Belong: Loving Your Church by Reflecting Christ to One Another – Barnabas Piper

Belong: Loving Your Church by Reflecting Christ to One Another by Barnabas Piper (Author), Ray Ortlund (Foreword)
Series: Love Your Church #1
Published by Good Book Company on January 1, 2023
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life
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Building deep community as a fellowship of believers.

Author Barnabas Piper states in the first chapter of his book:

“We are looking for something personal, something deeply meaningful, something with which we can identify. And this book is an invitation to find that in the church, because God wants us to …Part of God’s perfect strategy is offering hurting, tired, worn out, needy sinners like you and me a place to belong in … A place in which to encounter the profound, transformative, healing, restoring grace of Jesus Christ.”

This book explores how you can help to create a church where everybody feels at home: a place where fellow believers build genuine, honest, meaningful Christian relationships and enjoy deep fellowship as a community of believers.

You may be a new believer and wonder what it means to belong to a church; you may be reluctant to commit to your church because of past experiences; you may have recently relocated and want to find a church where you feel at home; or you may love your church and desire to commit to it more deeply and serve it more fully. Whatever the case, this book will help you to see that belonging to a church is a good gift from God, the outworking of our identity as brothers and sisters in Christ, and worth your time, love, and commitment.

In this book, Barnabas Piper explores how Christians can experience belonging and build meaningful relationships in their local churches. He begins by sharing a story about his experience visiting a new church while suffering from a recent divorce and looking for a new church home. He shares that even though he felt like giving up on spiritual community, that church welcomed him the way that he was and made space for his negative feelings. Piper acknowledges how difficult it can be to truly connect with fellow church members, and shares biblical teaching and practical ideas to encourage readers and help them create a culture of belonging at church.

Belong: Loving Your Church by Reflecting Christ to One Another is the best book from the Love Your Church series, in my opinion, because of the author’s heartfelt personal story and honesty about his own cynicism about the church at times. Also, although it may bother some people that Piper refers to institutional, systematic harm by a church as “rare,” he helpfully differentiates between being hurt in the church from being hurt by the church, and shares reflection questions and action steps for processing your relationship to the church as a whole and other individuals in church.

Piper also includes helpful advice for when and how to leave a church due to a toxic church culture, or because of logistical or preferential reasons. One of my usual critiques of church-related books is that even though they may acknowledge reasons for leaving a church, they rarely walk you through how to approach this in real life. I appreciate Piper’s attention to this neglected issue, and his thoughtful, logical advice for how to process different situations. Overall, I would recommend this book to people who are looking to deepen their view of church community or are recovering from a difficult church situation.