This week, I’m participating in another blog tour with Zondervan. This time, the book is called Your Church is Too Small by John H. Armstrong, a veteran pastor and an adjunct professor of evangelism at Wheaton College. While the book’s title brings to mind images of the next attempt providing a strategy for church growth, Armstrong’s work instead focuses on the vital and essential role that unity and catholicity must play in the future of the church.
Armstrong argues that Christians (while Armstrong writes from an evangelical perspective and this book may primarily be received by evangelicals, his call is to all Christians in the wide and broad worldwide church) have lost their connection to the past – the historic and unified core of the Christian faith – and to the wider movements of the church outside of any particular tradition (Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox) or denomination (or non-denomination).
Armstrong bases his work theologically and biblically in Jesus’ prayer found in John 17 for unity within the community of faith, a unity which Armstrong argues must be real in relational and spiritual terms (not simply a weakened or limited understanding of unity based mostly on doctrinal agreement or denominational affiliation). While Armstrong acknowledges that “any pursuit of unity that denies our uniqueness and diversity is not positive” (92), he sincerely and strongly believes that the future of the Christian church depends on its ability to (a) find true unity based on common creeds and shared beliefs about the mission and marks of the universal church and (b) move forward in what he calls a missional-ecumenical paradigm of ministry.
I appreciated the breadth, experience, and insight which fills this book. I have experienced too many churches that accept definitions of the church that are far too local and far to small (and admit that I succumb to this myself) and believe that the kind of missional-ecumenism described in this book is desperately needed in today’s church. Throughout the book, Armstrong’s passion and desire for unity is evident, and he does not handle the matter lightly. Armstrong humbly acknowledges his own journey toward valuing unity while blending his personal narrative with biblical, historical, philosophical, and theological support that pushes readers to think (and act!) deeply and broadly about the nature and mission of today’s church.