Most helpful critical review
48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
Great model, but not without weaknesses
on January 5, 2010
These guys are experts at their model, and perhaps the greatest accomplishment of this book is that they make their model accessible and reproducible. Their approach to small groups is indeed novel in places and quite refreshing. For example, their discussion on covenants is valuable. I love that they give people relationships and responsibilities to help connect them to the church. Their discussion on enlistment techniques is great; perhaps worth the price of the book on its own.
Many of the other reviews have highlighted all that is great about the book, and I find much agreement there. However, there are a few areas of concern that should be pointed out. First, this is not an entirely new approach to small groups. For those of you from baptist backgrounds you may recognize the 12 week topic driven trimesters as something similar to discipleship training classes. This is not a bad thing. I find no fault with this set up. My perception is that the "entirely new" part of all this is in the details, not the model. We're a traditional midwestern church and have been using this model for fifteen years. Should have written a book.
Second, the book does not offer transitional advice for pastors of traditional churches. This is not necessarily a weakness, but the reader will need to find other volumes to aid in the transition process.
Third, Searcy and Thomas's model is not small groups in the...dare I say it..."tradtional" sense. Here is what I mean. Journey's small groups are curriculum driven, and (to use a distinction from Joseph Myers) these groups promote social relationships. Would you like to guess what we call a group that is heavy on curriculum and keeps relationships light? The answer is Sunday School. The current draw of small group ministry is their highly relational nature, curriculum being secondary, and their propensity to lead people into personal space, even intimate space (Myers again). The authors contend that small groups are not a place for intimate relationships, and they are right, only in relation to their model! Groups with a lifespan of only twelve weeks will never lend themselves to intimacy. While the authors work hard to keep their groups closed, the reality is that the groups are "relationally" open due to their short life spans. Again, there is nothing necessarily wrong with this. However, I take issue with their assertion that intimacy in groups is practically unattainable and unrealistic simply because their model is not designed for such. They do point out that intimacy is not something that can be forced or manufactured. I agree completely, but feel we must create environments that make it more likely to occur naturally.
Fourth, the authors do not speak to the place of children in small group life. This is a much needed discussion.
On the whole, I applaud Searcy and Thomas for their great work in reaching New York. God is blessing their church. It's exciting to see how the gospel is spreading through them. It makes me think that if the gospel can flourish in NYC surely it can flourish in the Bible belt. The book is definitely worth a read, but requires careful discernment for application.