AND THE SHOFAR BLEW
Tyndale House Publishers
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In Search of the True Church
Francine River's latest novel probes what can happen when a church goes wrong.
When you hear the word church, what first comes to mind? A building? Your pastor? Your small group?
Francine Rivers is passionate about the church --- and just as passionate about the definition. "The church is not the building, but the body of believers who all have a relationship with Christ," she says. But, she notes, too often the focus turns to programs, the American notion that "bigger is better" is adopted and things slowly-or, sometimes quickly-go awry.
The process of how this can happen, and what a sincere Christian can do about it, fuels Francine Rivers' latest novel, AND THE SHOFAR BLEW. (The shofar she explains, is the ram's horn that was blown when the Law was given to Moses on Mount Sinai and at key moments in Israel's history, and which the Lord will sound again upon Christ's return.) The story focuses on Centerville Christian Church, which is struggling for survival when Paul Hudson is called to become its pastor. To longtime elder Samuel mason, Paul seems to be the perfect answer to prayer. Paul is committed to building his church. But as he begins to focus more on church growth than on people, many of the faithful --- including Paul's wife, Eunice --- wonder, at what cost?
In typical Francine Rivers style, the book explores in depth the heart and soul of several characters even as it probes such questions as, What does a Christ-centered church look like? How far should a church go in order to reach out to the unchurched? What does true discipleship look like? How does lasting spiritual growth happen-through programs, or in some other way? How should one evaluate the effectiveness of a church or its pastor? What does godly submission in a wife look like? How are the sins of the fathers --- even celebrated spiritual leaders like Paul Hudson's father --- passed on to the children if there's no repentance? How does one confront sin in love, rather than anger?
Such questions came to mind, Francine says, from reading books on church growth and talking to many people who were concerned about what was happening in their church. She detects in the culture an overemphasis on numbers and buildings and size. Once success is measured in terms of numbers rather than genuine spiritual growth, Francine says, watch out! There's a fine line between sincerely wanting to reach out to the community, and beginning to cater to newcomers to the point where sermons are watered down so as not to "offend" anyone --- especially those whose deep pockets are necessary to fund the never-ending building projects.
Francine hopes AND THE SHOFAR BLEW will empower Christians "in the pew" to discern when that line is crossed. "The bottom line is we're not to follow man but God, not to focus on programs but on Christ," she says. "Unless the Lord builds the house, the work of the builder is useless."
If you are dissatisfied with your church yet you don't know quite why, this book may enlighten you. If you do know why but don't know what to do, this book will give you hope. For God still acts in answer to faithful prayer, and God still blows the shofar to call his people to repentance and renewal. He has not given up on his true church, and neither can we.
Read the first chapter at www.tyndalefiction.com.
© Copyright 2005 by Francine Rivers. Reprinted with permission by Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.
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