What comes to mind when you think of the church? Do fond memories begin flooding your mind as you remember how your church has been a source of encouragement and solace in a world in flux? Conversely, are you flooded with bad memories of ways that you were hurt by church members or people who claimed to be followers of Christ? If you have been a Christian for longer than a few months, then likely both of these types of memories come to mind. The church is, Biblically speaking, the bride of Christ, arrayed in beautiful and grace. In a fallen world , however, she has not yet been perfected as she will be in eternity. For this reason, the church is a place of solace and spiritual growth doing much good in the world. Unfortunately, however, the church has also been a source of pain and dissolution. Yet for all her sins and shortcomings, the church has been washed by the blood of Christ and is a place of rest for weary souls. For this reason, she is truly lovely. This is what Dr. Dustin Benge discusses in his book The Loveliest Place: The Beauty and Glory of the Church (Crossway, 2022).

In the book Dr. Benge, who has has been a part of churches in both America and the UK, portrays a beautiful portrait of the bride of Christ. He is careful to speak of the church as a living organism and not an organization. There is no shortage of books that provide tips and ideas for church growth. The Loveliest Place is not one of those books. Dr. Benge discusses several aspects of the church that sets her apart from other human organizations.

First and foremost, the church was started by God. Long before Jesus commissioned the Apostles to make disciples of all nations, God the Father was setting apart a people for his treasured possession. She has been redeemed by the blood of Christ and is empowered for mission by the power of the Spirit working in and through her members. The church is a buttress of truth, led by biblically qualified yet imperfect shepherds who feed the people of the good news of Jesus as revealed in holy writ. The bride of Christ is made up of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. Yet, she must be unified so that she can walk worthy of her calling.

The church is God’s plan A to fulfill his mission in the world. There is no plan B. He has redeemed his people and calls them to love and serve one another. The Christian faith is impossible without the church. She is necessary for personal and collective discipleship. Followers of Christ were not meant to go it alone. Even for all her many failures, the church is Gods best hope for the world. Dr. Benge’s portrait of the church in The Loveliest Place is very compelling. It is a refreshing reminder of what the church is and can be at her best.

If ever there is a moment in history for a clear understanding of what the church is and her function in the world, the time is now. The Loveliest Place provides a clear, biblical understanding of the church. In light of recent “high profile” cases of pastoral impropriety and the on going issues related to the coronavirus pandemic, the church has fallen on difficult times. Yet thankfully, Jesus promised that not even the gates of hell would prevail against her (Matthew 16:18). It is for these very reasons that the church was established. The church is a place of refuge for weary souls to find rest at the feet of Jesus. Despite all her faults, she is beautiful and lovely. Her bridegroom has shed his own blood for her. By his grace she will endure and be presented to him blameless.

Editor’s Note: Reading for the Glory received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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