Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Everyday Church

Everyday Church is a follow up book from Total Church. I am guessing the authors got some push back (or just feedback) from Total Church and this time round the set out to be clearer or more direct. They come armed with more stats and more practical ways (or frameworks) in doing "church" than their previous book. While they are coming from a UK context, I think they are closer to Australian than church books coming from the states. Check this out:
Seventy percent of the United Kingdom population have no intention of ever attending a church service. That means new styles of worship will not reach them. That means fresh expressions of church will not reach them. That means Alpha and Christianity Explored evangelistic courses will not reach them. That means guest services will not reach them. That means churches meeting in pubs will not reach them. That means toddler churches meeting at the end of the school day will not reach them. The vast majority of unchurched and de-churched people would not turn to the church even if faced with difficult personal circumstances or in the event of national tragedies. It is not a question of “improving the product” of church meetings and evangelistic events. It means reaching people apart from meetings and events.
I think they are right. Australia even gets a little look in:
In Australia 68 percent of people may claim to be Christian, but like the United Kingdom this is largely nominal. Church attendance was 8 percent in 2001, down from 35 percent in 1966. As in the United Kingdom, it is the younger generation that is missing from the Australian church. A church planter in Perth wrote recently, “Many of my work colleagues are very suspicious of, or hostile, to Christianity. . . . I think in my work context in Perth it must be ‘easier’ to be openly and proudly gay than openly and proudly Christian.”
While I don't think the stats are as bad as the UK, I think maybe 50% of weddings might be at a church and funerals might be a little higher, but I that number is only going to fall. So how do you do church in this context? Here is what they set out to defend in the introduction:
In calling the church to everyday mission we recognize that this is what many Christians are already doing: being good neighbors, colleagues, and family members; doing good in the face of hostility; and bearing witness to Christ in the context of ordinary life. Our aim is not to dismiss this. Quite the opposite. We want to celebrate it and put it back at the center of the church’s mission, and perhaps also give it more direction and show how it can be more intentional.
The main action happens not on Sunday, but on every other day in community. Pretty much they encourage you to do what you do, but just invite a friend over (Christian or unbeliever, or both) to do it with you. It could just be to watch that TV show, or going for a walk or jog around the block, or cooking a dinner for a struggling mum/family and staying with them for the meal, or just tidying up yours (or someone else's) backyard. This doesn't sound very religious but its not the event that is important, it is the people and the conversations.

In promoting this model, there is a lot more emphasis on the lay person. They now need to be equipped to do pastoral care, evangelism and discipleship. What we need is people radically committed to mission and not to trust on their own abilities but on God. They put forward a bit of a model on what their community needs to hold to. They are:
God is great, so we do not have to be in control
God is glorious, so we do not have to fear others
God is good, so we do not have look elsewhere
God is gracious, so we don’t have to prove ourselves.
In holding to this framework it knocks down idols in the people's lives and makes them trust in God for everything. At the end of some chapters they have some real practical questions you can ask yourself about your community to assess if they are spirit lead, or more trusting on themselves, or if they are actually having conversations that lead to God, redemption and Jesus. Without trusting in God and then talking about that, this model will not work.

This book is loosely shaped around 1 Peter, and in some areas they were quite loose with the text. Not that they drew blood from a stone and said things that weren't in the text, more they just honed in on the bits they wanted to speak about, while skipping some bits. To be fair they are upfront that this isn't a commentary on First Peter and I didn't think it was that bad. In fact it was kinda nice to based a book around another Biblical book.

Some people will complain about the lack of structure they put on the church, and how there wasn't a strong emphasis on the sacraments. I think the messiness of this model will only work if you trust each other, where the minister doesn't have to do everything, but may have to train up people from within in areas of pastoral care, evangelism and discipleship, to a point where they can train others.

If you had to pick between Total Church or Everyday Church, I think go with this one (although I may have been in step with this book more because of what I previously read in Total Church, I'm not sure).

Other books by these authors that I have reviewed:
Total Church (Tim Chester & Steve Timmis) - The previous book which Everyday Church builds upon
You Can Change (Tim Chester) - This is kinda of a 10 week discipleship course


Post a Comment