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.
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?
Disclosure: This book was provided free by the publisher for purposes of review.