Book Review: The Church, by Erin Wheeler


Erin Wheeler, The Good Portion: The Church. Christian Focus, 2022. 223 pages.


Erin Wheeler does a wonderful job of both defending the doctrine of the church and describing its beauty in her book The Church. Erin and her husband, Brad, live in Fayetteville, Arkansas where Brad is the pastor at University Baptist Church. It wasn’t lost on me that this resource was written by a pastor’s wife, one who would be intimately familiar with the messiness and complexities of church life and yet who rightly praises the glorious work that God is doing through his church.

This book is part of The Good Portion series edited by Keri Folmar. The series is “written specifically for women to immerse themselves in the depths of Christian doctrine,” and that’s what Wheeler does so well. And she does so while providing many illustrations along the way that relate particularly to women. Each chapter closes with a number of thought-provoking questions, making it an excellent resource for one-on-one or small group discussion.


Part One provides the definition of a church. As Wheeler states in the intro, “My deepest desire in writing this book is that you come away realizing God has very clear things to say in his Word about his church that should not be disregarded” (16). Wheeler traces the theme of the people of God through both the Old and New Testaments, arguing that “God has always been about his glory and his reputation as tied to a particular people. This gospel witness of the church is God’s idea” (33). This matters at a foundational level. If the church is God’s idea, then we need to submit to all of his instructions for how it is to operate, trusting that he knows best how it will flourish and demonstrate his glory.

From there, Wheeler explains the mission of the church: “The primary and most fundamental purpose of the church is the glorification of the Lord Jesus Christ. We do that through our corporate worship, our ministry to one another in discipleship, and our evangelism to the world” (47). As we each turn increasingly from the idols of our heart to worship God and as we love one another because of the unity we share in Christ, our witness to a watching world grows brighter and stronger.

One of many compelling illustrations Wheeler uses is at the beginning of her chapter on church membership. She describes the “spark” ignited in our hearts by God’s love but how a spark will fade unless it is combined with other sparks. When the sparks are brought together, they have the potential to be a roaring fire. This is one illustration of the church, filled out by many others in Scripture: the church is the family of God, the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, the dwelling place of God. And church membership—which is a covenant made between Christians—is like the cement. Wheeler then states, “As believers we are united because of Christ’s work on the cross for all those who turn from their sin and trust in Christ. But only together do we fully display his triune deity to the watching world” (85).

In Part Two, Wheeler builds upon these foundational truths about the church and moves to describe more specific elements of what the church looks like, such as:

  • being devoted to Scripture through the preaching, singing, reading, and praying that happens each week;
  • how the ordinances of the Lord’s Supper and baptism uniquely and visibly demonstrate our union with Christ and with one another;
  • the importance of the unity of the church (founded on Christ alone) and even of church discipline;
  • congregationalism and the qualifications and roles of elders and deacons;
  • the kind of “one-anothering” that should mark a community of believers as we lay our lives down for each other.


1. You Cannot Love What You Do Not Know

This book—and the entire series—is an encouraging move towards women knowing doctrine more deeply. Why does it matter that women grow in their understanding of God and his Word? Because we cannot love what we do not know.

Wheeler states her objective in the introduction that every woman who reads this book would not only grow in her understanding, but also her love of the church. I can speak personally that my love for my own local church and the bride of Christ grew as I reflected on the many nuances and truths about the church.

2. Christianity Is a Personal Thing, but It Isn’t Private

Wheeler repeats this phrase multiple times, making it a drumbeat throughout the book. It reminds women that our relationship with God is personal, but it was always designed to overflow into the life of a community of saints. Church is not an event we attend on Sundays; it’s a living body of Christians we are brought into by faith in Christ. There’s no such thing as a lone Christian.

3. We Have a Job to Do

Seeing the beauty of God’s design in the church should not leave us passively appreciative. Rather, it should compel us to get creative about how we can better serve, love, and guard our own churches. Wheeler provides a host of practical applications, from practicing hospitality creatively and intentionally (209), expressing thanks to our elders (185), praying for one another (214), examining yourself before taking the Lord’s Supper (137), practicing evangelism together (61), and admonishing one another in love even when it’s hard (148).


In summary, Wheeler’s book is a solid and practical resource for any woman who desires to grow in her understanding of the church. Not only will it help you better understand the church as God designed her, but it will also compel you to love, serve, and invite others into the church. As she expresses in the conclusion of the book,

A day is coming when all the shadows will be removed and we will see clearly that which we have been longing for all our lives. We will see the face of Christ together. The wedding day with our bridegroom will commence.

But not yet. Right now we are living in the dress rehearsal of that day. The anticipation is high, the people are gathering, but more must join us! Won’t you invite them to the rehearsal to come and see, hear, and experience a little glimpse of what it will be like one day? (223)

Rachel Ware

Rachel Ware is Director of Mobilization for Reaching and Teaching and a member of Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, KY.

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