Your Church Is Too Small by John Armstrong (Part 1: Introduction)

I am reposting this 2010 review (yes it is a nearly 2100 hundred word review that I posted in 3 parts) because the Kindle Edition is on sale for $4.99.  I believe that this is part of Zondervan’s general ebook sale that still has not been announced anywhere and don’t have have an end date. Part two of the review is here and part three here.

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After having read Your Church is Too Small I immediately thought of four people that need to read the book.  So the summary review is that I think the book is good enough that I have bought and sent the book to four friends and bought one more to give away here.

After I was about half way through the book I decided that there is just too much rich content to comment on in just one blog post.  So I am breaking tradition and I am breaking this post into three parts.  Part 2 will post on Saturday and Part 3 on Sunday and I will restart the normal schedule on Monday.

Having read John Armstrong’s blog regularly for the past several years, I can think of few others that would have been better to write Your Church is Too Small.  The basic thesis is that only the “…church of Jesus Christ, ministering out of its spiritual unity in Christ and rooted in core orthodoxy, can best serve Christ’s mission.”

Armstrong loves the church and throughout the book reminds us that we should not fear for the church, because it is not our job to build and maintain the church but Christ’s and the Holy Spirit’s.  However, like our faith, we are saved by grace and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, but we still have responsibility for participating in our own spiritual growth.  Armstrong suggests that the unity the Jesus prayed for in John 17 cannot just be an invisible, spiritual unity, but must be a relational.  So while the church is one spiritually, there is a role for our participation in drawing the church together in unity.  I think this is an important point.  Just like James (2:17-18) tells us that we should not tell someone that we will pray for them, but not actually do anything to help them, we should not talk about the Big C Church and do nothing to build relationships with those outside our stream of faith.

The next point major point I think is central, but most likely controversial.  He talks about the theological concept that people are simultaneously righteous and sinful.  Because we have been saved through faith, we are righteous in the eyes of God, but we continue to sin.  Armstrong moves to a second step, if we agree that individuals are both righteous and sinful, then why not approach the idea of church unity in a similar way.  The different parts of the church are both believers and unbelievers at the same time.  This is similar to the idea of the man telling Jesus, “I believe, help my unbelief.”

I think that some will attempt this but only with an idea of condescension.  They will assume that they (and their church stream) is right and all others are lesser.  Armstrong addresses this later when he talks about the basis of unity.  He suggests that we first need to acknowledge that other Christians are brothers/sisters in Christ.  Once we see other Christians as loved by God, then we need to engage in relational unity.  I know that in cases where I have participated in multi-denominational activities I have much more tolerance for diversity when I actually have a relationship and love for those that are different from me.  Armstrong suggests that if we need a model for unity within diversity, we should look to the Trinity as a model.  He quotes the US Conference of Catholic Bishops”

“The church of the twenty-first century will be, as it has always been, a church of many cultures, languages, and traditions, yet simultaneously one, as God is one–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–unity in diversity”

Tomorrow I will write about how Armstrong deals with Truth, Church and Tradition and the way God moves in history. Sunday I will post comments about how he suggests we can actually move forward with a greater church unity.

So what do you think? Is the mission of the church hindered by relational dis-unity among the different streams of the church?

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 by the publisher for purposes of review.

9 Comments

What a great first post Adam. I am honored by it but more importantly I think you have read my words with care and devoted careful thought to telling people what the book is really all about. Sadly, some will not read it this way but then none of us would attempt much if we wrote for complete agreement from all. I pray that a movement of the Spirit propels people to read the book and grasp the sense of it as He has shown you and that the result will be a new wave of mission for the kingdom of Christ.

    Those are very generous words. I hope that I do the book justice.

      Just curious – who are the one or two others that could have written this book (as you wrote in the first blog entry)? I'd love to get a copy of this book!

        Tom White director of Frontline Ministries and I have talked about this before. We wrote some short articles about similar topics (in the context of City Impact Roundtables). Dennis Fuqua of International Renewal Ministries (and author of Living Prayer that I reviewed on this blog) also could have written a similar book.

        I don’t think either has the experience in the Catholic and Orthodox world that John Armstrong does. I know there are probably others that are doing the work that John describes. But we need both the ability to do, the ability to write and the ability to think theologically to be able to expand this conversation.

Adam,

I'm still only half way through but I have a similar regard for John's book. Too often books on unity are either kumbaya sentiment or complicated theology but John has combined scholarship with biblical and critical thinking. Sure hope YCITS gets into the hands of many denominational and congregational leaders – soon!

Phil

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

[…] Yesterday I posted an introduction to Your Church is too Small. It was mostly about why we as a church should strive toward unity.  Theorectially, I do not think many people disagree with the idea that the church of Jesus Christ should be more unified. The problem comes when we disagree with other Christians. […]

[…] 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?” […]

Your Church Is Too Small ~ A Fresh Perspective on Unity : Phil's BlogsMarch 14, 2010 at 9:24 pm

[…] Your Church Is Too Small by John Armstrong […]

[…] Your Church is 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 read. […]

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