No group can claim to be the New Testament church because nobody knows just what the shape of the various churches in the first century was. We can affirm, however, that there are good churches in every one of our nation’s differing denominations, as measured by the call of God. The central theme of Shaping the Church is to do just that, to examine various aspects of the church’s life in the effort to determine what we can legitimately say about what the New Testament teaches us and how that differs from what many of us believe about the church.
"This is vintage Tolbert. I know of no one else who so effectively combines passionate faith with well-informed thought and reason. This book comes from a lifetime of obvious spiritual growth, personal study, and educated analysis of the Bible. If every lover of the church, both clergy and laity, would read this, congregations would be more loving and thus more orthodox, since correct living and believing go together."
— Bill Coates
"This is not a comprehensive or exhaustive study of the doctrine of the Church. Rather it is a series of reflections on what the church is, who the church is, and how the church should minister in the world today and respond to the present opportunities and challenges that too often are denied, sidestepped, or missed altogether."
— Alan Neely
"Malcolm Tolbert is a good and great man, and this is a good and great book. It is like a deep lake formed by the confluence of three rivers. The first is the wisdom that comes from a lifetime of respectful, critical study of the Bible, particularly of the teachings of Jesus and the writings of Paul. The second is the wisdom that derives from a life of self-awareness and of attentiveness to healthy human relationships. The third is the wisdom that comes from a lifetime of commitment to the well-being of the church, particularly of ordinary Baptist churches and their ministers. All who care for Christian community will want to read carefully Tolbert’s words."
— Fisher Humphreys