the weblog of Alan Knox

New Book about Church as Family

Posted by on Aug 22, 2009 in books, community | 8 comments

For the last few weeks, I’ve been looking for a book that I can review. I want to write more book reviews, but I also have to be very careful with my time. Since I’m working and writing my prospectus/dissertation, I don’t have alot of spare time.

So, I was very excited to find a new book in the bookstore last week. The book is Joseph H. Hellerman’s When the Church was a Family (Nashville: B&H, 2009). The subtitle of this book is “Recapturing Jesus’ Vision for Authentic Christian Community.”

My blogging friend Joe (JR) from “More than Cake” introduced me to Hellerman and his book The Ancient Church as Family about a year ago (see my post “Church as Family“). In that book, I enjoyed Hellerman’s understanding of the church as family as the church’s primary identity in Christ.

I think I will enjoy this new book as well. The subtitle indicates that Hellerman is going to propose familial relationships among the church as the basis of community. If so, I agree.

I’m also excited that the first line of the book (in the introduction) is this: “Spiritual formation occurs primarily in the context of community.” I agree again! And, in fact, I think this statement (if true) indicates why so many in the church remain spiritually immature – no community!

While I plan to write a critical book review of this book (hopefully for publication), I will publish some of my thoughts on this blog. Hopefully, it will encourage all of us to understand better who we are as the family of God – both in relation to God and in relation to one another.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 8-22-2009

    I was in the ThM section of Joe’s class, The Church as Family, when he was working on that book. We had the privilege of reading a draft and some of the research behind it. The research and careful work behind this book is impressive and convincing.

    Great class. Great prof. And, I’m sure, a great book. I’ll be putting it on my wishlist for sure.

  2. 8-23-2009

    Glad I could turn you on to Joe Hellerman.

    My experience is just like yours Laura.

    Joe had a 24 page Monograph that shared this title published at Biola a few years back. The paper shared this same title as the current book. Joe said he was working on this book a few years back during my Doctoral course. It will be interesting to see how he kept the substance while making it more readable to the average reader. I look forward to your review 🙂

  3. 8-23-2009

    J. R.,

    I’m just starting a doctoral program (next Wednesday, to be exact), so that review may not show up until December, when I get to come up for a bit of air.

    I am looking forward to the book and to see “how he kept the substance while making it more readable to the average reader.”

    The draft was not for the average reader, to be sure.

  4. 8-25-2009

    I wonder if this is available in the UK?

    Church as family is something I’ve believed and even practiced for some time now, and it would be interesting to see a theology of it from outside the stream we’re part of (salt & light).

  5. 8-29-2009

    Alan, I really appreciate the time you’re taking to read my book (When the Church Was a Family) and to dialogue about it on your blog. May God guide you and bless you through your doctoral program at SEBTS. You couldn’t be studying a more engaging and meaningful topic than the Christian church…well, maybe, the life of Jesus! 🙂

    To Laura, above: the draft you read in class in Fall ’06 became an academic monograph titled Jesus and the People of God: Reconfiguring Ethnic Identity (Sheffield Phoenix, 2007). The book Alan is referring to here is a more accessible version of an earlier book (The Ancient Church as Family), which you also read for the course. The new one is designed for pastors and other local church leaders.

  6. 8-29-2009

    I’ve read The Ancient Church, and I really enjoyed it also. I’ve also found that its impossible to study the church without studying the life of Jesus. 🙂


  7. 8-30-2009


    I suspect When the Church Was a Family is available somewhere in the UK. I have been told that Andrew Clarke (NT prof at Aberdeen) is reviewing it for the Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology.


  8. 8-31-2009


    Good stuff either way. And great idea reconfiguring The Ancient Church as Family for pastors,etc! It did so much to expand my thinking on church, I’m glad to see it getting a new life.

    About the monograph: I was wondering how you condensed that one. (btw, I won’t be adding that one to my buy list…sorry, it’s a bit pricey and I just started a Ph.D. (no time)…but I’ll check it out in the library some time; it would be good to see the final product and give it a whirl).


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