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Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus Paperback – June 6, 2014
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"The authors write clearly and persuasively; each section of the book offers a theoretical and scriptural basis for the ideas discussed and practical suggestions for their implementation." (Publishers Weekly STARRED REVIEW, April 14, 2014)
"Slow Church is a manifesto and handbook rolled into one. Unlike most manifestos, it is beautifully written, blending historical analysis, personal narrative, and scriptural exegesis into prose that is languid, incisive, and eloquent. It reads like what it is: the long, patient fruit of two men deeply rooted in a particular place, among neighbors they know, love, and serve. . . . No matter the size of our church body or the kind of neighborhood we live in, we would all do well to slow down and examine ourselves in the clearest light available―the light of history, the light of Scripture, and the light of Christ himself―rather than the fluorescent light of business models and burger joints. Make haste, then. Run, do not walk, to your favorite bookstore, buy a copy, and set your church table for a feast." (Leslie Leyland Fields, Christianity Today, September 2014)
"Slow Church explores being church in a way that emphasizes deep engagement in local people and places, quality over quantity, and in all things taking the long view―understanding individuals and congregations as participants in the unfolding drama of all creation. . . . The strength of this book is in its consistent encouragement to reorient ourselves through prayer, scripture, and practice to God's abundant gifts and wellspring of possibilities, even in broken places and circumstances. While the generative imaginative space this creates doesn't work miracles (remember, we're talking slow) on tight church budgets, neighbors struggling with an exploitative landlord, or conflict in community, it does open us up to material and spiritual resources we might otherwise overlook and remind us that transformation, though it may be a long time coming, is promised to us and all creation. . . . For inspiration you may find yourself returning to this gracefully written ode to God's wonders close at hand, with its vision for individuals and faith communities to savor that goodness and more fully incarnate Christ's love, wherever we have been called to be." (Julie Polter, Sojourners, September/October 2014)
"The final chapter of Slow Church envisions, quite biblically and appropriately, church as a shared meal; a 'dinner table conversation as a way of being the church.' Questions that arise during the course of planning a meal―What will we eat? Who will do which tasks? Where will we buy the food and who is invited to the table―reflect many of the same questions raised throughout the book about the way communities of worship think about and implement their way of being in the world. They are questions worth lingering over, even for those who are content with their current ways of being a part of the church, for they invite everyone to a deeper enjoyment of and engagement with the often-strange experience that is church." (Rachel Marie Stone, Books & Culture, September/October 2014)
"Inspired by the 'slow food' movement and disheartened by the 'fast' church trends, Smith and Pattison are advocating for 'reimagining what it means to be communities of believers gathered and rooted in particular places at a particular time.' Slow Church promises something richer and more substantive than quick fixes." (Relevant Magazine, May/June 2014)
"At long last, a book I relish giving away to the vast number of people longing for an alternative between 'McDonald Church' and the end of the church altogether. In neighborhoods across North America there are hundreds of thousands of Christ-followers trying to experiment with a new way of being the church in everyday life. Now there is a hopeful guidebook that is rich with empirical and anecdotal research, historical depth and theological savvy that can guide their way. This is the book you rush out and buy a dozen copies of to give hope and help to your friends who want to follow the way of Jesus." (Paul Sparks, coauthor of The New Parish and cofounder of Parish Collective)
"Smith and Pattison marshal the wisdom of our greatest cultural thinkers―people like Berry, Heschel, Pollan and Vanier―in this tour-de-force manifesto. This smart book reveals the vacuity of fast church and realigns us with the locality, rest, unpredictability and simple delight that comes with the way of Jesus." (Jon M. Sweeney, author of When Saint Francis Saved the Church)
"In this agitated and anxious world, our worth is determined by our productivity and our value is measured by how much we can devour. Without much thought, even our churches have become tangled up in our quick-consumption mentality. In the midst of the greedy mindlessness of ministry, C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison evoke a different vision―one of a careful community of deep relationships. As a pastor, I lingered over the words of Slow Church with delight as they inspired me and made me welcome what we might become." (Carol Howard Merritt, pastor, author of Reframing Hope and Tribal Church)
"Hurry, worry, stress and striving have come to dominate human consciousness in the twenty-first century―the logical consequences of a society built on individualism and productivity at any cost. We long for a pace of life that allows us to enjoy deep relationships, meaningful work, spiritual vitality and the simple pleasures of life. In Slow Church, Pattison and Smith offer a hopeful vision of the future, rooted in the Christian gospel, that provides a comprehensive orientation for pursuing a more integrative path. This book tenderly calls common assumptions about the church and society into question, carefully synthesizing Christian theology with emerging ecological consciousness. For the sake of our souls, our grandchildren and the planet, I hope we pay attention to Smith and Pattison's conclusions and take action." (Mark Scandrette, author of Free and Practicing the Way of Jesus)
"All of our churches are shaped by our cultural environments, and Smith and Pattison note how forces such as fragmentation, impatience, commodification, branding, hypermobility, individualism and efficiency too often dominate our practices and priorities. So we strive for control in the midst of fears and self-protection. Slow Church provides theology and imagination that connect gospel embodiment with place and neighbors, calling us to slower lives around tables and conversations that nourish and interweave gratefulness, listening, work, hospitality, justice and the biblical trajectory toward the reconciliation of all things. Less of McDonalds; more of sabbath feasts." (Mark Lau Branson, Homer L. Goddard Professor of the Ministry of the Laity, Fuller Seminary)
About the Author
C. Christopher Smith is editor of The Englewood Review of Books and a member of the Englewood Christian Church community on the urban Near Eastside of Indianapolis. He is the coauthor of Slow Church. Chris's writing has appeared in Books and Culture, Sojourners, The Christian Century and Indiana Green Living.
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They go on to talk about the ecology of Slow Church which is based on wholeness, work and sabbath. The economy of Slow Church is based on abundance, gratitude, hospitality and dinner table conversations. I particularly love the way Chris and John stress how a posture of hospitality to the other and eating together as we become liberated from a scarcity mindset will help us to live more authentically. They bring up how the virtue of conversation, work and rest need to be practiced and not separated from the particular place that we live. I love these themes and quotes from the book:
• Deeply rooted and maturing in our particular places
“…in order to bear fruit, to extend hospitality and to nurture a flourishing community, our faith communities must be deeply rooted and maturing in our particular places. The good and abundant life God intends for creation is through the interdependency of God’s creatures, and this interdependency… flourishes best when we stay put over a long period of time.”
• Recovering a sense of parish responsibility
“Unless churches today can recover a sense of parish responsibility, of belonging to people and place, we will continue to propagate the disembodied Christianity – and its accompanying racial, social and economic injustices…”
• Come to know the taste of a place
“Thus to come to know the taste of a place is to blur the line between ourselves and the other. It thwarts the forces of alienation. As I become part of my place it becomes part of me.”
• Providing a rich context to grow deeper
“...our commitment to grow deeper with the same people in the same place – come what may – will provide a rich context through which God will bring forth fruits of the Spirit… The health and fruitfulness of a plant diminishes each time it is uprooted. In the same way, our growth toward patience is stunted each time we uproot ourselves from the sustaining soil of our local community…”
The book would certainly be useful in a seminary classroom, but I think it's written by "laymen" so well, every member of the body would be blessed by it. You can look up the table of contents on Amazon or browse through a copy in your local bookstore to see for yourself the breakdown of the book; I'm more interested in sharing with you my impression of the book from my perspective as a Restoration Movement minister. But, I will add here, each chapter stays on track, most of the book is filled with ample quotes from dozens of helpful books, and they conclude their chapters with "Conversation starters" that you could use in a small group study.
We are in our 3rd year of a church plant, and most weeks I feel tremendous pressure to be growing our church faster and bigger. I've tried to read half a dozen church growth books with titles you'd more than likely recognize, and frankly I couldn't get through them. I tried to read a few of the "organic" and "simple" church books from the last decade, and I had a hard time plowing through them as well. With Slow Church, I had to pace myself, I wanted to savor each morsel. It was so good, I didn't want to rush through it like a storm that washes away the topsoil, I wanted to let it soak in.
As I read Slow Church, I thought of the people I personally minister to, and I wondered how they would respond to the material I was reading. Instead of hawking the book, I mentioned I was reading it, and I did use some of its topics as I preached. I wove in some of Slow Church over a couple of months (in my sermons as I preached & in several tweets on Twitter), and so far I haven't had to nail the back door shut.
Slow Church helped me relax my anxieties and it helped me to refocus my priorities. Slow church isn't about giving you permission to forget about growth, it helps you to understand what real growth entails. Slow Church defuses the toxic idea that has infiltrated many congregations, namely Slow Church refutes the accepted ideas that efficiency, consumerism, and control are what works best.
We are disconnected from our neighbors, our communities, and mostly from the people we worship with Sunday mornings. Slow Church reflects on the need to say no to the hyperactivity and slick ways of the world, and to slow down long enough to experience Christianity the way God intended us to, in community, in peace, and unrushed. Slow Church calls us to reconnect with each other, and to reject the materialistic methodology that drives the fast food industry and most of today's culture.
Slow Church challenges our craving for quantity over quality, and it gives us fresh ways to envision the Kingdom of God -- to not just measure success, but to aim for significance. God wants us to partner with Him in His creation, and to expand His Kingdom, and for Slow Church this means we give up our narrow view of staking claim to the pitiful little empires we cling to. And, Slow Church calls us to share life together. We are not in competition with the world around us, and you can't stockpile manna, so be compassionate and connect with what counts most, people.
The heart of Slow Church is about having the right rhythm which brings true Shalom peace, and Slow church reveals our need to be intentional -- to realize our identities as disciples of Christ. The industrialized culture of speed that we are immersed in has fragmented and warped us; it's caused tremendous relationship deficits. Slow Church is a worthwhile read to help us reconnect with the heart of Jesus' message, to value people, and to see that nickels and noses are not the only or the best marks for faithfulness.
In 1978 I began to learn from others (seasoned and older) how to build this kind of life in Jesus. How to be a community together following Jesus. The word delivered in Slow Church is so timely, dare I call it 'prophetic'. It gives me great hope of reformation for the western church. I think its a happy providential blessing that Slow Church, Carson & Luken's "Renovation of the Church", Labberton's "Called" and Os Guinness's "Renaissance" all show up on the publishing scene relatively close together. Each one in its own way calling the church back to intentional discipleship to Jesus. Thanks Christopher Smith for a rich metaphor applied with skill and affection for the people of God.