of community can be found in God’s promise to Abraham (Gen. 12) and in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). We as believers in Jesus Christ are not to live individualistic lives, we are to participate in community. The author maintains that the church should place greater value on the importance of community. We, at least in the West, tend to place more emphasis on our individual needs and desires. Bursch says that in isolation “we cannot fully understand the relational nature and love of God” (page 32).

We are all broken. No matter how you do ministry, some people will sometimes be hurt.

While making a strong case for the importance of community Bursch acknowledges that community has its challenges. When he entered pastoral ministry he thought that if he pastored correctly he could have a church with almost no conflict (page 3). He found that this was not so. To use his words “I was terribly wrong, completely wrong, profoundly wrong” (page 3). The author says he learned “that conflict was simply unavoidable” (page 7). He found that in church ministry he was hurt and people at times felt as though he let them down (page 8). If you think this is too negative a picture of the church, some perspective might be helpful here. Bursch reminds us that we are “ministering with and to broken people” (page 11). He further says that no matter how one does ministry they will be hurt (page 128). He affirms this truth again later in the book when he says that pain is a part of the ministry no matter how carefully you conduct yourself in it (page 166).

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Category: Ministry, Summer 2019

About the Author: John P. Lathrop is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies. He has written for a number of publications and is the author of four books Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers Then and Now (Xulon Press, 2008), The Power and Practice of the Church: God, Discipleship, and Ministry (J. Timothy King, 2010), Answer the Prayer of Jesus: A Call for Biblical Unity (Wipf & Stock, 2011) and Dreams & Visions: Divine Interventions in Human Experience (J. Timothy King, 2012). He also served as co-editor of the book Creative Ways to Build Christian Community (Wipf & Stock, 2013). Amazon Author page. Facebook

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