Belong, Gather and Welcome

The church is a wonderful place, a mixed bag of people from all different walks of life and backgrounds, from different countries and different social classes and yet all bound together by their faith in Jesus Christ. In 2021 Tony Merida wrote a great book Love Your Church (see my review here) now the Good Book Company have put together a series of books called love your church, and it’s really good! Let me tell you about it. Three brief comments that goes for each of these books;

  • Each chapter ends with great actions points that help you see what it practically means to apply the teaching of the book.
  • Each book has a discussion guide to help you work through it in small groups.
  • Each book is great! I highly recommend you buy a copy of each, and of Tony’s first book that I mentioned above.

Belong by Barnabas Piper

If you don’t know already, Barnabas Piper is a very gifted writer, I’ve really enjoyed his other books and I loved this one, I read this one first and enjoyed it the most. The reason I think I enjoyed this the most is because Piper opens up about his own church hurt and the skepticism that he experienced after that.

One of the difficulties with this idea of belonging is how do you define it, as Piper himself says “A person can be a member of a church without belonging, and a person can belong to a church that does not offer formal membership. The pressing questions is not about processes or polity but about connection to and closeness within the body of Christ.” 

He goes on to say…

Belonging, then, is not defined by where we feel most comfortable, most at ease, or by where we have the most in common with others. Belonging is defined by where God intends us to be, and therefore where he intends us to find true life and deepest satisfaction and joy.”

Here are the six chapters that Piper covers;

  • What does it mean to belong?
  • You belong
  • What does it look like to belong?
  • Unity: the only way belonging happens
  • What do I do when…
  • Jesus, friend of sinners

In each chapter you’ll be taken to the Bible, pointed to Jesus and hear the words of someone who knows what it’s like to sit on the fence or be treated a bit like an outsider. I could fill this post with quotes that I highlighted in the book, but I can’t do that, instead just buy it and read it, you’ll thanks me later.

Gather by Tony Merida

How do you love your church by gathering together? Merida tells you how in this book. Over the last couple of years the church scene has completely changed, COVID was not our friend. People got used to sitting at home, some of them maybe even watching church via livestream, but then when lockdowns lifted many people still find it easier to stay at home. Most churches now do livestream and whilst it’s helpful for some people to have that option, it can make it easier for us to no longer see gathering as a church body as being important. Merida has written this book to show the importance of gathering together as a church.

In 8 chapters you’ll be walked through different reasons to gather as a church family and each chapter is packed with Bible teaching and sound application of Scripture. Here are the chapter headings;

  • The gift of gathering
  • Gathering to stir up one another
  • Gathering to hear God’s Word
  • Gathering to sing together
  • Gathering to pray together
  • Gathering to celebrate the Gospel in the ordinances
  • Gathering to reach outsiders
  • Gathering to scatter

Not only is each chapter practical and will get you thinking about the importance of physically gathering with your church family, but there are also great actions steps at the end of each chapter. The actions steps are simple and practical ways that you can love your church more, even if you’re not up for doing them right away (which I recommend you do!) they will still get you thinking and bring in a deeper conviction of how important it is that you go to church.

Welcome by Jen Oshman

A church should be a building that is open and ready to warmly welcome everyone who steps through the doors. In this book Oshman speaks from her experience of being on mission overseas, being a Pastor’s wife, but most importantly as a woman who has seen wonderful welcome in different churches.

in seven chapters Oshman helps you see what it means for you as an individual, and you as a corporate church, to welcome people into the church. The chapters are;

  • How Jesus welcomes us
  • The radical welcome of the Early Church
  • The Church opens wide her doors
  • Welcome to the family
  • Welcoming way beyond Sunday
  • Systems and strategies for Sunday and every day
  • Outward and Onward

One of the things that I liked most about this book is how Oshman didn’t only look at what the concept of welcoming looks like based on the culture of today. In chapter two Oshamn takes you back to the Early Church and shows what a welcoming church would have looked like, citing both Bible texts and historical writings. This book will challenge you to think beyond welcoming as a handshake and a half-hearted “how are you?” on a Sunday morning.

This book could act as a wonderfully Biblical antidote to the rampant individualism of our day that can so easily creep into the church and cause people to only focus on themselves. If we’ve receive such a wonderful welcome from Jesus, how much more should we want to share a God-glorifying welcome with others?!

*** I received a copy of these books from the publishers in exchange for honest reviews. This does not change the way I rate the books. My views are my own. ***

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