The subtitle of this book is “How neighborhood churches are transforming mission, discipleship and community.”
This is an excellent book that helps congregations think through the future of what it means to be a congregation. It offers a model, but it does not pigeonhole congregations into a specific way of being a congregation.
And while the book was published in 2014, the concepts and ideas presented by the authors are very relevant. That’s because even though the pandemic has seen an increase in people leaving churches and churches struggling for meaning and purpose and mission, all that really did was accelerate what was happening before the pandemic. Congregations have been needing to figure out who they are and why they exist for some time now. The way things were is no longer working. It’s not a judgement of the way things were — it’s a statement of fact because the world has changed along with the assumptions, expectations, and values of the world. The church is not the center of the culture and the culture is no longer interested in telling the story of the church any longer (it’s debatable as to whether the culture told the right story in the first place). It’s time for the church to adapt. And that adaptation includes some interesting things from the past and a look at the future. Paul Sparks, Tim Soerens, and Dwight J. Friesen have done a great job with this book. If a congregation is interested in exploring what it is called to and how it answers Jesus’ call to mission in its location, this book is a great aid to help that conversation and discernment. It doesn’t necessarily offer specific answers — which is a good thing because each congregation is in a unique context and needs to be able to discern how it should live into its calling where it is located. With all this in mind, let’s dive in to the book material.
The authors start with a look at the word “Parish” because the authors are proposing that congregations extend beyond their building walls to a different way of thinking about being community. “Parish…refers to all relationships (including the land) where the local church lives out its faith together.” (Pg. 23). This will be foundational to the rest of the book.
One of the key challenges that has impacted the church, the authors argue, is that the church has lost its place, or as they say it has been “living above place.” (Pg. 24). They cited…