Reviewed by: Aijalon B. Church
A Place to Belong, by Megan Hill. Crossway, 2020. Paperback, 184 pagers, $15.49 (Amazon). Reviewed by OP pastor Aijalon B. Church.
Three years into my pastoral ministry, one of the most distressing and recurring experiences for me has been interacting with people who dismiss the value and beauty of the local church. Megan Hill’s book was to me in my discouragement like salve on a sunburn or a warm fire on a stress-tightened back. She admits that the church may often look quite plain or even ugly on the outside, but denies that such externals are as revealing as spiritual realities. Her book is about re-orienting yourself to get a peek at the church through God’s glasses. There are no lenses as accurate! Each chapter looks at a different biblical name for the church, giving us a true perspective on something we may be a bit too familiar with to see clearly. The goal? “To see the church as God sees the church and then to embrace the privilege of being part of it” (13). Built into this goal is the assumption that, “when we take seriously what God says about his church, it will shape our experience of belonging there” (14).
Hill’s book can be organized into four parts. First it examines the identity of the church (chs. 1–2), then its goal (ch. 3), its organization (chs. 4–5), and its communion (chs. 6–9). Readers may appreciate that this book is written by a layperson who has been a member of different types of churches over many years, rather than a pastor who might be accused of talking up the institution that pays him. I loved the female perspective of her illustrations and found her writing style warm and compelling. Each chapter ends with a plea to the reader like this in chapter 1: “Come, belong to God’s beloved” (28). She often gently reasons with the reader to take seriously the implications of her words: “Dear Christian, in light of these glorious realities, don’t forsake the church’s assembly (Heb. 10:24–25). Be there when you are rejoicing (Ps. 122:1). Be there . . . when you are facing great trials . . . when you are tired and when you are doubting” (55). The overall impression is not forceful or pushy but genuine and persuasive.
I highly recommend this book. It is clearly written and includes questions for group discussion. It is neither a difficult nor a simplistic read, but includes some great biblical theology (the different gifts and roles of the tribes within Israel connected to the New Testament teaching about the church as a body with parts! 74–5), relevant church history (“pew rentals” was a thing? 44–5), and much that is practical (“My holiness is intimately connected to the holiness of my fellow saints,” 97). It will warm you, challenge you, and persuade you to love your local church.
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