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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

4.3 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“If the late Lesslie Newbigin could offer today’s Church an exhortation---a reminder from the past, an assessment of the present, and encouragement for the future---what would the old Bishop say? In what he terms “missional ecumenism,” John Armstrong proposes an answer that confronts readers with the universal shape of Christian identity.” -- Chris Castaldo

“The Apostle Paul wrote that 'maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace' among the followers of Jesus Christ is 'hard work' (Eph. 4:3). Few people know that better than John Armstrong. In a day when everything about the contemporary Church militates against oneness, John Armstrong is struggling to break down the walls we've built up so that the world can see Jesus in all His variegated richness, in the fullness of the one Body of Christ. Your Church is Too Small provides the blueprints and marching orders for a new generation of Church-builders (capital C) from among those who are building local churches in all the communions of the Body of Christ.” -- T.M. Moore

“This book maps out the painful yet liberating trek from sectarian isolation to the spirit of orthodox unity. In opening oneself to fellow believers, there is no escaping the tension between purity and embrace. No one can sort out that puzzle this side of the Second Coming. But Armstrong's book gives courage and strength for the journey. Read this book, take heart, and go forth.” -- David Neff

“Dr. Armstrong’s irenic approach should make it easy for Christians, whether Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant, to engage the challenging thesis of the book, while recognizing that there remain points of doctrine between them which will require further clarification. Anyone concerned about either evangelism or Christian unity should read this book, and take seriously its call for both mission and ecumenism.” -- Fr. Thomas A. Baima

“John Armstrong is one of those Evangelical theologians---may their tribe increase and the valley abound with their tents---who know that full obedience to Christ embraces the historical transmission through which we know Him. This book refuses to scale down the bearer of that tradition---the historical church, that is---or reduce the authority of its voice.” -- Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

“A growing appreciation for Catholicism---the whole church, spread across the whole world---is one of the most hopeful signs emerging within recent evangelicalism. John Armstrong’s astute, heartfelt book provides excellent guidance for the 21st-century evangelical rediscovery of the classical church and its rich tradition.” -- Rodney Clapp

“Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox Christians who call Jesus Lord are obligated to fulfill His Great Commission and His New Commandment to love one another. Our lack of visible unity and ecumenical charity hinders our mission. John Armstrong’s Your Church Is Too Small is a humble, honest, and open-hearted summons to “re-size” our churches (and our hearts) by taking seriously the prayer Jesus prayed for us on the eve of His Crucifixion. May this encouraging, provocative, and practical book not only be read widely, but also be acted upon out of love for the One who saves us all.” -- James M. Kushiner

“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 www.Act3online.com. 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 (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,497,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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