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Your Church Is Too Small: Why Unity in Christ's Mission Is Vital to the Future of the Church Hardcover – March 17, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


“With attention to his own pilgrimage and growth in ecclesial awareness, John Armstrong explores here the evangelical heart and ecumenical breadth of churchly Christianity. I am encouraged by his explorations and commend this study to all believers who pray and labor for the unity for which our Savior prayed.” -- Timothy George

About the Author

John H. Armstrong is president of ACT 3 in Carol Stream, Illinois and served as a pastor for more than twenty years. He is an adjunct professor of evangelism at Wheaton College Graduate School. His online commentaries regularly appear at He holds degrees from Wheaton College, Wheaton Graduate School, and Luther Rice Seminary. He is the author or editor of a number of books including The Catholic Mystery, Five Great Evangelists, Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper, and Understanding Four Views on Baptism

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan; Complete Numbers Starting with 1, 1st Ed edition (March 17, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031032114X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310321149
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.8 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,195,296 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John H. Armstrong is founder and president of ACT 3, a ministry for equipping leaders for unity in Christ's mission. He is former pastor and church-planter, of more than twenty years, and the author/editor of 12 books. He has also authored thousands of magazine, journal, and Web based articles. Besides his writing ministry Dr. Armstrong is an adjunct professor of evangelism at Wheaton College Graduate School, teaches in various seminaries and colleges as a guest lecturer, and is a seminar and conference speaker throughout the United States and abroad. John and Anita, his wife of thirty-nine years, have two adult married children. Anita assists John as an editorial associate and uses her gifts widely to help the ministry. Their son Matthew is engaged in a ministry of evangelism and discipleship and is a church planter in Streamwood, Illinois. Their daughter Stacy is an administrative assistant for ACT 3 and assists her husband in teaching the martial arts. John and Anita have two grandchildren, Gracie (12) and Abbie (8).

John was born in Lebanon, Tennessee (March 1, 1949). He is the youngest of two sons of Dr. Thomas H. and Marie F. Armstrong. John's dad was a dentist and the editor of the Tennessee State Dental Journal. He also served on the faculty of the University of Tennessee Dental School in Memphis for nearly fifteen years. John's mom, deceased in November 2008, was his most important influence in hearing God's call upon his life and in learning how to teach the Scriptures. His brother Thomas is a family physician in Huntsville, Alabama. John attended Castle Heights Military Academy in Lebanon, Tennessee, where he was an ROTC cadet officer and graduated cum honore in 1967. He attended the University of Alabama from 1967-1969, studying journalism and history. In 1969 he transferred to Wheaton College, were he received the B. A. in history (1971) and the M. A. in theology and missions (1973). He did further study at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois, and Northern Baptist Seminary, Lombard, Illinois. He earned the D. Min degree (1979) at Luther Rice Seminary, Atlanta, Georgia. John is an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Reformed Church in America.

John is the author of Your Church is Too Small: Why Unity in Christ's Mission Is Vital to the Future of the Church (Zondervan, 2010), Five Great Evangelists (Christian Focus Publications, 1997), The Catholic Mystery (Harvest House, 1999), True Revival: What Happens When God's Spirit Moves (Harvest House, 2000), and The Stain That Stays: The Church's Response to the Sexual Misconduct of It's Leaders (Christian Focus, 2000). He is the general editor of Understanding Four Views of the Lord's Supper (Zondervan, 2007), Understanding Four Views on Baptism (Zondervan, 2007), Roman Catholicism: Evangelical Protestants Analyze What Unites and Divides Us (Moody Press, 1994), The Coming Evangelical Crisis (Moody Press, 1996), Reforming Pastoral Ministry (Crossway, 2001), The Glory of Christ (Crossway, 2002). He has contributed single chapters, theological and historical introductions, and forewords to more than two dozen volumes, and has been published in Christianity Today, Christian History and other Christian periodicals.

John is a member of several professional societies including the John Calvin Society, the Karl Barth Society and the Abraham Lincoln Forum.

John's hobbies include baseball, with a love for the Atlanta Braves that goes back to the 1957 Milwaukee Braves who won the World Series. He is also a hometown fan of the Chicago White Sox (World Series Champions 2005) and an avid book collector who enjoys reading great literature, watching film and walking/biking. He remains an avid college football fan, following his beloved Crimson Tide of the University of Alabama. John and Anita have a special place in their home for Neo, the Armstrong's miniature dachshund. John and Anita's grandchildren, Gracie and Abbie, also bring very special joy to their busy lives through regular visits.

Customer Reviews

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By R. A. Knox on March 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Last month, I received a review copy of Your Church is Too Small by John H. Armstrong (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009). From the buzz that I heard about this book, I was very excited to read and review this book.

When Armstrong says, "Your church is too small," he does not refer to the size of a church building or to the number of people who meet together. Instead, Armstrong refers to "our all too common penchant for placing limits on Christ's church - limits that equate the one church with our own narrow views of Christ's body." He has two purposes in writing this book: 1) for the reader to understand his/her own spiritual identity and 2) to better understand the mission of the church. Armstrong believes, and convincingly argues, that the two (unity and mission) are interrelated.

The book is a combination of exegesis (primarily of Jesus' prayer in John 17), historical study, personal experience, and theological reflection. The argument is based primarily on the conclusion that the unity for which Jesus prays in John 17 is not only a spiritual or eschatological unity, but a relational unity that all believers should strive to maintain.

Armstrong's book is divided into three parts: past, present, and future. In the first section, the author traces his own journey from sectarianism toward unity. He also reviews the perspective of the early church on unity given the four classical marks of the church: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.

Next, in his section on the present, considers how the church can restore unity today. Armstrong suggests that the cause of disunity in the church today is sectarianism based on intellectual certitude.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By John M. Frame on April 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
John Armstrong's book is a fine contribution to a subject that few evangelical writers are open to considering: the fragmentation of the church and its effects on our witness today. I addressed this issue back in 1991 in a little noted nor long remembered volume called Evangelical Reunion. John's book has brought these issues back before us again, and this time they will be harder to ignore. It's a touchy subject, for most Christian communions devote huge energies to showing that they are better than all other communions, that the reasons for their distinct existence are absolutely valid, and that that distinct existence must be maintainedx at all costs. But is that attitude biblical? According to Scripture, Jesus founded one church and prayed in John 17 that it would remain one, even as the Trinity is one. Fragmentation not only weakens the church's ministry; it makes the church to be less than it should be. I won't vouch for every statement John makes in this book, but his position is far better than that of the polemicists who support and enlarge the fragmentation. John makes it clear that this issue is about loyalty to Christ, and I hope it gets a wide readership.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Monte E. Wilson on August 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover
When John says that your church is too small he is not writing about Church growth and mega-churches, but about the limits (historically, theologically, and relationally) we place on who is in the REAL church and who is not.

The book is based on Christ's prayer in John 17

20 "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me."

It is divided into three sections:

I Past: The Biblical and Historical Basis for Christian Unity

What John advocates in this section is a relational unity: a cooperational love.

"If `God is love,' then our expressions of love within the Christian community must line up with his. It is his love that enlarges our hearts and forms our character so that we are freed to love others, whether they are a fellow Christian or an enemy." (p 54)

"Unity" is not synonymous with "unanimity," or "uniformity." (pp 54-57) The unity that John is writing about is based in the universally shared reality of all believers: the life of Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, living in us all. The more we are filled with his life, the more we love him, the more relational unity we will experience with all those who share that same love.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By dachkl on March 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover
While the book's title brings to mind images of the next attempt providing a strategy for church growth, Armstrong's work instead focuses on the vital and essential role that unity and catholicity must play in the future of the church.

Armstrong argues that Christians (while Armstrong writes from an evangelical perspective and this book may primarily be received by evangelicals, his call is to all Christians in the wide and broad worldwide church) have lost their connection to the past - the historic and unified core of the Christian faith - and to the wider movements of the church outside of any particular tradition (Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox) or denomination (or non-denomination).

Armstrong bases his work theologically and biblically in Jesus' prayer found in John 17 for unity within the community of faith, a unity which Armstrong argues must be real in relational and spiritual terms (not simply a weakened or limited understanding of unity based mostly on doctrinal agreement or denominational affiliation). While Armstrong acknowledges that "any pursuit of unity that denies our uniqueness and diversity is not positive" (92), he sincerely and strongly believes that the future of the Christian church depends on its ability to (a) find true unity based on common creeds and shared beliefs about the mission and marks of the universal church and (b) move forward in what he calls a missional-ecumenical paradigm of ministry.

I appreciated the breadth, experience, and insight which fills this book. I have experienced too many churches that accept definitions of the church that are far too local and far to small (and admit that I succumb to this myself) and believe that the kind of missional-ecumenism described in this book is desperately needed in today's church.
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