Book Review: Word Centered Church

“Picture it this way. The evangelists or the preacher opens his mouth and utters a word, God’s word. But the word doesn’t sound just once. It bounces or reverberates. It reverberates through the church’s music and prayers. It reverberates through the conversations between elders and members, members and guests, older Christians and younger ones. God’s words bounce around the life of the church, like the metal ball in a pinball machine.

But the reverberating words shouldn’t stop there. The church building doors should open and God’s words should echo out the doors, down the street, and into the member’s homes and workplaces. The reverberations of sound that began in the pulpit should eventually be bouncing off the walls in dining rooms, kitchens, and children’s bedrooms; off gymnasium walls, cubicle dividers, and the insides of city bus windows; through emails, text messages, and internet pages” (22).

The above quotation most beautifully and accurately summarizes the message of Word Centered Church. Jonathan Leeman paints for us a ministry philosophy that is grounded in what God’s Word is and does in the life of the church. God’s Word is an extension of who God is, and it is through his Word that he acts, creates, saves, and sanctifies. Leeman argues that if the Bible is God’s Word, church ministry should primarily be a Word-centered ministry. Everything good flows from the speaking and explaining of God’s Word.

“If the individual heart is freed and given life exclusively through the Word, then priority in the local church must go to Word ministry – sharing the Word, preaching the Word, singing the Word, reading the Word, and praying the Word” (65).

For Leeman, Word ministry starts in the pulpit and then reverberates out into every aspect of church life. In Part 2, he describes what kind of preaching launches forward such a ministry.

“God speaks through us whenever we plainly and moderately relate whatever he has already said in the Bible. Preachers are to expose God’s message simply and directly” (101).

As the gospel is announced and confronts gathered hearers, they are saved, changed, and empowered to then speak the same gospel among themselves and to a lost world. They hear the Word in order to speak the word in a whole host of ways and settings, but they don’t just hear the Word through weekly preaching. Leeman argues, that a Word-centered church ministry philosophy brings the responsibility of intentionality into every aspect of the daily life of the church. In Part 3, Leeman argues that church singing should be Word singing. Church praying should be Word informed praying and church discipling should be Word sharing among a church’s membership. While I agree with all of the proposals in Part 3, I will say that the book somewhat fizzles out in Part 3. The chapters are shorter, and though insightful, perhaps not as well connected to his overall theme as they could have been.


  • Church Ministry is Word Reverberation – Leeman’s analogy of reverberation is helpful. In casting vision for what I hope church life will look like, I want our church not just to be about expositional sermons, but to be an expositional church. I want the Word of God to echo in our conversations in the lobby and throughout the week. I want the Word of God to have finger prints over every thing we do when we gather. I want it to be very obvious where we believe the authority and power is in the church.
  • Intentionality – Though Leeman doesn’t say it exactly like this, one of the takeaways that rise from the book is the need for church leaders to be intentional. If God has really spoken, then how do we steward those divinely spoken words? If God has been intentional to provide us with 66 books of the Bible all with their own genres, voices, and styles, we should be intentional in how we emphasize his Words in everything we do as a church from the prayers we pray, to the songs we sing, to the ministries we highlight.

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