Books, Brokenhearted Theology, Ramblings, Reading Reflections

Your Church is Too Small (book review)

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.

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5 thoughts on “Your Church is Too Small (book review)

  1. Unity. Hmmm?

    Sometimes good and some times, er, not so good?

    Just wondering…

    What if God is the author of our disagreements and separations?
    “And all things are of God…” 2 Cor 5:18, Rom 11:36, Col 1:16-17, etc.
    Are we working for “Unity?” And NOW working against God?

    Didn’t God confuse man’s language once before?
    Aren’t those things that happened to others,
    written for us to learn from?

    Now all these things happened unto them for examples:
    and they are written for our admonition,
    upon whom the ends of the world are come.
    1 Cor 10:11

    For whatsoever things were written aforetime
    were written for our learning,
    that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures have hope.
    Rom 15:4

    Didn’t God intervene when “man was in unity”
    with their own devices, their own plans,
    trying to build something themselves,
    to reach heaven and “make a name for themselves?”

    Could that be the ekklesia’s problem today also?
    Doing their own thing – NOT God’s thing?

    **Man trying to build something?
    (Movements? Denominations? Church Planting?)
    **And make a name for themselves?
    (“Titles” on buildings, schools, websites, books, diplomas, etc.)
    **Being in unity they could accomplish anything?

    wikipedia lists many, Nay – 1,000’s, of Denominations.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_denominations

    …let us build us a city and a tower,
    whose top may reach unto heaven;
    and let us make us a name…
    Gen 11:4

    Gen 11:6-8
    And the LORD said, Behold,
    the people is one, (unity?)(this doesn’t sound good?)
    and they have all one language; (unity-sound alike?)
    and this they begin to do: (work together?)
    and now nothing will be restrained from them,
    (we can do anything, working together?)
    which they have imagined to do.
    (“the imagination of man’s heart is evil.”)
    ( Gen 6:5, Gen 8:21, Jer 3:17, Jer 11:8.)
    Go to, let us go down,
    and there **confound their language,** that they may
    **not understand one another’s speech…**
    (Hmmm? Sound familiar?)
    (Baptist, Pentecostal, Reformed, Calvinist, Egalitarian, Mercy Lord… )

    God often gives us what we ask for, and, “A Little Bit Extra.”

    Want some “Meat” in the wilderness?
    God also sends “leanness to the soul.” Psalm 106:15. Oy Vey!

    Want some “Kings” to rule over us?
    How did that work out? 1 Sam 8:11-19 Ouch!

    “Traditions of men” nullify the word of God.
    Mark 7:13

    Hmmm? Just wondering…
    What if God is the author of our disagreements and separations?

    Then what…???

    Are we working for Unity? And NOW – working against God?

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  2. John, thanks so much for stopping by. I really appreciated your work on the book – it helped to confirm some of my own thoughts and dreams about what the church could look like if it had a bigger vision for what the should look like. As a young pastor/leader, I appreciated your combination of humility, insight, experience, and wisdom. Thank you again!

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  3. Thanks to you too Dave. I like your blog list of reformers and shapers. I pray my book will shape and reform a new generation of church leaders to take a serious view of the church and how important it really is if we have a robust Christian faith. I think you are doing that and I am very grateful. Please stay in touch with me in any way you can via the net. Would love to have you on my face book page and on the book fan page if you would like.

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  4. Pingback: Big churches, small churches, or both? « can’t catch my breath

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