Professor Publishes Book on “Why We Need the Church to Become More Like Jesus”
In his seventh book, Biola Talbot School of Theology professor Joseph Hellerman presents a holistic view of the importance of church community for spiritual life and growth. The book, Why We Need the Church to Become More Like Jesus: Reflections about Community, Spiritual Formation, and the Story of Scripture, published in Fall 2017, is a culmination of his life’s work of study and research.
“American consumerism and radical individualism have socialized us to view the church as a commodity that exists to meet our personal spiritual needs,” said Hellerman. “Why I Need The Church forcefully challenges this destructive cultural narrative by emphasizing the communal, other-directed orientation of New Testament Christianity: ‘I am here for the church; the church is not here for me.’”
Hellerman, who teaches New Testament language and literature, spent his career as a scholar studying the social history of early Christianity and has been a pastor in a local church. His two previous books that apply his academic research to church life — When The Church Was A Family and Embracing Shared Ministry — are more narrow in focus. This book offers a more holistic view.
According to Hellerman, in recent decades, American evangelicals have traded community, outreach, and the Bible's teaching about eternity future for the pursuit of individual religious experience in the here-and-now. Why We Need the Church to Become More Like Jesus traces this departure from biblical Christianity through recent decades of popular evangelical trends and reminds readers that faith centered on community, mission, and the storyline of Scripture remains the key to the spiritual formation of the individual Christian.
“I would hope that current and future Christian leaders (pastors, ministry leaders, small group leaders, youth leaders, etc.) would read the book,” said Hellerman. “What I'd like them to take away is a biblical view of church and spiritual formation.”
Hellerman has taught at Talbot for more than a decade and ministered in the church most of his adult life. He has authored three academic monographs: The Ancient Church as Family (Fortress Press, 2001), Reconstructing Honor in Roman Philippi (Cambridge University Press, 2005) and Jesus and the People of God: Reconfiguring Ethnic Identity (Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2007). In addition to teaching, he presently serves as co-pastor at Oceanside Christian Fellowship in El Segundo.
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