His Liturgical Theology follows on the heels of Spiritual Theology, a tome that has become a standard text in seminaries and pastors' libraries worldwide. A Cambridge grad with a doctorate in historical theology (another anomaly for a Pentecostal), Chan teaches systematic theology at Trinity Theological College in Singapore.
Although he writes from an Asian evangelical perspective, Chan's writings have garnered international appeal, as he draws from sources as diverse as Puritan pastors and Asian mystics. Recently, Ministry Today sat down with Chan to discuss the growing interest in ancient liturgy and what it means for 21st-century worship.
Ministry Today: Many people associate liturgy with the standing up, sitting down and responsive reading of traditional churches. Is this an incomplete picture? Chan: In many churches liturgy is associated with such externals. But traditional liturgy seeks to enact faithfully the dynamics and content of divine revelation. The content of revelation is the gospel: the life, death, resurrection, ascension of Christ, Pentecost and Christ's return. That revelation elicits a response.
Ministry Today: So, what are the benefits the liturgy brings to the church?
Chan: Over time liturgical worship will form worshipers more fully because it embodies a more holistic gospel. Take, for example, the basic structure of the liturgy. It consists of Word and sacrament—the two definitive "marks" of the church. We become more truly the church by celebrating both Word and sacrament, whereas most non-liturgical churches tend to focus only on the Word.
Ministry Today: We're seeing many younger leaders experiment with liturgy. Do you think this is a reaction to the anti-liturgical leanings of fundamentalism?
Chan: Some of it may be a reaction to the spiritual impoverishment that many are sensing in their worship. I hope that it is not merely a fad due to boredom. I believe that for some it is more than a fad; they realize that the Christian tradition is a rich and reliable source of truth that will bring genuine renewal to their lives and churches. This is why they are going back into church history, especially early Christian history. They firmly believe that the early church fathers have something very important to teach us.
Ministry Today: Is there a danger these younger evangelicals will create a patchwork-quilt liturgy that is really devoid of meaning?
Chan: Yes, if interest in the liturgy is due to a craving for novelty. This is why a proper theological understanding of the liturgy is essential. Thus my book begins with the theological foundations of worship before I discuss its practical aspects.
Ministry Today: Doesn't liturgy naturally create exclusivity—i.e., outsiders feel left out because they don't understand what we're doing?
Chan: First, we need to be clear that worship is for God and His glory. It is an act that can properly be undertaken by Christians only. It is our pragmatic concern over making worship meaningful to non-Christians that has undermined the integrity of contemporary worship. When true worship is taking place, the presence of God among us at worship is itself a powerful testimony to non-Christians. Real worship is evangelistic even without our intending it.
Ministry Today: So, regardless of the liturgical form, what makes good worship?
Chan: The gospel of Jesus Christ must be central to a good liturgy. Whether we use traditional or contemporary songs, fast or slow songs, the criterion of true worship is: Is the worship gospel-centered? Most contemporary services fail when measured against the gospel criterion. For instance, when the whole service gives the impression that God is a nice and friendly guy who is there to ensure that my personal needs are met, you have a distortion of the gospel, a false concept of God being reinforced.
Ministry Today: Can a liturgically planned service still be "Spirit-led"?
Chan: If by "Spirit-led" you mean purely unplanned spontaneity, then I doubt if any service is truly Spirit-led. Even the most charismatic churches do have certain planned moments in which worshipers are allowed to give a message in tongues or prophesy. I have been to liturgical services where the charismatic elements like free praise, altar ministry and praying for the sick are all included. Yes, a liturgically planned service not only can be Spirit-led, it is in fact better led by the Spirit!
Ministry Today: What are some ways to slowly bring liturgy to "non-liturgical" churches without scaring people that we're "going Catholic"?
Chan: There is an increasing number of evangelical churches that are rediscovering the richness of the liturgy. The Evangelical Episcopal Church and the Charismatic Episcopal Church are two denominations that come readily to mind. There are also many individual denominational churches that are seeking to bring about a convergence of the evangelical, charismatic and liturgical dimensions in worship. Visit one of these churches. Give yourself time to imbibe the liturgy. You may not fully understand or appreciate liturgical worship at one go. But over time you will discover that you can be evangelical and charismatic and be liturgical as well. I personally have found the liturgy reinforces my evangelical convictions and Pentecostal experience.
The Multi-Site Church
Revolution: Being One Church in Many Locations
By Geoff Surratt, Greg Ligon and Warren Bird (Zondervan)
File under: Church Growth
Ideal reader: Pastors and church leaders considering the move to multiple locations for their churches and ministries.
Rate the book from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent): Practicality (4); Insight (5);
Theological Depth (3); Readability (4).
Core message: Likening the multi-site church movement to the lodging industry transition from mom-and-pop motels to modern hotel chains, the book proposes "that multi-site extensions of trusted-name churches are something that connect well with today's times."
With one out of three churches thinking about developing a new service in a new location, the authors predict that 30,000 American churches will be multi-site within the next few years, and they estimate that one-third of the churches in America could succeed as multi-site congregations.
Summary: A multi-site church is one church sharing a common vision, budget, leadership, and board, meeting in multiple locations. "The purpose of becoming a multi-site church is to make more and better disciples by bringing the church closer to where people are," state the authors.
Whether or not the trend toward multi-site churches is a "revolution" is debatable, but the authors do a good job of capturing the movement and the opportunities it presents to reach and redeem the unchurched masses.
Using specific action steps, practical leadership resources and self-analysis tools, the authors help leaders answer the question, "How could God use our church if we were open to joining this 'revolution'?" Appendices include a directory of the more than 50 multi-site churches cited in the book. Chapter-ending "workouts" help readers think through the material reflectively.
Likely the most useful portions of the book to pastors considering the multi-site model are parts two and three, covering how to become one church in many locations, and what makes multi-site work best, respectively. Readers should be aware that the authors' insights, while not exclusively megachurch in scope, do tend toward the large-scale church model.
"The primary motive behind the multi-site approach is to obey the church's God-given directives." One of the major benefits of multiple sites that the authors mention is that churches are able to spend more money on ministering to people instead of maintaining facilities, a revolutionary idea indeed.
Quote: "The idea of leveraging the latest technology for kingdom service is nothing new. Nor is the pushback, questioning, or occasional controversy raised by such changes."
Reviewer: Sean Fowlds
The Church in the Workplace: How God's People Can Transform Society
By C. Peter Wagner (Regal)
File Under: Missiology
Ideal reader: Business leaders who are looking for validation of their desire to do ministry in the workplace and the church leaders who want to understand them. Rate the book from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent): Practicality (3); Insight (2); Theological Depth (2); Readability (5).
Core message: C. Peter Wagner strongly believes that the primary word from the Spirit to the body of Christ is that of social transformation. Therefore, in his latest book, The Church in the Workplace, Wagner seeks to lay the foundation for receiving that word by introducing readers to the idea that there are actually two primary forms of church: nuclear-church (i.e., the traditional, Sunday morning, meet-in-the-sanctuary crowd) and extended-church (the church that operates in the marketplace).
He says that each has its own "rule book" and that the body of Christ in general (which lives in the nuclear-church world) does not understand the extended-church rule book. The Church in the Workplace is Wagner's attempt to: (1) establish a biblical basis for each form; and (2) explain the rules that extended-church people live by in order to foster more understanding. Wagner believes that the extended-church is the missing key to achieving social transformation.
Summary: The Church in the Workplace is not primarily concerned with theology or doctrine: "My approach is phenomenological. It is not philosophical or theological or exegetical or revelational," Wagner explains.
However, he doesn't reach this conclusion until page 104, meaning that he's spent the first seven chapters taking some "creative license" with orthodox theology, exegesis and revelation in order to get readers to this point. The book itself is rooted in Wagner's recent embrace of "dominion theology" (a concept that may appeal to some readers while leaving others unnerved) and the "prosperity gospel" (perhaps an even more controversial subject). According to the book, Wagner has transitioned to these viewpoints over the last 10 years.
That said, part two is really the heart of the book, as this is where Wagner does what he is best known for, namely using his missiological background to describe the rules that govern the extended-church. Here he tries to clarify ideas such as whether your 9 to 5 is a job or a ministry, the "ministry of making money" and how extended-church leaders differ from the nuclear-church in their approaches to both time and money management. Wagner addresses many of the frustrations felt by business leaders who have adopted an extended-church mind-set but who feel misunderstood and judged by nuclear-church leaders.
Quote: In order to understand Wagner's mandate for dominion (social transformation), he suggests that the body of Christ needs to take a "fresh view of Scripture(s)" such as Luke 19:10 and Matthew 28:19–20.
Luke 19: "Our old paradigm interpretation would make it read, 'to save those who were lost.' But it does not say this. It says 'that which was lost.' What is 'that'? It is dominion over creation."
Matthew 28: "It does not tells us to make disciples of individuals in all the nations. … Instead, we are supposed to make disciples of (nations). The whole … nation … is supposed to be Jesus' collective disciple."
Reviewer: Eric Wilbanks
Transformation: How Glocal Churches Transform Lives and the World
By Bob Roberts Jr. (Zondervan)
File under: Ministry
Ideal reader: That Bob Roberts is a pastor with a heart for other pastors is clear, but anyone with a vested interest in the expansion of God's kingdom on earth would benefit from this book.
Rate the book from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent): Practicality (5); Insight (4); Theological Depth (3); Readability (5).
Core message: The Western Christian has not been persuaded that the church can actually change the world. Most have seen churches learn how to grow big, slick and sophisticated to benefit themselves, but rarely have we seen the church transforming the culture. With Scripture, a pastor's heart and real-life examples, Roberts builds his book upon a radical premise: The church still can change the world!
Summary: Roberts' first three chapters assess the Western church. While expert at "doing church," it has made little difference in society. Like the boy in the "Emperor's New Clothes," Roberts says something few dare to say: "Why so many huge churches, but no transformed communities?" The reader will find Roberts' self-deprecating tone refreshing as he recounts how God changed his heart to care more about the kingdom than the kingdom of his own church."
In chapters four through six, the "T-Life" model is introduced, the approach Roberts' NorthWood Church in Keller, Texas, has used for many years. "T" equals transformation, and this section is worth the cost of the whole book. Roberts lays out the three components of kingdom living: an interactive relationship with God, connections with other believers and "glocal" impact (this is Len Sweet's term for culture, but Roberts uses it to describe how churches should make a "local" and "global" impact). The picture of a transformed life is persuasive and accessible to the reader.
The last section of the book, "T-World: Creating a Church for Transformation" may simultaneously inspire and frustrate readers. The stories of Northwood's radical ministry stir the soul, but there is little material on how to implement such change in other churches. To Roberts' credit, though, he refuses to give us an "add water and mix" approach to kingdom work. The book includes some helpful appendices for practical application. There is no substitute, however, for Roberts' contagious passion—that can't be "formulized."
Quote: Speaking of Gandhi's radically transformative impact on the world, "Something is tragically amiss when a man without Christ can change a nation and Christians who possess the Holy Spirit can't."
Reviewer: Greg Dutcher
Beyond Racial Gridlock: Embracing Mutual Responsibility
By George F. Yancey (InterVarsity Press)
File Under: Culture
Ideal reader: The ideal reader of Beyond Racial Gridlock cannot be limited to one group of people. Every person that picks up this book will learn the history behind their views of other racial groups and understand there isn't one complete answer to combating racism.
Rate the book from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent): Practicality (5); Insight (4); Theological Depth (3); Readability (5).
Core message: Yancey argues that the cultural responsibility of the church includes racism, which continues to be a moral issue. He points out that many mistakenly feel the church should direct its efforts away from reconciliation since institutional racism has waned and minorities are becoming more financially independent.
Yancey expands on four secular models for dealing with racism and proves that these individual models are incomplete answers to reconciliation. The overall message is that the church is accountable to embrace mutual responsibility, and not follow false and incomplete secular models.
Summary: The first five chapters are a methodological way of setting up Yancey's argument for mutual responsibility in the church. Four secular models are critiqued: colorblindness, anglo-conformity, multiculturalism and white responsibility. Yancey gives a brief history of each model along with their strengths and weaknesses.
In the beginning, he suggests that whites are more apt to accept colorblindness and anglo-conformity, while minorities might be more accepting of multiculturalism and white responsibility models. Following each historical critique of the models, Yancey addresses how Christianity promotes the model in one way or another.
In part two of the book, the author constructs a Christian response to racism. Yancey believes Christianity can offer the best solution to racism, but understanding human depravity as our sin nature must be acknowledged before we reach a complete answer.
Eventually, Yancey offers his personal testimony of dealing with racism by revealing he, as a minority, is married to a woman who is a member of the racial majority. This makes the author appear vulnerable to critics who would dismiss the book as a means to sanction his relationship with his wife. But, the author's personal story empowers and affirms his suggestion that we must first look at each other as fallen creatures in order to experience reconciliation with God and each other.
Quote: "Repentance and forgiveness, so important to any interpersonal relationship, are also vital to racial relationships. We need other Christian principles to take us from healing our historic racial sickness to maintaining healthy relationships with each other."
Reviewer: Candace M. Webb