Word-Centered Church: a book review

Upon my marriage, I ended 22 years spent as a member of an established denomination, in churches steeped in tradition handed down for 400 years, and joined a non-denominational church plant barely three years old at the time. There is rigorous scriptural teaching in both places, but the change has come with extreme culture shock for me, requiring me again and again to consider what things are essentials for a church, and what things are not. Thus, when I saw that Moody offered Jonathan Leeman’s book Word-Centered Church: How Scripture Brings Life and Growth to God’s People for its Blogger Review Program, I was excited to have someone outside my circles help me consider the essential things.


In case his title didn’t give it away, Leeman’s primary goal for the book is to show “how uniquely essential [God’s Word] is” as “God’s primary instrument for growing God’s church” (18). In contrast to church growth stratagems involving programs, stylistic changes, and things people do, Leeman suggests that church growth comes through hearing God’s Word — in sermons, readings, songs, and prayers. “Christianity,” he says, “begins not with what we do, but with the announcement of what God has done” (19). Thus, Leeman calls churches away from the desperate search for the next new thing, and back “to stuff that is really old, really good, and really powerful” (23).

Leeman begins with an exposition of how God works through his Word, moving to explain how the Word separates church from world, works in individual hearts, and works in the church. The middle chapters of his book deal with the specific role of the Word-centered sermon in church life, while his concluding chapters explain what the church should do with the Word — sing it, pray it, live it with one another, and scatter it abroad!

In every chapter, Leeman calls toward a substantial, scripture-soaked church life, echoing Paul’s call to the Colossian church: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly . . .” (Col. 3:16). His style is simple and engaging, using personal stories and illustrations to drive home biblically-grounded arguments for a biblically-grounded church.

It’s a testament to the solidity of my churches, past and present, that Leeman’s arguments were not surprising to me, but affirmations of what I already knew to be true. Still, it was helpful to have someone walk carefully through the reasons behind the essentials, and to be reminded that the church’s mission to the world is not ultimately for the good of the world, but for the glory of God. Though I wouldn’t go so far as to call the book essential reading for every believer, it’s an excellent push toward what is essential, and, as such, I have no hesitations in recommending it.

©2017 by Stacy Crouch

Five Minute Friday: blessing


He doesn’t want to sleep tonight. Ten months old, exhausted, and hard-headed, all oblivious to the boon of bed time. Daddy took over, and as I listen to my son raging against sleep, I remember it: “This is the blessing.”

That children are a gift from the Lord is easy to remember when he snuggles sweetly against me, when he obeys swiftly, when he does any of the adorable things that make him him. And then we’re all three weary and he won’t sleep, and it’s not that I forget he’s a blessing, but I don’t feel immediate thankful thoughts in these times.

But we’re supposed to give thanks in all things, aren’t we? And I’d rather be kept awake a million times with him, than sleep and not be his mommy.


Linking up with Five Minute Friday — for the first time in a long time — to write on the prompt, blessing. The button above will take you to the link-up.

©2017 by Stacy Crouch


Five Minute Friday: future

I walked down the aisle to “O God Beyond All Praising,” a magnificent poem by Michael Perry, set to Holtst’s magnificent “Jupiter” theme.


The second verse says:

Then hear, O gracious Savior, accept the love we bring,
That we, who know your favor, may serve you as our King.
And whether our tomorrows be filled with good or ill,
We’ll triumph through our sorrows and rise to bless you still,
To marvel at your beauty, and glory in your ways,
And make a joyful duty our sacrifice of praise.

“Our tomorrows.” I worry about those. On our first date, my man told me of his rather audacious dream to move one day to a place that terrifies me. I prayed and questioned and said “yes,” and walked down the aisle to sing that song. But I still worry.

And when I imagine various futures, they don’t look like triumphing through sorrows — the potential sorrows are much much too large for me to envision any triumphs this side of glory. Isn’t that the point, though, in Hebrews 11? “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar . . . they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one.”

There is triumph in that better country, surely. But also grace in the here and now. Not yet for any imagined sorrows, but grace enough for every sorrow that becomes a reality.

A friend recently told me how she wants to live “an impossible life.” To be able to look back and say that she could never ever have done it apart from the grace of God.

I like to live comfortably within my own perceived abilities, with that grace as a safety net, but unnecessary. Foolish me! As if apart from grace I could accomplish one heartbeat of my own making.

But His grace is sufficient. He makes His beauty shine through the sorrows, so that we may marvel at ways higher and more glorious than ours, so that He, “the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God,” receives “honor and glory forever and ever.” (1 Tim. 1:17)



Today I join the FIRST link up on Five Minute Friday’s new website! Use the button above to read more on this week’s prompt, future.

©2017 by Stacy Crouch

five minute friday (on saturday): mom


He’s crawling now — all over the floor and under the furniture, examining the minute crumbs, the carpet fibers, and whatever else he can find. I pursue him with voice and hands: don’t touch the power cords, don’t crinkle the book pages: no, and no again.

And he crawls to me, pulls himself up into my lap, lays his head on my chest, my knee. I couldn’t have anticipated this: how now that he’s free to go where wants, he comes to me. How I love him.

In the car last night we played an old mix cd I threw together for a road trip a few years back, when I had no suspicion of husband and baby coming so soon, when my heart grieved and yearned, and I needed those hours alone on the highway to gain perspective and hope.

And now, such joy.

But the hope of then was not in the potential for motherhood, however sweet. Nor could this now be so sweet if it were the center of my hopes. Paul says that “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19). The hope Paul means? Resurrection. The dead are raised. Christ is raised. We shall be raised.

All the griefs and yearnings — some of which will never be answered in this life — find their answer in that resurrection. And that resurrection makes sense only in light of the grief of now.

Because even this joy, motherhood, comes tinged with the grief of love, the yearning of it. And as much now as then, I need a surer hope.

Mine, in Christ.


Linking up with Kate Motaung for her Five Minute Friday free-write on the prompt mom. The “mom” button above leads to her site.

©2017 by Stacy Crouch

Five Minute Friday: more


We were back at the grocery store yesterday because we were out of coffee. But I’m always running out of something, always needing more.

More sleep. More time. More energy.

More courage. More patience. More joy.

And my baby? He seems always to be wanting more of me. Not naps, just Mommy’s undivided attention.

I’m learning, but I’m not good at giving him that. So quick to see my list of chores and responsibilities, and put him on that list. He’s not a chore, though, not an item on my to-do list: he’s a person, with all the same person-needs I have — needs for love and smiles and conversation. The need to feel like a person and not a chore.

I run out of myself so often. Need more to keep going.

But my Father never runs out. In answer to all my needs He gives more of Himself.

He doesn’t cross me off His to-do list. His eyes are on me. His ear is open. His right hand holds me up, and His very breath keeps me breathing.

For my many needs, He pours out more grace, again, and again, and again.


Linking up for Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday today. The “more” button above carries you to her site.

©2017 by Stacy Crouch

ephemera. eternity.


The first blossom is high in the magnolia tree beside our house, and down in the woodsy bit at the back of the yard there’s something white showing up against the dusk. I suspect dogwood, but will have to investigate tomorrow.

There’s still a red mark on my arm from baby’s head — recently surrendered to the safety of his crib — and the chilliness which replaced his warm little body against mine has necessitated a cup of hot chocolate, even on this 80-something degree day of our Mississippi spring.

In the past three days he’s sprouted a third tooth, gotten himself from lying down to sitting up without help, and taken his first few crawling “steps.”

I am learning so many things. About the sheer physicality of motherhood. About how many more things one can do in a day than I used to think possible. About my fearful heart, my small faith, my mighty Father.

It’s hard to put words to these lessons, hard to find quiet spaces in which to even put thoughts to them. I used to go out with a leather book bag, filled with journal, pens, laptop, books. Now I move through the mental checklist of diapers, wipes, sippy cup, snack, stroller, paci, some toy or other . . . . Once I stood in high-heeled shoes at the front of a classroom, read heady poems and wrote on a white board, asked my students to explain the gospel. Now I’m barefoot on the living room floor, singing nonsense songs and trying to teach the tiny reaching hands “no no,” living that gospel I used to glibly explain: my life for his.

When I am full of fears, my husband comforts me with the sovereignty and goodness of God. And that same sovereignty sometimes shakes me to my core: He who did not spare His own Son — temporal comfort and safety don’t top His priority list, do they? But that goodness? He who did not spare His own Son — what further evidence do I need of His love?

But He’s given me so many evidences: the magnolia and the baby’s contented breathing and the delight of crawling back into my bed in the middle of the night. And the promise of mercy new with each morning. I don’t have mercy yet for the mornings that aren’t here yet. But the mercy of today helps me to look from my fears to His goodness. Again. And again. And again. And to still be afraid. And to still trust Him.

©2017 by Stacy Crouch

Five Minute Friday: define

“And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day” Genesis 1:4, 5

Day One of creation. Separation. Definition. These things are different — light and darkness — and by their differences we can recognize and define them. Neither means anything without the other. We define them by their positive qualities, but also by what they are not. Light is not darkness. Darkness is not light. They are different as Day and Night.

And this, this is part of what it means to define a thing. To draw the line showing what it is not, so that we can see what it is. To define is necessarily an exclusive act, not unkindly, but pragmatically.

All things are not the same, and in order to function, to communicate, to exist, we have to recognize those differences — not in value, but in kind.

So that when I say that I am one thing and not another, I do not mean that another is necessarily bad. I mean that I cannot be all things, and that to be anything at all is not to be most other things.

This is not my idea: God wove it into the fabric of the world from the beginning of time. And He — He declared it good.


Linking up with Kate Motaung for her Five Minute Friday today, writing on her prompt, define. The “define” button above will take you to her site.

©2017 by Stacy Crouch