I just finished Reverberation by Jonathan Leeman. It is one of those books that clearly brings forth biblical truth that a lot of us take for granted, don't understand the importance of, or just ignorantly forget about. It is also one of the best books I have read in a while and I definitely recommend it. Any church member would do themselves and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ a lot of good by going through this book.
Reverberation is about how God's word brings light, freedom, and action to His people. Leeman asks straightforward and necessary questions, helping us to see that maybe we have not rightly prioritized God's word, some even loosing confidence in the Word of God. The goal of Reverberate is to essentially to help us see that God's word, working through God's spirit, is God's primary instrument for growing God's church. In fact, God's word is the most powerful force in the universe. God created the universe through his word (Genesis 1:3). He is recreating it through His word (2 Cor 4:6). And He sustains all things by His word (Hebrews 1:3).
Of course we give lip service to that, and we "know" that stuff. But how does that knowledge actually translate into how we choose a church to belong to? How does it translate as church leaders wanting to grow their churches? Does it?
This is one of those books that I wish I could write a review by just quoting the whole thing to you.
The book concentrates on three main topics: the word, the sermon, and the reverberation, and traces how the word of God should reverberate through them all.
1. The word invites and divides, acts, frees, and gathers.
I love how Leeman challenges us to build our churches based on biblical ideals, and that people should join our church because they are in love with the gospel, not because our church is the cool church or the baby boomer church, etc. He also points out that there is a difference between "removing distractions" from the word of God, such as uncomfortable seating, and "creating attractions" in our churches through clothing style, or dramas. He even gives a helpful look at how to remove distractions but not create attractions through clothing, humor, music, charisma, and good works. These are simple concepts, but how many actually take the time to intentionally think about how to simply remove distractions so people can focus on the Word that is being taught, which is what Paul calls us to in 1 Corinthians 1. We should take away all distractions and look to what the Bible wants us to adorn our church with: the holiness and sacrificial love of Christians as they live out their lives together.
The book also challenges readers to unite their churches around one thing: the gospel. Not social affinity. Not ethnicity. Not "coolness." Not intellectualism. Not age. Leeman proposes that giving into that temptation risks undermining the gospel. Can I get an amen?
2. The sermon should expose, announce, and confront.
In a section titled "How Then Do We Preach?" Leeman has some very intelligent things to say that I wish I could rip out and just give to all the pastors I know. He speaks to using creativity very wisely and carefully, realizing that it is NOT our creativity that builds the church, but it is the word of God. The goal of any sermon is to expose God's word, not hide it among our creatively packaged opinions. He compares it to the mailman, a reporter, and a receptionist- they don't deliver their own letters, but someone else's, they don't make up the news, they report it, they don't receive a phone call and pass on a random message, they pass on the caller's message. Likewise, a pastor must preach the word of God and not his own message or ideas. He proposes that the best method of preaching is expositional, so as to "expose God's word" and let IT set the agenda, instead of coming to it with our own agenda, which is a danger of topical preaching.
I really appreciated how Leeman approaches sermon theory. Much of what he says is counter cultural, even among the Christian culture, but in my opinion, he is spot on.
3. The reverberation of the word- how it works, how it sings, prays, disciples, scatters, and once again invites.
One thing that stood out to me in this section was the chapter titled "The Reverberation Sings." The section is talking about the point of singing in church, and the point is that "singing in church should be about the church singing." It goes on to say that
"God has given music to the gathered church so that the people together can own, affirm, rejoice in, and unite around God's word. Far better than the sweet harmonies of a few trained singers is the rough and hale sound of pardoned criminals, delighting with one voice in their Saviour."
What a different, glorious, and BIBLICAL take on the purpose of musical worship than the typical concert style "special music" programming of many churches today.
Again, I really enjoyed this book. I think Jonathan Leeman shares with us some really helpful and prudent wisdom about the word of God and how the word "brings light, freedom, and action to God's people." My brief overview does not do it justice.