The joyful and powerful Christian life you long for is closer than you think. None of us is lovable all of the time--and no one can make us feel worse than those closest to us. So we keep others at arm's length to protect ourselves rather than reaching out for relationship. But think of who Jesus invited into his life and ministry. They weren't always lovable. Yet he modeled perfect love for us and showed how the mark of a spiritually mature believer is engaging with others in meaningful relationships. This in-depth, biblical look at the critical importance of "doing life" in close fellowship with other believers will draw you closer to your spiritual family--and to Jesus--than ever before.
Jim Putman addresses a topic that I believe is much needed in today's churches. Some churches today have solid doctrine down pat, while others are exemplary in their friendliness and relational closeness within the church. However, few churches combine the two in a biblical manner. Solid doctrine without relational fellowship produces an emotionally unstable and socially awkward congregation. Fellowship without doctrine leads to a false understanding and lack of knowledge of the Scriptures.
Putman's church, while certainly not filled with perfect people, demonstrates a working understanding of biblical relationships through solid doctrine, and he uses examples from people around him and from the staff in his church to display how healthy relationships should work among believers. He begins with a definition of what is missing and a description of how people are "hardwired to connect". He states that though we may be fully committed to Christ and understand doctrine, we won't experience all God has for us unless we are intentional in our relationships. We think we can handle anxiety and pressure on our own, but in reality that leaves us with burdens that we weren't meant to carry. We fight the devil alone when we have an incomplete picture of Christianity. "Yes, as an isolated Christian, you can still make it to heaven. But while on earth, something will always be missing. You will not experience all the good that God has for you, and you will not be the light in the dark world that God desires that you become."
In the next several chapters, Putman writes of and describes spiritual maturity and how pride keeps us from continually resolving conflict and interacting with others of the same faith. He states that the churches today are great at training up polite and friendly people in their churches, but that they fail at producing relationships in order to disciple new believers and grow the older believers. "True relationship is different from surface politeness--it goes much deeper..." Politeness won't end up satisfying those who are crying for the fellowship of the Spirit through other believers.
Putman describes relationships, and the community of the church family. He also takes a chapter to explain the danger of pride--the vice that divides relationships. He gives examples of and writes of relationships that are real in his church or in others' lives. "Authentic Christianity is incomplete without real relationships that strengthen and supprt." We refuse or weaken God's grace when we think that in our pride we can handle our trials, burdens, sins, and questions alone. Defeating the enemy becomes a group effort, rather than a single exhausted warrior attempting to fight the spiritual darkness single-handedly. In being a city on a hill, we must be just that...a city. Not just merely an individual. And combined with the relationships, solid doctrine is preached in order to keep the congregation functioning as the bride of Christ. Relational efforts don't always work, but there is a method that works when both parties are willing to grow together.
Toward the end of the book, Putman's paragraphs can seem rather redundant because he's writing about one single topic, but in all, I found his book extrememly helpful (and encouraging) in pinpointing the struggles of most--if not all--churches today. There is something missing, but once discovered, we cannot say that we do not know the solution. An easy read on a vital issue.
I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.