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Ian Stackhouse: The Gospel-Driven Church

 

Ian Stackhouse, The Gospel-Driven Church: Retrieving Classical Ministry for Contemporary Revivalism (Milton Keynes, UK: Paternoster Press, 2004), 291 pages.

This, in the words of the Foreword, “is the first in a series of books that reflect the work of an ecumenical conversation,” where Stackhouse reflects from his own, earlier Restorationist roots, on his own experience of the synthesis of evangelical, charismatic and classical spiritual traditions within the English context. What results is a brilliantly provocative work, with an honest and sympathetic yet penetrating critical analysis.

Stackhouse is not acerbic or destructive. He just asks hard questions, which often illumine the failure to weave together a Biblical foundation and coherent theological system with the pragmatism that characterizes much contemporary churchmanship in the British context. He begins with what he calls “the pathology of revivalism.” Stackhouse challenges the axiom that numerical increase has, of itself, spiritual significance, arguing that discipleship has been lost sight of and that the quest for relevance to contemporary social modes has led to a “dumbing down” of the Gospel.

In this work, we are faced with a call to have fresh confidence in the old basics of church. In preaching. In the Lord’s Supper and baptism. And, interestingly, in the Pentecostal emphasis on a definitive baptism in the Holy Spirit. Stackhouse argues for less stress on the “imperatives” of evangelistic method and pleads for more reliance of the “indicatives” of the Gospel: fresh confidence in the sheer grace and love of God and the power of Jesus, present in our midst, to effect the advance of the Kingdom of God.

Arguing for a fresh confidence in church as the vehicle of the presence of the God who saves within His creation, this work invites us to examine so much that is taken as normative churchmanship today and ask the question, “so why isn’t the Emperor wearing any clothes?” This work is guaranteed to disturb and challenge the reader into thinking afresh about what really does stand at the center of truly Christian churchmanship. And it is written by a churchman who, in terms of what he questions and challenges, would be considered a “success.”

For pastors and leaders who have been part of the Renewal scene for a long time, this book is a must. It engages in the questions that we all ponder over and challenges us to go forward in a Gospel centered way.

Reviewed by James Purves

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Category: Ministry, Pneuma Review, Summer 2005

About the Author: James Purves, Ph.D. (University of Aberdeen, Scotland), has been serving in pastoral ministry since 1980 and is presently Mission and Ministry Advisor to the Baptist Union of Scotland. He is a research tutor at the International Baptist Theological Seminary, Prague, Czech Republic and author of The Triune God and the Charismatic Movement (Paternoster, 2004). His blog is http://jimpurves.blogspot.com

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