Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Of Church Growth, Temptation, & Unfaithfulness

Yesterday morning I began reading Francine Rivers' book, And the Shofar Blew, and finished it at 2am this morning. Like I usually do with her fiction, once I started, I couldn't rest until the story was completed. Francine Rivers' writing goes far beyond typical Christian Fiction, which is often no more than a shotty romance novel with no premarital sex. Rivers masters human relationships and dialogue, and effortlessly weaves many stories into one incredible tale.

The book title comes from the Old Testament call to worship, which began with the blowing of a ram's horn, called a shofar. This rich story centers on questions about churches... what makes a church? Who can lead? Who should lead? What happens when a church is led by the power-hungry? What should church discipline look like? What about different forms of worship? And whether a church is big or small? These questions aren't in your face, but are rather different angles through which she examines the story lines of the novel.

Rivers tells stories of aging gracefully and aging with bitterness, stories of how youth are impacted by their relationships with both parents, stories of marriages wrecked by addiction and temptation, and stories of churches and the struggle between pleasing God & pleasing men.

She delves into the emotionally and biblically difficult area of what a Christian is to do when married to an adulterer, walking a fine line between forgiving with grace and requiring accountability. Contrasting the lust for physical pleasure & power with the commitment of an enduring marriage, and comparing the marriages of casual, cultural Christians to the marriages of committed believers, Rivers paints many pictures of what Christian marriage can look like, in various forms and fashions.

Borrowing the biblical names of Eunice, Lois, and Timothy for three main characters, she also tells how important godly women can be in the life of a child, while lending credence to the now-societally-recognized fact that children who do not have an admirable father need a strong man in their life who can be an anchor for them in the sea of a culture of relativity and loose morality. She also gives several rich pictures of what biblical discipleship and growth looks like in reflective-of-real-life examples.

There is so much to glean from this story filled with mini-stories. I hope you'll have the chance to read this book, as it can shed much light and raise many questions. My hat's off to Francine Rivers for this modern tale of a church's decline into moral relativity and what a few righteous men and women can do in such times.


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