This year, this short booklet was given as one of the free books at Shepherds’ Conference. I was delighted to see a book on ecclesiology and thought it’d be a great to give a short book review.
Here are my thoughts on Sam Allbery’s, “Why Bother with Church: And Other Questions about Why You Need It and Why It Needs You.”
Summary: The book seeks to provide the basic necessities of knowing and getting involved in a local church. Allberry begins by first defining the local church (chap. 2). He then provides the necessity for why every Christian must be part of a local church (chap. 1). After laying the need for church he provides the basic responsibilities of the church by surveying Acts 2:42-47 (chap. 3). He identifies the church as a place where Christians learn, partner in Christian living and gospel ministry, worship the Lord, and grow. Next, Allberry provides a basic ecclesiastical structure of the local church by explaining the role of elders and deacons (chap. 4). The next chapter then encourages those who may still have certain reservations about joining and connecting with a local church (chap. 5). While the doctrine and teachings about the church may be great in principle, it isn’t always applied faithfully. This chapter focuses on encouraging those who may have pragmatic reservations (i.e., burnout, irrelevance/boring, etc.). Lastly, Allberry focuses on encouraging readers to implement some basic principles that will help them healthily contribute to their local church (i.e., attendance, praying, serving, giving, etc.).
Weaknesses: While the book is intended to be short, it could have pointed readers to more detailed works. There are a plethora of issues and differences (i.e., church polity, views on ordinances, etc.). It would be helpful to be pointed towards books or ministries that can help provide an extra layer of understanding. I would appreciate a little bit more of a Gospel presence, since it may assume the reader has a base knowledge of the Gospel.
Strengths: The book in its brevity does pack quite the punch. It excels in recognizing the core elements of ecclesiology. He also provides some great “blurbs” or excursions at the end of each chapter to elaborate on some key issues (i.e., women in ministry, ordinances, the church in society, etc.). It also excels in addressing issues and objections that many may have toward the church.
Recommendations: The book would be helpful for several demographics of Christians and non-Christians. First, it would be helpful for new Christians who are just being introduced to a local church. It may also be helpful to seasoned saints who have been damaged by unhealthy local churches. It puts a biblical perspective and importance on a believer’s local church commitment. I also think there’s a place for this short book in an unbeliever’s curiosity toward the church. Allberry notes societies drift away from Christianity. As society drifts it becomes more and more necessary to have a short work like this to help provide a foundation for unbelievers looking in.