The Paroikos Bible Blog exists as a resource to those interested in Biblical studies and Koine Greek. It is hoped that this blog will simultaneously provide food-for-thought to the reader while pointing him or her in the direction of valuable resources, both in print and on the internet, that will further help his or her studies in the Word.

Oct 5, 2023

Guest post: Devon Swanson reviews The Local Church: God's Plan for Planet Earth (by Jim Gent)

 As I (Paul Himes) continue to cheer for my beloved Texas Rangers in the MLB post-season, I am posting here a book review by my former research assistant Devon Swanson. The book is The Local Church: God's Plan for Planet Earth by Jim Gent of Garden State Baptist Church (North Fort Myers, FL: Faithful Life, 2012). We had received a free copy of this book a few years ago, and I figured it would be a good exercise for my research assistant to craft a book review. The following is Devon's work, with some editorial adjustments by me.

Devon Swanson’s review of THE LOCAL CHURCH: GOD’S PLAN FOR PLANET EARTH, by Jim Gent.

Published in 2012 by Faithful Life Publishers|112 pages


Jim Gent is currently the senior pastor at Garden State Baptist Church in Old Bridge, NJ. He has a long history of both planting and developing churches, and his writings adequately reflect his experience. Besides The Local Church: God’s Plan for Planet Earth, Gent has also written another book entitled The Pilgrim and the Lamb. Even at a glance, these books radiate the author’s conviction and sincerity in dealing with key issues he considers important. In the case of The Local Church, Gent addresses the role of the church in completing God’s program in the world. As a pastor, he is a fitting spokesman for this topic. Gent describes the goal of his book as follows: “To assist believers in getting a Biblical view of the church by stepping aside and letting the Bible speak” (pg. vii).

Before the start of Chapter 1, Gent shares a helpful disclaimer in his opening introduction. He begins by describing himself as a “busy pastor” who makes no claims for “literary excellence.” Additionally, he assures the reader that his book is not “a complex theological treatise” nor is it “exhaustive” in its material (pg. vii). As it seems, Gent tries to distance himself as much as possible from being perceived as a scholar or any kind of leading authority on the local church. This honest introduction will prove to be invaluable as the remainder of the book is reviewed.

As far as the audience for The Local Church, Gent is very clear regarding whom he intends to reach. This is especially evident as he lists his various intentions for the book: to “help new converts get headed in the right direction, stimulate believers to realize the primacy of the church, foster Biblical thinking among Christian High School and Bible College students..., and incite Bible-teaching and Bible-preaching about ‘the pillar and ground of the truth’” (pg. vii). Gent does well here in identifying the scope of his book as being primarily a guide and not an academic resource. While his experience as a pastor gives him ample qualification to exegete and exhort, his distance from academia as a whole impedes his work from becoming a standard textbook on the subject of ecclesiology. The message that Gent’s book presents becomes much more powerful as it is studied in its proper context.


The Local Church is 112 pages long with 16 chapters divided into 3 parts. Chapters 1–11 form Part I, which is entitled “Characteristics.” This section aims to describe what a biblical, local church should look like. Chapters in this section have titles such as “New Testament Church Members Were Saved” (ch. 1), “New Testament Church Members Had Spiritual Pastors and Supportive Deacons” (ch. 8), and “New Testament Church Members Were Persecuted” (ch. 11). Chapters 12–13 make up Part II, which is entitled “Importance.” This section addresses the significance of the church in God’s program. The names of the 2 chapters are “The Primacy of the Local Church” (ch. 12) and “The Local Church: God’s Only Program for Planet Earth” (ch. 13). Part III includes Chapters 14–16 and is entitled “Obligations.” These pages deal with a few of the church’s responsibilities that belong to each of its members. The titles of these 3 chapters are “New Testament Church Members Were Identified” (ch. 14), “New Testament Church Members Were Faithful” (ch. 15), and “New Testament Church Members Were Generous” (ch. 16). Gent addresses a vast array of themes in an already broad topic. As a result, his time spent on each one is considerably brief. Though some deeper thoughts exist throughout the study, The Local Church is predominantly a basic overview of the role of the church as seen in the Bible.


If the entirety of this review dealt only with whether or not the author fulfilled his book’s purpose, the answer would be a simple “yes.” As intended, Gent created a work that gives believers focused insight on the biblical teachings surrounding the church. It strongly points to the primacy of the church and is inspirational to both students and preachers alike. Even unbelievers can benefit from this book by reading the Gospel message found in the first chapter and learning how salvation is a requirement for church membership. Gent effectively achieves the desired goals of his book by biblically presenting the church in an inspiring light to both new and seasoned believers.

That being said, The Local Church is not without its share of mistakes. Although Gent’s disclaimer in the book’s introduction both forewarned and pardoned many of his technical oversights, a deeper inspection reveals there may be some more serious flaws. Before addressing these, however, this review will first look at the positive attributions and major successes of the book and also give examples of how the author excelled in his objectives.

Gent’s first success is his skill at connecting with his audience through his personable introduction and engaging illustrations. Generally, any author who seeks to inspire or compel his readers will benefit most by being relatable to them. In this same way, Gent effectively presents his book as being one that has value for everyone. He demonstrates this from the beginning in his personal bio found in the book’s introduction. Here, he describes himself as “a busy pastor wearing many hats” and as an “active preacher.” He also stresses that his book is written specifically “for the everyday average Christian” (pg. vii). Gent makes a point of putting himself on the level of his audience. His assurances will undoubtedly be a relief to any seeking to avoid complex, scholarly treatises. 

Another way in which Gent connects with his audience is by using illustrations to interest, inspire, and identify with his readers. In numerous instances throughout The Local Church, a discussion is briefly suspended in order to provide a relative example of the subject matter at hand. Gent uses a large variety of illustrations throughout his book, which all successfully support his main point. In Chapter 1, the historical story of George Wilson rejecting a pardon illustrates the necessity of accepting Christ’s forgiveness (pgs. 3–4). In Chapter 2, the biblical stories of Cornelius, the Ethiopian eunuch, and the Philippian jailor illustrate the pattern of baptism following salvation (pg. 9). In Chapter 6, a current events story detailing the ‘homosexual tendencies’ of an Episcopalian priest illustrates the depravity of man in today’s society (pg. 28). And in Chapter 9, a personal story by the author of one of his acquaintances leading several of his coworkers to the Lord illustrates the significant responsibility that every believer has to reach the lost around him (pg. 56). These are just a few of the many analogies that the author expertly employed to reach his target audience.

Gent’s second success lies in the biblical support that reinforces each of his passionate beliefs.  From beginning to end, The Local Church is infused with the conviction of its author. As we shall see, Gent displays a significant measure of dogmatism that clearly shows his confidence in his own biblical interpretations. Although this does, at times, lead him to unfounded prejudices, Gent’s zeal, when based in Scripture, predominantly aids him in presenting truth. His determination to instruct with a biblical foundation may well be his most notable accomplishment in this book.

Examples of scriptural support are present in every chapter of The Local Church. One such example appears in Chapter 2 in a discussion on baptism. Here, Gent provides several occasions in which believers were clearly baptized after their salvation (pg. 8). These include the 3,000 Christians baptized at Pentecost (Acts 2:41), the Ethiopian eunuch baptized by the side of the road (Acts 8:36–38), and Cornelius, along with many Gentiles, baptized after hearing Peter’s presentation of the gospel (Acts 10:47). 

Another example of strong biblical support in The Local Church is one in which Gent uses multiple references of Scripture to reinforce his own bold statements. This is found on page 46, where he says, “The Bible does not teach that witnessing for Christ is a gift that is possessed by only a few choice people. The Bible never teaches that only those who have the gift to witness are to witness. Witnessing is not a gift; it is a command.” He continues, “Anyone who indicates that only a select few are to witness is simply not acquainted with the plain teaching of God’s Word.” Though this view may be controversial to some, Gent is quick to cite the source of his conclusions by referencing Matthew 28:19, 20; Mark 16:15; and 2 Corinthians 5:20. This pattern of prioritizing Scripture is exactly what the reader may expect to find throughout this book.

Gent’s third success is the source of his book’s true value. This is the culmination of his main points into practical applications for the readers. Considering that part of the goal of The Local Church is to “help” and “stimulate” its audience, application at some level is a necessity. Gent reveals his true intentions for writing by consistently providing ways in which each discussion can be beneficial for all believers. He does this in a number of ways—sometimes with a warning, sometimes with a challenge, sometimes with a question, and sometimes with a convicting illustration.

One example of application is located on page 21. Here, Gent issues a warning concerning the impurity of the modern world. He says, “If there was ever a day in which we need to be on guard and alert in order that we will not have permissive attitudes concerning the dirty, profane, depraved, salacious, and shameless: television programs, music, magazines, movies, and dress styles, that encourage and promote unbiblical behavior, IT IS TODAY!” 

A second form of application is presented as a general challenge to believers. This is found on page 61 and comes in the midst of a discussion on being a missionary-minded Christian. Gent writes, “Involvement in getting the Gospel out and establishing churches at home and abroad is God’s will for all believers and all churches.” 

Another application is in the form of a question. Page 101 provides a good example of this. Here, Gent focuses on how the unfaithfulness of parents directly affects their kids. He asks, “When we are unfaithful, what message are we sending to our children? The message that the Lord Jesus Christ, the church, the things of God, the work of the Lord, are really not important comes through loud and clear!” 

One final form of application that Gent utilizes is convicting illustrations. As this review has noted, these are a major tool that is used throughout Gent’s book to directly impact his audience. A fitting example of this is found on page 111. It reads, “IMAGINE IF GOD HAD BEEN LIKE SO MANY OF US AND HOARDED HIS WEALTH by keeping His Son in Glory! We would have all gone to hell!” (emphasis in the original) In summary, The Local Church proves itself to be much more than a conglomeration of proof texts for its author’s personal beliefs. Emphasized throughout its pages is the practicality of the Bible and the purpose it holds in each believer’s life.

Overall, Gent successfully pairs Scripture with his own specific burdens to present a convicting progression of ecclesiological truth. His book reveals his concern for the misunderstanding and neglect of the local church seen readily among believers today. As a whole, Gent succeeds in communicating his message and faithfully interpreting and applying the Scriptures to his audience. With its many triumphs, it’s easy to see how The Local Church will be a helpful guide in navigating biblical teachings on the church. For the sake of this review, however, a few of the book’s more significant shortcomings should also be noted. Though not adverse enough to negate its usefulness, the weaknesses of The Local Church definitely warrant mentioning. 

Three major concerns stand out in reading this book. First, Gent occasionally uses overgeneralization, assumptions, and sometimes even untrue statements within his arguments. Although his intentions are always in the best interest of the reader, his methods are not always quite as sound. Most of these errors seen throughout the book are fairly harmless and can easily be forgotten. Others, however, are much more significant and deter greatly from clear biblical teaching.

On page 13, Gent makes a claim that is ideal, but simply untrue. He says, “It is difficult to Biblically and systematically observe the Lord’s Supper and remain in a backslidden condition. The Lord’s Supper will help any Christian be a better Christian.” Though this may be the result for some, it is not realistic to say every believer that has ever taken the Lord’s Supper has done so with a heart that lends itself towards growth, and if Gent were correct, then one wonders whether or not 1 Corinthians 11:28 is superfluous. Page 30 provides another unrealistic claim. Here, Gent writes, “The most likely place to find a demon is behind a pulpit!” Although this may get the attention of the readers, it is in the very least an unverifiable statement, entirely impossible to prove. While Gent’s concern to combat false doctrine is commendable, such statements are more than likely to cause some believers to look with suspicion on their own born-again pastors who may not cross every theology “t” or dot every theological “i” just as they would like.

Another interesting example comes in the form of a misleading question. On page 94, Gent asks, “Do we ever learn about any converts in the book of Acts who did not become identified with a local church?” It’s very clear from the context that Gent meant this to be a rhetorical question with the assumed answer of “no.” However, in Acts chapter 8, the Ethiopian eunuch clearly believes the gospel without any further reference to him joining a church. Another similar example is found on page 99. Here, Gent passionately writes, “There are many people (some well known and popular) who actually call themselves Christians and seldom attend church!” It’s easy to see here how that Gent was attempting to emphasize the shame of a Christian not attending services, but his statement seems to imply that we should automatically doubt such a person’s claim to be a Christian. However, the Bible clearly teaches that the requisites for being a Christian have nothing to do with works, including one’s faithfulness to church (Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8–9; Titus 3:5). Therefore, a true believer may very well call themselves a “Christian” without faithfully attending a local church (however shameful that may be). Gent adds to this idea on page 99 when he asks, “Is it a sin if I do not faithfully attend church every time the church door is open?...Yes, it is a sin!” Once again, this is another claim that supersedes the laws of Scripture, specifically his statement “every time the church door is open.” Although the Bible does challenge believers to not forsake “the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25), nowhere do the Scriptures specify which services or how many services are required.

One final example of wayward statements in The Local Church is one which is referenced more than once in the book and is likely the most concerning of them all. The first mention is found in the opening introduction where Gent states that God “has no other plan or program to carry on His work in this world apart from His church” (pg. vii). He continues this thought on page 84, where he says, “The local church was God’s only unit on earth for propagating the faith and the disciples were content to work only within that context. Certainly, God has a wonderful plan and program for the family; He also has a definite program for civil government; however, He has no other plan or program to carry on His work in this world apart from His church.” Gent is insistent that the church is God’s only plan in reaching the world. He fails, however, to mention God’s original plan (Isaiah 49:6) and future plan (Revelation 7) for His people Israel. Whether Gent forgot, minimized, or rejected the role of Israel in God’s soteriological program, he missed a very significant piece of biblical history and prophecy. Although, it may be inferred from portions of Gent’s writings that he favors replacement theology, that assumption cannot be confirmed from this book alone.

The second major concern worth mentioning is Gent’s occasional tendency to focus more on his personal beliefs rather than on what the Bible actually says. Much of The Local Church is filled with the author’s passion for communicating truth. This is both commendable and convicting. However, when this fervor centers more around his own personal convictions rather than his discovery of definite truths, then the book begins to err from its intentions.

A significant example comes from pages 85–88. This section of the book is entitled, “Christian Organizations And Parachurch Groups of Human Origin.” In these conviction-filled paragraphs, Gent makes his position on these groups very clear. While elaborating on the dangers of operating apart from the church, the author provides several Scripture references supporting his position. However, Gent appears to deviate at times and become so preoccupied with the vulnerabilities of parachurch organizations that he enters into assumptions and accusations that are unfounded, unnecessary, or simply untrue.

On page 86, Gent writes, “Not a few Christian organizations are parasitic, because they encourage people to use their God-given gifts in an unscriptural place. According to Ephesians 4, God gives gifts to His church to be used for its edification.” This strong accusation is an unfortunate limitation that goes beyond Scripture. God never limits His gifts to be used only in the local church. Even in Ephesians 4, just because believers are encouraged to use their gifts in the church does not mean that they are restricted elsewhere. Also on page 86, Gent uses sarcasm to jab at parachurch groups. He writes, “According to Matthew 28:19, 20, the first thing we are to tell a convert is to get in a sound church and be baptized. Maybe Matthew 28:19, 20 and the book of Acts are no longer in the Bible, or at least, not in the Bible of some of our parachurch friends.” Even if Gent’s point contains truth, his negative method of delivery was neither helpful nor necessary.

 Gent continues his criticism of Christian organizations on page 87. Here, he writes, “In regards to finances, man-made alternatives to the local church certainly are parasitic! It takes enormous, vast, exorbitant sums of money to keep these organizations going!...Think of all the money that is not being used in a Biblical way.” This is another example of Gent stepping beyond the Bible and ultimately declaring his own truth. First, his claim of all parachurch organizations being “parasitic” in their finances is surely unfounded. The somewhat exaggerated description of their cost fails to negate the impact that these ministries have on millions of people. Christian camps and addiction ministries are a couple examples of successful outreaches. Of course, there certainly can be significant cost in operating these, but the reward in seeing people saved and lives changed should definitely outweigh any financial burden. To say that this money is being used in an unbiblical way is to limit God’s working in those organizations and cheapen the eternal difference being made. Although Gent proves himself to be a strict adherer to the Scriptures throughout his book, his proclivity towards personal bias in this section greatly weakens the message.

One final concern from Gent’s book is undoubtedly the least significant of the three. This is in regard to the grammatical errors, typos, and stylistic peculiarities of the writing itself. The author’s disclaimer in the introduction of the book that “No claim is made for literary excellence” further minimizes the gravity of this point (pg. vii). Nevertheless, a quick evaluation of the work’s literary level may help potential readers determine the best setting for the book.

As has been mentioned, Gent writes with incredible passion and intensity, especially when discussing the issues he considers most important. Subsequently, readers should expect to find bold text and uppercase sentences used liberally throughout the book. While these are helpful techniques in emphasizing specific points, the extent they are used in The Local Church may become a distraction to some. 

Another possible distraction is the numerous pages of Scripture that accompany certain of Gent’s points. In a few different sections of the book, Bible verses fill several succeeding pages as they act in support of a previously stated idea. In Chapter 13, three pages of Scripture follow just two sentences at its opening (pgs. 81–83). In Chapter 11, only a single heading at the very beginning proceeds eight pages of verses (pgs. 63–70)! Half a page of text at the end of the chapter provides its only original content. Chapter 4 is similar with the author contributing only seven sentences of his own material amidst four pages of Bible references (pgs. 15–18). While Scripture is necessary in confirming truth, perhaps fewer references or abbreviated examples would better aid the flow and thought progression of Gent’s book. Readers are, after all, capable of looking up Bible verses on their own.

A few other instances of stylistic or grammatical issues include redundant reasons to leave the liberal church (examples 1, 7, 8, 11 on pgs. 23–31), the obscure sentence “The Word is clear; it wasn’t abnormal” (pg. 70), and a double negative in the phrase “Not a few, never take a clear stand...” (pg. 86). Once again, in the grand scheme of this book, these mistakes and ambiguities remove very little from the work’s overall value. However, the level of writing will likely have an impact on where and how this book may be used as a guide to ecclesiology.


In summary, The Local Church succeeds in its mission to clearly distinguish and promote the biblical teachings on the church. Gent’s writing is both convicting and inspiring, while predominantly focused on the words of Scripture and not personal bias. Though in places points are weakened by a lack of thoroughness or understanding by the author, no errors endanger the powerful message of this book. 

As the author intended, The Local Church would best serve as an individual’s exegetical guide to a scriptural understanding of the church. Since it is neither comprehensive nor scholastically designed, this book would likely not be a good fit as a college textbook. Whatever its use, however, readers are sure to benefit from the author’s sincere burden and careful biblical study. In a day where the church is constantly under attack and false teachers abound, The Local Church is a timely addition to the fight for truth.

Oct 2, 2023

A New Testament professor cheers for the Texas Rangers

Note: all comments are moderated before posting. It is the prerogative of the author of this blog to not post comments if he does not wish to.

I am ecstatic that my beloved Texas Rangers are in the MLB playoffs despite all odds and an extreme number of injuries. I grew up in Japan, in an environment that cherished baseball, and when I was six years old a pastor from Texas sent my parents a gift box from his church that included a team set of Texas Rangers baseball cards from 1985 (I remember Buddy Bell was shortstop then). When my parents and I returned home to America for furlough in 1993, I immediately latched on to the Texas Rangers as my team, despite never having lived in Texas (this was Nolan Ryan's last year). The two highlights of my fandom were in 1994 when, at a Rangers-Tigers game in Detroit, the great Juan Gonzalez autographed his 1990 rookie card for me, and October 2010, when the Rangers won the ALCS for the first time. The low point of my fandom was David Freese's walk-off homerun in the 2011 Word Series (with all due respect to all you Cardinals' fans out there!).

Now for a point of a more serious nature. In all honesty, this is the first time in my life that I have felt justified in actually praying for a particular sports team to win. The Texas Rangers are, apparently, the last team to not capitulate by celebrating Gay Pride month. To be clear, God loves everybody, including those of the LGBTQ persuasion, and Jesus died to save everybody. Yet God created two genders, and marriage is intended to be the only legitimate expression of sexuality: man and woman, in a committed relationship for as long as both of them are still alive. This is anchored first and foremost in God's creative act (Genesis 1:27) and the words of Jesus about the origins and intended permanence of marriage (Mark 10:5–9, answering a question about divorce), though many other scriptural passages abound on this topic. Anything that deviates from God's intended norm for sexuality is a sin (such sin, of course, includes heterosexual lust and pornography, not just homosexuality). So for Christians that take God's Word seriously, there can be no doubt about the issue.

Now, does God care about sports? Well, perhaps sometimes (exhibit A: Eric Liddell). I am claiming no prophetic word about how far the Rangers will go in the postseason. All I know is that sin grieves God, and that not capitulating to an idealogical worldview steeped in a sinful anthropology is a good thing, and that God said, "Them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed" (1 Samuel 2:30). Consequently, I am praying for the Texas Rangers, and I can do so with a clean conscious that I am not bringing a superfluous matter to my heavenly Father.  Whatever He wants to allow or not allow for the MLB playoffs is His business, but at least I know that my request has been heard.