Mar 15, 2010
Your Church Is Too Small by John Armstrong: Book Review
Admittedly, the reading began with a reservation of Armstrong's perspectives regarding catholicity and the call to a missional ecumenism. Don't know what those words are? That's okay, Armstrong has provided a handy glossary at the end of the book to help clarify terms that most of us may not use in conversation regularly. However, I believe the audience that will be reading this book will be acutely aware of the buzzwords missional, catholicity, and ecumenism that generally raise the heresy antennae for the majority of us. It is indeed nice to see someone being thoughtful enough to consider that most believers may be completely unaware of this terminology.
John Armstrong takes a narrative approach and introduces us to his journey from what I would call close-mindedness to open-dialogue with the historic Christian powerhouses of Protestantism, Catholicism, and The Orthodox Church. His agenda is simple, promoting a desire within Christian congregations to accept the idea that the Christian Church is much larger than their local assembly. Armstrong does not stop there, he goes on to implore with his readers that there is a need to assess their own position in the current state of dialog occurring with members of different denominations and faith backgrounds in the Christian context.
Armstrong addresses several different spectrum's concerning the Church today. Where I resonate with him is his desire to see the restoration of what he calls an "Ancient-Future" faith. It is essential for the Christian to understand the roots and heritage of their faith in order to approach the future and their place in the mission of the Church. While Armstrong does not appear to be calling for a new reformation, he does infer that reformation will occur when the Church at large, the universal, Catholic Church of the Apostle's Creed realizes it's true place in history, its present need for mobilization, and the removal of a handicap that inhibits the actions of believers. The Church must wake up from its slumber and take note of those who may belong to other historic schools of faith but yet love Jesus.
By reading this book you will be challenged to think outside of the closed mind perspective that is often bred by our local assemblies. You will find yourself challenged to consider your own position in the theater of Christianity. You will have to evaluate your own membership of the Church of Christ that inherits, proclaims, and trusts in the Kingdom of God. I do not affirm all of Armstrong's perspectives regarding Catholicity with faiths that historically embrace doctrines long accepted as heresy, but do sympathize with the need to interact with those who believe they are trusting in Jesus and loving them because we are required to do so. If you know the Apostle's creed, and often wonder why you recite affirmation of the 'Catholic Church' this book will help you understand the implications that these words have.
Armstrong appeals to the unity of Ephesians 4 as a guiding premise for his thoughts and assessments. I accept that sectarianism and denominationalism have shattered and polarized many assemblies in the whole of Christian history and believe that a true embrace of Ephesians 4 will impact the believers life in more than just an ecumenical approach to modern ministry. Although I believe the continuity of this book redeems the uneasiness first felt in the beginning, I still have one last question for John Armstrong to answer.
Is the unity proposed by a missional ecumenism a unity that promotes an agreement to disagree for the sake of unity, or is for the purpose of believers being lead by the Holy Spirit in to unity of the faith, which then precedes an opportunity that allows us to fellowship in more than macro-ministry, but in the breaking of bread and drinking of the cup?
This book is for purchase at Zondervan
Find out more about the book and the author at the book's website
Labels: Book Review