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If you sample Charles Colson's work—read a Christianity Today column one day, listen to a BreakPoint radio commentary another day, attend a Wilberforce Forum worldview conference on another—you could get the impression that his many passions take their turns: he decries postmodernism on Tuesdays, evangelizes prison inmates on Wednesdays, fosters doctrinal discussion with Roman Catholics on Thursdays, denounces judicial activism on Fridays, warns against cloning on Saturdays, and goes to church on Sundays. Fortunately, Being the Body (written with longtime Colson associate Ellen Vaughn) now connects the dots for us.

Being the Body is ostensibly about the church. But it is really a synthesis that ties together Colson's varied strands of interest and advocacy. And the church—the divinely ordained social manifestation of Christ's presence between the Cross and the Second Coming—is at the center of his vision.

The church is the community of the redeemed. As redeemed people, we are given two mandates: the first is to make disciples of all nations, which is something more than what evangelicals conventionally refer to as evangelism. It includes telling people the good news of Jesus' sacrifice and calling them to commit themselves to him. But that is only a first step in disciple making. To be a disciple is to follow a teacher. If Jesus is our teacher, there is much to learn about him and from him, and we learn to live life his way by sustained practice.

Unfortunately, says Colson, many evangelical churches are more given to "recruitment" than to "repentance." Recruitment-oriented churches, he argues, focus more on filling pews than on changing lives. Repentance-oriented churches, on the other hand, are about helping people catch a ...

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Editor's Bookshelf
David Neff
David Neff was editor in chief of Christianity Today, where he worked from 1985 until his retirement in 2013. He is also the former editor in chief of Christian History magazine, and continues to explore the intersection of history and current events in his bimonthly column, "Past Imperfect." His earlier column, "Editor's Bookshelf," ran from 2002 to 2004 and paired Neff's reviews of thought-provoking books and interviews with the authors.
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Connecting Colson's Dots
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In the Magazine

June 2003

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