John P. Lathrop, The Power and Practice of the Church: God, Discipleship, and Ministry (Waltham, MA: J. Timothy King, 2010), 120 pages, ISBN: 9780981692555.
In John P. Lathrop’s second book, The Power and Practice of the Church, readers will find a stimulating compilation of various seminary papers, previously published magazine articles, and sermons which have been reformatted to make up the book’s eighteen chapters. Readers please note that the author of this review is the nephew of John Lathrop.
Seminary papers make up the majority of the text (chs. 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14) and cover such topics as the spiritual gifts of tongues and prophecy to the Persons of Christ and the Holy Spirit. These chapters contain the most technical and mentally stimulating writings found in the book. The second largest portion of Lathrop’s book is comprised of various articles written for Vista Magazine (chs. 4, 5, 6, 10, 16, 17, 18), and focuses more on the individual believer’s walk with Christ while in his/her earthly dwelling. The smallest section of the book, former sermons Lathrop has preached and here converts into full-length chapters (chs. 11, 12, 15), imparts very practical tips in order that believers may have a fuller spiritual life.
Lathrop shows great aptitude for writing in a very simplistic manner without sacrificing content. The reader will find that although many of the chapters cover somewhat technical (and sometimes controversial) topics, the author is able to strike a fine balance between theology and practical application with seeming ease of the pen. One would be hard-pressed to find a lack of Scriptural support for any of the positions taken by Lathrop, whose conclusions are doubtless the result of many years of diligent study of the Word of God. Perhaps the biggest flaw in the book is its lack of even more technical chapters, which would further evidence the author’s wide-ranging knowledge of Scripture.
The Power and Practice of the Church is impressive in that it covers a wide variety of topics which the inattentive reader may not be able to see a connection between, but which Lathrop effortlessly pulls into his overall themes of “God, discipleship, and ministry” (p. 8). As such, the reader is not left wondering why any of the chapters were chosen for the book, as unfortunately is the case with many other compilations. The author begins his book by speaking to the sometimes controversial topics of tongues and prophecy (chs. 1-2). From here, he moves smoothly into a discussion of the work of the Holy Spirit in modern times and backs it up with examples from the Scriptures (chs. 3-4). Lathrop then sets off with much practical advice for those seeking a deeper walk with Christ. He touches on everything from the avoidance of spiritual conceit (ch. 6) to “Being a Barnabas” (ch. 18). In fact, it is the final chapter (“Being a Barnabas”) that may be the most powerful in the book. In this chapter Lathrop satisfactorily sums up the overarching theme of the book when he says:
As we look back over the list of the things that were characteristic of Barnabas’ life – being a giving person, seeking to help one that others shunned, being able to work with people who were different from himself, and fostering the spiritual growth of others – we see that all of these qualities were good. In fact, more than good, they were Christ-like. May we seek to follow in the steps of Barnabas as he followed in the steps of Christ.
This eloquent paragraph contains the essence of the Christian life. While Christ works on each believer to conform him/her to His own image, it is the Christian’s responsibility to allow the Holy Spirit to touch their lives in order that they may become more Christ-like. The Power and Practice of the Church is wonderful way to help each of Christ’s followers achieve this end.
Reviewed by Jonathan P. Davis
 See Lathrop’s 2008 release, Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers: Then and Now (Xulon Press), 149 pages, ISBN: 9781606474594.
Preview this book: books.google.com/books?id=pJZxTtgnqVgC