Book Review: City on a Hill

City on a Hill, is a book in which Ryken sets out to simply explain what the Biblical pattern for a Christian church should be. There are three major areas of emphasis: proclamation, worship and reaching out which form the skeletal structure of the book. Ryken does a good job of expanding those three subjects into a fully-orb picture of what church life should look like in a contemporary context.

Ryken also goes about defining the contemporary culture the church finds itself in. He describes post-Christian culture as basically being narcissistic and relativistic, two themes he repeats in the book to show the biblical patterns aptness at dealing with modern culture as expressed in these two manifestations of it.

In the middle of the book, in talking about Christian discipleship Ryken comments, “Many Christians think of their Christianity as an important part of who they are, rather than everything they are. But God wants all of us.” I feel that could typify his ethos in the book with regards to the church- his book points out in a very non-confrontational fashion, and actually only by showing the right way as opposed to trashing practices he might disagree with, that ‘many churches think of church work as an important part of their church practice, rather than everything they should be doing as a New Testament Church’.

Ryken touches on pastoral work, preaching, worship, shepherding, fellowship, discipleship, missions, mercy work and why the church needs to keep the gospel central. It is a very helpful overview of what should be on the priority list of churches that seek to be God honouring.

Instead of bowing to contemporary culture and making church fit it, Ryken calls us to go back to Scripture as the only source of doing church in such a way that culture is meaningfully helped. He does this brilliantly by taking us back to Scripture and demonstrating how it answers the questions in a way that other ‘band aid’ remedies could not.

His section on pastoral care is a good example of this, as he shows the biblical emphasis on membership as vital to caring for a large group of people placed under the elders of a given church. He shows how this also brings belonging and identity, which is a sorely missed feeling in contemporary society due to the prevalent narcissism and relativism.

It is worth the read for anyone new to the question of what the church should be about, or is looking for a sane, biblical, simple case for what God intended churches to be, and how churches can escape the entertainment crazed, chocolate-fudge programs that they are often pressured into using.

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