Review and Reflection on “Rethinking Church” by Ron Highfield
This book came to me by way of a fellow blogger — he actually did a whole series of blog posts on the book and there were several of us who commented on the posts and our own reading of the book. I want to take a blog post to do my own review and reflection in one post. The subtitle of the book is “A Guide for the Perplexed and Disillusioned.” I think the subtitle is interesting and it helps set the tone for the book. This is a book that should cause us to raise questions because we’re unsure of how things are currently when it comes to the church. The way it has always been isn’t anymore. And we need to ask why and also examine what have we lost so that we can discern how we go forward.
One thing that I will throw in to the conversation is that Highfield comes from a Christian tradition that is different from my own — a less liturgical tradition. And this will have an impact on what he writes and also how I interact with the book. My understanding of that difference caused me to raise questions that I’m not sure he intended for. It’s not a criticism of the book or the author, but a recognition that a book about rethinking the church will raise questions and tap into people’s preferences and experience with church. And we are very attached to certain ways of doing things and thinking about things. Which is why such a book as this is helpful to poke us into uncomfortable thought experiments and examinations with what we think about church. This is a short book at only 96 pages. I sense from the length that Highfield’s intent was not to provide answers so much as it is to create conversation. I think he succeeds in that regard. It also helps that he offers questions for guided conversation at the end of each chapter.
Prefaces are usually benign statements of support for the topic at hand. And most of the preface for this book fits that description. One statement in the preface though caught my attention. Highfield wrote, “…about five years ago, I began to entertain the idea that the traditional way churches organize themselves is the major obstacle to embodying authentic church life in the world.” (Pg. 2). I agree with the sentiment. I think one of the keys to this also is that the pandemic exacerbated this observation. The way churches are organized is for a time that doesn’t exist any more — in a variety of ways. Technology, culture, values, economics, partisanship, politics, work, social life and connections and community, and more — all of these things have…