In the past several weeks I've reviewed Gospel-Centred Church and Gospel-Centred Family. Today, a review of Gospel-Centred Life, a workbook by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester (not to be confused with the workbook from World Harvest Mission). Their book, Total Church, has been such a helpful and provocative resource for me as a pastor. Highly recommended for pastors and other church leaders. I was glad to dive in an tackle these three short, practical workbooks. All of these books came to me for review from the good folks at The Good Book Company.
Onto my review of Gospel-Centred Life (GCL). Like the others this workbook runs under 100 pages. It's broken up into fourteen lessons/chapters in three main parts.
- Part 1: Gospel-Centred Change
- Part 2: Gospel-Centred Perspectives
- Part 3: Gospel-Centred Living
In GCL each lesson is about 4-5 pages (a few a bit longer) and moves through five sections. In my copy at least there is no introduction explaining the five small sections for each study. GCC and GCF both had this and I think it's helpful. The online description says GCL is 128 pages long, so maybe this is remedied there. Either way, the sections are pretty self-explanatory to me so it's not in any way a deal-breaker.
The sections: Principle (one sentence), Consider This (intro to the principle using a brief story), Biblical Background (read a Scripture and think through short questions), Read All About It (the meat of the lesson and the principle made full), and Questions for Reflection (helpful end questions to apply to life and provoke us to further thought). For full lesson titles go here, where they also have a sample to read.
As with the other workbooks this one is really good. Solid theology and practical. Good for personal use or group discussion. Let me hit a few highlights for me from this study.
Properly, the authors start with God's glory, the "great, unchangeable principle against which everything is assessed." I'm pleased to see a nice foundation on the spiritual as well. So easy to miss. We too often overly focus on personal goodness through denial without emphasizing enough the Holy Spirit. There's even a chapter titled "A Life of Miracles."
I really like the emphasis on the family of God in decision-making rather than merely seeking God personally is so helpful and broken in most of our churches. The authors encourage us to think about the implications of the Christian community as we make decisions AND to make significant decisions in consultation with members of our Christian community. As a pastor I am shocked at how often my people make decisions without seeking advice, considering the consequences for the church, without mentioning it to their community groups, etc.
Really GCL is far more about community life and relationships than I expected. I should have expected it after reading Total Church, but I didn't. I think this is needed as our churches have such poor community life and is too dependent on programs.
Lastly let me explain how the Questions for Reflection section at the end of each lesson is so helpful in GCL (as with the other workbooks as well!). The authors think through areas of application that are easy for us to miss in everyday life. We often think of the obvious and easy applications and the authors are good at finding the missed ones that should be more obvious to us. After a first time through the questions at the end of the lessons will be easy to return to as refreshers and as reminders of how to think through the process of good application. Well done. Even as I write this I'm feeling conviction and encouragement to live differently as I flip through the book. Below are some examples of these helpful application questions.
From chapter 2, A Life For Others...
If you are a shy person, the next time you find yourself sitting next to someone you don't know, remind yourself that God has made you to be a lover of God and others. Ask Him for the grace to express that love in the moment. If you are an outgoing person, the next time you are in a social situation and the centre of attention, remind yourself that God has made you to be a lover of God and others. Ask Him for the grace to express that love in the moment.
From chapter 8, Look Forward to Eternity...
What did you do last week for your present comfort or security? What did you do last week for God's future?
From chapter 13, Possessions...
Look at advertisements in magazines or on the television. What does each one promise? How do these promises parody the promises of God?
This is yet another valuable resource from The Good Book Company. Buy Gospel-Centred Life for $8 and get it cheaper in bulk. Highly recommended.