Your Church Is Too Small by John Armstrong (Part 3: Moving Forward)

Friday I posted about why the church should be working toward greater unity.  Saturday I posted about John Armstrong’s understanding of how to deal with issues of truth, individualism and how God works in history.  Today I am looking at how Your Church Is Too Small addresses steps to move forward.

In the end I think the question that must be asked for people that do not value (or are very marginal on the value) of drawing the church together is “Who is a Christian?” or “What is part of the real Church?”

Armstrong starts with scripture. According to Acts 2:21, “Everyone who calls upon the name of Christ shall be saved.” Almost no one that I talk to really think we should (or can) start here.  The most clear example of how this runs into immediate problems is with Mormons.  Many Mormons want to call themselves Christians, but almost no Christians accept Mormons because Mormons reject the divinity of Christ.  So we move onto the second part.  Armstrong,  based on a longer discussion of historical understanding and scripture, suggests another simple definition, “A Christian is someone who believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and follows his teachings.”  I think this really deals with almost all questions that I have had people bring up to me in particular.  If you acknowledge the divinity of Christ, acknowledge Christ as savior and follow his teachings (as passed down both through scripture and tradition) there is very little additional that needs to be added without being divisive.

From this point, Armstrong makes some clear recommendations.  First, he suggests that we avoid speaking ill of other Christians, and when we disagree, to make every effort to deal with the ideas and never question their Christianity.  Armstrong asserts this is not being soft on heresy but actually following the rules set up by scripture for dealing with controversy.  “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?  To their own master they stand or fall (Romans 14:4).

The second recommendation is to focus on Mission.  In Armstrong’s words:

“Barth was likely the first theologian to see that mission was an aspect of God’s nature. He saw mission as a movement from God to the world. The church was the instrument of God’s mission. I suggest that our categories for mission are simply too small, just as our categories for church are too small. The two go hand in hand. We must begin to teach leaders and churches to grasp “the comprehensive nature of God’s mission.”

He continues:

“As counterintuitive as it seems, we love the world best when we love one another first. It seems that if our love for one another is real, it cannot help but impact the world.”

The rest of the book gives examples of how drawing the church together is happening and how that affects the work of the church.

Overall I think this is an important book that all Christian leaders need to wrestle with. In my few years, I have seen many instances where sectarian divides and internal struggles have put the kingdom back years. I hope that this is an example of the tide turning and the focus of the church move from the little issues to the issues of the Kingdom, and the King, Christ.

Your Church Is Too Small: Why Unity in Christ’s Mission Is Vital to the Future of the Church Purchase Links: Hardcover, Kindle Edition, Audible.com Audiobook

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Disclosure: This book was provided free for purposes of review. For more information about the book you can also go to the book’s website.

9 Comments

In the last year I have seen my church go through one damaging church split, and a recent episode of damaging disagreement. In addition to damaging the work of the church in the world, it is damaging to the members of that church – regardless of whether they were directly involved or not. And that's within one church. Recently I've found myself looking around and wrestling with the ghosts of either what was, or what could have been. With that in mind, one of the thoughts I've come to several times in the last year and half is that it truly is a miracle that God not only chooses to use the church to accomplish his will on earth, but that it's effective. I'm too close right now to have any wise perspective on the situation, but I do know that this topic of unity is too often a FAIL for us as christians. I hope this book makes even a little progress in that direction. If we can love and work together with a little grace we cause too much damage and destruction.

Nate, you speak for thousands of people, perhaps millions if they had a voice in the matter. We really can return to Christ's love and we really can drop the stance we take toward each other and with open hearts receive brothers and sisters we have long run from and fought. against. With all my heart I have offered my soul on the pages of this book in prayerful hope that a movement of the Spirit will restore love for Christ's one body, the church of his people wherever it gathers and expresses itself. To love those we can see is a divine prerequisite to truly loving the God we cannot see!

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.

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, 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_de

…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…???

    I am unclear about your point. You suggest that the church, the body
    of Christ should not have unity? But then you complain that the
    people are focused on their own thing and not God's and that is why we
    have so many denominations. Why would God want to divide his own
    body?

The copy of this book i won arrived today. Thanks so much 🙂

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[…] Too Small by John Armstrong – I actually did this in three parts.  So here is part two and part three.  This is on of the best book on why the church should be ecumenical that I have ever […]

[…] by John Armstrong (Amazon Link) – I actually did this in three parts.  So here is part two and part three.  This is on of the best book on why the church should be ecumenical that I have ever read.  It […]

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