Are you committed to building a strong local church in a post-Christian context, but unsure what’s possible, or how to go about it?
What Church Can Be was written for you.
Pastor and church planter Matthew Kruse’s deeply loved hometown of Boston is a decidedly secular city where the gospel is primarily met with disinterest or disdain. The average Bostonian – wounded by one of the worst scandals in American church history and convinced that they have no need for “religion” – is out on church. And yet, by God’s grace, Kruse has not only helped birth a beautiful and viable church that is thriving among the locals there, but he’s also helped build a family of contextualized churches who are loving and leading New Englanders to the grace of the gospel.
In What Church Can Be, Kruse fuses theological exposition with personal memoir and a bevy of helpful blueprints into an optimistic and executable vision for leaders who are seeking to build healthy church cultures that foster gospel advance.
Matthew Kruse is the founding pastor of Seven Mile Road, a gospel-centered church just north of Boston. He and his wife Grace have four sons and daughters whom you'd love. Along with a handful of locals, Kruse planted the original Seven Mile Road in 2001 and has seen it become a family of churches stretching from Maine to the Cape. His work has been featured by The Gospel Coalition, Acts 29, Advance Initiative, and SEND Network. He doesn't drink coffee, own skinny jeans, or know how Pilates work, but he does love the gospel, his family, the church, and a pickup game here and there.
So good. I may be biased because I lived and pastored with Matt through much of this book. But I have not ever read a book with this combination of pastoral theology and raw intensity. There's nothing theoretical here. A book to repent with, a book to get inspired with, and a book to work through with your team as you solidify your church's local mission. A profound book that deserves a wide audience.
It’s important to learn biblical truth, but it’s even more valuable to see biblical truth lived out. We need more than principles; we need examples.
I’m grateful for books on church planting and pastoral ministry, and I’ve learned a lot from them. Some books lean toward the truth side; they’re helpful because they’re timeless. Some books lean toward the application side; they’re helpful because they’re practical. What we really need, though, is both.
In other words, we need a book like this.
A THEOLOGICAL VISION
What Church Can Be is an extended exposition of Paul’s address to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20.
“No other text has influenced my theological vision for planting and pastoring churches more than this inspired transcript Luke gave us,” writes Kruse. “The first time I memorized these words, I wept as I repented and begged God to mark our ministry with the same fervency, integrity, courage, intimacy, and grace that I saw in Paul’s. Almost every strand in the DNA of Seven Mile Road Church can be traced back to these words, so I’ve built this book accordingly. Every chapter anchors to and meditates on a phrase from Paul’s speech.”
It’s clear that Kruse has steeped his soul in Paul’s words. “To whatever degree the husks of my stories, reflections, and illustrations house the true meaning of his words, that’s the degree to which this book will be helpful,” he writes. “The way forward for Christians is always the way backward to the eternal truths revealed in Scripture.” This is not a book on Kruse’s ideas, nor is it appropriated from the latest books and gurus. It’s a biblical look at what pastors are called to be and do.
What Church Can Be is a biblical exposition, but it’s also a memoir of an ordinary pastor. Kruse planted Seven Mile Road Church, a small church that has become eight. He pastors in Boston, “an absurdly expensive, rabidly liberal, post-Christian city where the gospel is increasingly met with disinterest or disdain. Rapid, Instagramable church growth doesn’t happen here.” His church probably looks a little like yours. Kruse works another job to pay the bills. He’s familiar with the realities and pressures that most pastors face.
It’s refreshing to read a book by an ordinary pastor. I can relate to his stories. We can learn from anyone, but it really helps to learn from someone who’s pastoring in a context like ours.
A FIELD GUIDE
What Church Can Be is also a field guide. “The gospel’s advance in post-Christian America hinges on the willingness and ability of the next generation of pastors to build biblically faithful, missionally focused churches among distinct people groups,” Kruse writes. “This book is a field guide for how we’ve done it. Each chapter not only presses a big theological truth but also articulates some real-life ways to flesh that truth out.”
It’s trickier to do this than it sounds. Kruse succeeds. I love what I’ve learned about Seven Mile Road Church and how they’re applying Paul’s theological vision in their context. I’ve dog-eared a lot of pages and plan on going back to apply the lessons in these pages.
BONUS: IT’S FUN
Kruse knows how to write. His personality pops off the page. He is a master at sentences like “They were more excited than Bernie Sanders voting on a tax hike.” This book reads like you’re sitting across the table from a friend. It’s a fun book to read.
If you are a pastor, elder, church planter, or someone who wants to contribute to the health and faithfulness of your church — and I hope that includes all of us — I think you’ll profit from this book. And you’ll enjoy it too.
“I’ve watched Jesus—through the humble efforts of a relentless, motley crew of men and women—build a gospel-believing, truth-loving, life-sharing, hospitality-showing, culture-crossing, church-planting church that people love being a part of,” Kruse writes. “If you want to lead or be a part of a church like this but aren’t sure it can happen, this book is for you.”
I’m one of the most biased reviewer for this book. I work on staff doing gospel work with Seven Mile & Matt (the author). When I read this, I was both convicted and encouraged. Convicted of my own prayerlessness and self-sufficiency but also encouraged that I really am in a church that is animated and dependent on the gospel really being true. This book flows out of the Spirits work not only in Matt but also in our church community. Read, pray, apply with your leaders. Highly recommended.
What Church Can Be will make you experience so many emotions; laughter, tears, heartfelt reflection, wondering and so much more. This book is about what church and life can be when everyone makes the choice to be on mission for making the gospel the center of their lives. The author is genuine, honest, Bostonian without apology, godly, and reflective as he pens for us the experience of planting a church in the heart of Boston. At one point he says, "tears are the language of 'this matters,'" and if you wanted to see the difference an invested soul can make in the life of people, a community and a group of churches then read this book.
If you are a church planter looking to contextualize your setting & you are seeking to mobilize your people to be a disciple making church, then this is your book. If you are a parishioner and are wondering about your role in the life of the church, then read this book. If you are uncertain about where you are in life, if you doubt God even exists, then read this tome and see how a church can be when people make a conscious decision to live life to God's glory. This book hides nothing; in it you will see the ugliness of sin, the joy of obeying God, the power of God at work and the relentless pursuit of depending on God in order to fulfill the mission before us all; to help grow a church full of disciple makers.
I’ve been in church planting for almost ten years now, and have met a lot of jaded, cynical, burnout, and weary church planters. So it’s rare when you read a book by someone in a really hard context for a really long time providing an optimistic vision for What The Church Can Be (and not telling the secret to their magachurch success story!). Matthew Kruse offers a unique contribution that is part exegesis of Acts 20:18-35 (Paul’s Farewell Address to the Ephesians Elders), part memoir and church planting journey, and part love affair for ministry in the greater Boston area. I was encouraged, challenged, and laughed out loud on numerous occasions as he recounted the agonies and glories of church planting. Instead of high-level strategy or a sophisticated philosophy of ministry Matt offers simple ministry principles coming fresh out of the Apostles Paul’s heart and tested in the fires of church planting in New England. If you are in need of a fresh vision for What The Church Can Be with all the challenges presented by our cultural moment I can’t recommend this book highly enough.
Was incredibly challenged by this. Kruse sort of exposits Paul's departure from the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 as a portrait of "what church can be." It challenges me as a pastor to grow in areas I didn't even realize I was weak in, and challenges me as a church planter to build Christ's Church up to par with His building instructions.
Besides that, Kruse has an easy style to read and he makes everything viscerally real with his stories. He could have titled each chapter a particular phrase from the passage, but the stories and imagery helped to remember. I recommend.
Incredibly helpful and insightful. Laced with stories of humility and God receiving glory. Every pastoral ministry leader and church planter should read this book with an expectancy of repentance, joy, and readiness as a result.
This book was such a perfect blend of memoir, guide book and call to greater things. It is not just for church planters but anyone who takes Christ's call to go into all the world seriously. I felt encouraged, nostalgic (as a Bostonian) and inspired to repent. Well written.
This is a ‘blue collar’s’ guide to church planting. It is direct, doesn’t hold back on the joys, difficulties and impossibilities. It’s written by a seasoned practitioner and will be helpful to elders who want to plant new churches or move their church to a new degree of biblical health.