Way back in the mid 1600’s, a guy named Henry Scougal wrote a short little book to encourage a friend in his spiritual life. It was later published for wider readership as The Life of God in the Soul of Man. I would probably be unfamiliar with it myself if John Piper didn’t make a big deal about it in The Pleasures of God (I suppose I should get around to reading it).
In a very similar vein, Thabiti Anyabwile put together a sermon series for his church called The Life of God in The Soul of The Church. That sermon series has now been published by Christian Focus and is part of the 9 Marks series.
When originally preached to the First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman over the summer of 2008, Anyabwile’s goal was to “impress upon the saints of First Baptist Church a particular vision of spiritual fellowship centered not on external activities and programs but on our shared life of spiritual union with Jesus the Son of God.” (p. 12 iBooks ed.) In short, he wanted his church to see that life together is both rooted in Christ and grows up into Christ.
The book is organized around the doctrine of our union with Christ. The first part, which includes 2 sermons, explains the doctrine itself briefly, but focuses on the nature of spiritual fellowship and what it looks like in the body of Christ. His key texts for these two sermons are 1 John, and 1 Corinthians 12:12:27.
Next, Anyabwile spends the rest of the book applying our union with Christ to our relationships. Deftly moving throughout the epistles, Anyabwile begins and ends this group of sermons with chapters on loving one another. Though I don’t think Anyabwile intentionally used a chiastic structure for this section, if he did then his sermons on suffering and forgiveness form the core. I thought these were the most important, especially the sermon on forgiveness drawn from Ephesians 4:1-6.
His perspective in the sermon on singing to another is a refreshing take on how we approach worship, as is his sermon on giving. Other sermons discuss spiritual gifts, partnering together in the Gospel, encouraging one another, and accepting one another. Though Anyabwile does not preach verse by verse through a book of the Bible in this sermon series, he still unpacks exegetically the key texts he uses in each sermon. As such, each sermon/chapter offers a fresh exposition of a text as well as simple and significant ways to apply to the principles he draws out of the text.
As Anyabwile intended, this book still has the feel of lightly edited sermon transcripts and is very readable. This leads to the main weakness, which really isn’t all that significant, but is worth mentioning. Because these are sermon transcripts, there are occasional tangents detailing people in the congregation of First Baptist. These are not that intrusive, but they are still, to me at least, elements of the book that are not relevant to many who will read the published version.
Other than that though, Anyabwile offers us a compelling, readable account of the necessity of spiritual fellowship within the local church. Just as the life of God takes us residence in individuals when they come to faith in Christ, so does the life of God take up corporate residence in the body of believers as the church gathered.
This book would make an excellent small group study. But before it is used there, it should make its way into the pastor’s study. If your pastor hasn’t already caught the vision for seeing the life of God grow up within the church, then this book might make a great gift during Pastor Appreciation month. If he has, then maybe the best gift would be to figure out how you can pass around this book within your church so that everyone catches the vision for the life of God growing in the soul of your church!
- Author: Thabiti Anyabwile
- Title: The Life of God in The Soul of The Church
- Publisher: Christian Focus (September 1, 2012)
- Paperback: 256pgs
- Reading Level: General Reader
- Audience Appeal: Any Christian looking for a good introduction to the importance of the church for spiritual growth