Here are four books that I believe you will find encouraging as you walk with Jesus in these evil days.
How ‘New’ Is the New Covenant?
It is safe to say that the root of most errors in believers’ minds is a failure to appreciate the reality and finality of Christ in the New Covenant. Too many are trying to function with a mixture of law and grace, letter and Spirit and type/shadow versus substance. So much practice in the history of the visible church has taken its cue from the Old Covenant and not the New.
Take tithing as a glaring example. For centuries the mainstream church has relied on the members giving their tithe in order to finance the institution’s needs. The proof-texts for enforcing tithing were primarily drawn from the Old Testament. There were many instances of and statements about giving in the New Testament, but tithing was never mentioned as a benchmark. In fact, here a whole new way of looking at giving is found — a way that has nothing to do with percentage points, a way that has to do with Christ’s example of self-sacrifice, and a way that simply says, “Give, each according to their ability.” But most church peoples’ consciences are weighed down with a percentage-driven method of giving that has nothing to do with the revelation found in the New Covenant.
Hence, there is a crying need for Christ’s people to see that they are living in Christ, not under Moses; that they are to walk in the Spirit, not follow the letter of the law; that they are married to Jesus, not the Torah. They must understand that the better New Covenant is in force, not the obsolete Old Covenant. Stephen Crosby’s How ‘New’ Is the New Covenant? Provides a deep breath of Christ-centered air in our law-choked religious atmosphere.
The author’s chapters and appendices on the New Covenant and the Torah are must reading for today’s believers. They cut through eons of misunderstandings, and shed needed light on why the New Covenant sealed and inaugurated by Christ’s blood is so vital for understanding where we stand as the New Creation and the New Humanity. Those who read How ‘New’ Is the New Covenant? should see law-rooted scales fall from their eyes, resulting in a clearer view of Jesus’ glory.
Editor of Searching Together (since 1978)
Author of many books, including ‘This Is My Beloved Son, Hear Him’: The Foundation of New Covenant Ethics and Ecclesiology
I had the privilege of meeting Mark while in Tucson, AZ, recently. He brought a copy of his book along. After reading it, I believe it brings some important and nuanced perspectives to the table that speak to the core needs/problems of our hour.
By “witchcraft” Mark does not have in view wiccans gathering in the woods. Rather, he is concerned “to show how the church has allowed certain people to gain prominence within its ranks who do not belong there, and the terrible cost that is being paid because of it.” Thus, the author sees witchcraft as connected to the desire for Power and Control, which is then expressed through Rebellion. “Witchcraft,” he says, “is the attempted usurpation of God’s power and control over nature, over circumstances, and over people.” At the heart of witchcraft, then, “is the acquisition and use of power.”
Understanding witchcraft in these terms opens the door for us to see the many ways it has invaded churches. Numerous well-meaning believers have given allegiance to a person, “thinking they were following God, and never questioned what was really going on.” Mark notes, “I have seen individuals persuade others that they had a new or fresh revelation from God,” but if those deceived by this person “were to dig a little deeper, they would find that the person persuading them was not anything close to how they were representing themselves.” Such persons gain power over others “through disingenuous means.” They are “usually skillful at attracting a crowd and can be the life of the party.”
In churches, then, witchcraft manifests itself often through people who are Narcissists — it’s all about them. Mark observes, “Narcissists can say one thing in private to one person, something completely different to another person in private, and then declare that one or both of them misunderstood what they meant when confronted with the discrepancies . . . . Many Narcissists love the confusion that surrounds them. The intentional splitting of relationships to mask themselves can bring intense disputes . . . . The Narcissist is always up and looking for some way to promote himself or herself . . . . Narcissists have spent most of their lives perfecting their ability to confuse and misdirect . . . . The Narcissist will surround themselves with others who will support him or her, and will often manipulate these supporters to carry out the duties of expelling someone who has discovered what is happening . . . . Obfuscation, control, manipulation, and the quest for power are the tools and goal of the Narcissist.”
There are just a few places where I would see or state things differently, but, as Winn Griffin noted in the Foreword, “you may not agree with everything Mark writes,” but “may I suggest that you see in this book a ‘wake up’ call to all who can hear the alarm clock!”
—JZ (This book can be obtained from Jon for $11 postpaid)
Unchurching: Christianity Without Churchianity
In the past ten years, that which calls itself “church” has gone through monumental upheaval. Church buildings are closing left and right, churches are going bankrupt at an alarming rate, and, as usual, churches are splitting every moment. But the really noticeable trend in this current disruption is the huge number of people who have been — for a number of reasons — leaving the institutional churches. The religious buzz is about the “dones” and the “gones.” Traditionally in America there was among many citizens the deeply rooted practice of “going to church.” But those days are over. Getting up on Sunday morning and packing the family into a car to go to a building no longer has the pull it once had.
Many nervous church leaders with obvious vested interests will respond to the exodus from their buildings by saying that people are losing interest in God. But the truth is, as Clyde Reid pointed out in 1966, “To reject the institutional churches is not the same as rejecting God or rejecting the Christian faith… Some people may have to reject the churches to find Christ and vitality… And God is surely present outside the churches — often more present without than within.”
When people exit churches, some find alternatives, but many still haven’t found what they’re looking for. Richard Jacobson’s Unchurching will go a long way to helping believers realize that community around Christ is the unchartered longing in so many hearts. Most religious structures do not encourage and foster relationships. M. Scott Peck noted in 1987 that “the plain reality is that by and large the Church has not been in the community game; it has been in the numbers game.”
Those who have come to feel uneasy about what goes on in the mainline churches, and those who have actually left, are faced with many valid questions and concerns. Unchurching seeks to help readers wrestle with a host of assumptions concerning “church,” in order that the core of what following Christ in community really is will become more evident.
Sad to say, the journey out of institutional churches usually involves scrapping the layers of human traditions we’ve absorbed, and starting over with Christ from scratch. Frederick Buechner observed that what goes on in AA groups, “Is far closer to what Christ meant his church to be, and what it originally was, than much of what goes on in most churches I know… They make you wonder if the best thing that could happen to many a church might not be to have its building burn down and to lose all its money. Then all that the people would have left would be God and each other.”
Unchurching will help you capture a vision for a fresh start that is built upon the Lord Jesus Christ, the only foundation the Father has put His seal upon.
Author of A Church Building Every ½ Mile: What Makes American Christianity Tick? (Foreword by Frank Viola)
One Greater than Moses: A History of New Covenant Theology
I’ll never forget my meeting with three brothers in Little Rock, Arkanas, on a Monday in February, 1977. I had spoken in an assembly over the weekend, and they wanted to have a time with me before I drove back to Nashville. They had specific things they wanted to go over with me, and one of them came in the form of a question: “Have you read The Reformers and Their Stepchildren by Leonard Verduin?” I told them Walt Hibbard pushed that volume on me when his book venture was operating out of his garage in Maryland, but I had not read it yet. They strongly encouraged me to read it.
In June, 1977, I finally read Reformers and it changed my world forever. It put the disconnected pieces of information in my head together in a way that was unbelievably liberating, and my focus on Christ was clarified and accelerated.
It was just months later that I felt compelled to write about the issues raised in Reformers, and other related concerns. As a result, “Is There a ‘Covenant of Grace’?” appeared in the Autumn, 1977, issue of Baptist Reformation Review.
This article caused quite a stir, and John Reisinger called it “the first shot fired in twenty years” at a gathering in Dalton, Georgia. Thus began a journey of many to develop, discuss, and unpack the implications of the centrality of Christ in the New Covenant.
Heather Kendall has accomplished a great service to the body of Christ by compiling her historical study of the blossoming of “New Covenant Theology” at the end of the 20th Century. She has painstakingly researched the subject, and pieced together a fair, balanced and engaging presentation of an important segment of history.
I know you will be uplifted and challenged by Heather’s contemporary history of how Christ’s pre-eminence came to the fore once again, and her drawing together of quotations from the past showing that the finality of the New Covenant was recognized by many others. One Greater than Moses is an important contribution to the ongoing work of Christ on earth.
Author of 58 to 0—How Christ Leads Through the One Anothers