We live in a fast society. Everything happens quickly, if not instantaneously. While it’s nice to have things available whenever we need them, it can teach us be impatient with those things that need time. Spiritual formation and developing mission are among those things that take time. We need to be willing to take this things slowly.
In their book Slow Church, John Pattison and Chris Smith write about slowing down the ways that we do church and cultivating the patient way of Jesus. Initially, the idea of slowing down church may be off-putting to some because either church is boring enough and doesn’t need to be slower, or there needs to be an urgency with which we share the gospel because the world is in need. The good news is that they don’t mean that church services should be slower, although times of slowing down are helpful, and they don’t mean that we need to slow down the spread of the Gospel around the world. Instead what they are advocating is a less franchised and McDonaldized version of the church. Instead of planting churches that are the same no matter their context or the culture of their local community, we need to take the time to cultivate a church that in some ways embodies the spirit of the community (or the “taste of the place” as the call it) and also seeks to meet the real needs of that community.
Honestly, this is hard for many of us to hear, especially in our culture. We want to make a difference and have results quickly. However, for a church to have a deep and lasting impact in a community usually takes a long time. Just as a tree that has to grow roots and mature in order to bear fruit, churches need to commit to long term growth and seek to root themselves in a place in order to bear fruit.
While there are many practices that practices that they discuss in the book and help us understand what it takes to take this long view of developing community, I think the one that is most important for us to hear the practice of stability. Many of us have a tendency to serve in multiple places or move from service opportunity to service opportunity. While this has some benefits and can help people see more what what needs to be done, in our pursuit of living out God’s mission we need to choose stability. Relationships and change take time. If we really want to be effective in our communities, we have to choose to stick it out through good times and bad. We have to be willing to take the time to develop relationships and find the real needs in the community to really make a change.
I believe that this book brings about a needed conversation in churches. It’s very easily to what the big churches do. It’s tempting to try and get large crowds at your church. While there is a time and a place for large gatherings, the church is called to the mission of reconciliation. This process takes time and the Slow Church book reminds us that mission takes time. When living on mission for God, it’s important that we think long term results and seek to cultivate community and not to franchise the kingdom of God.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from IVP. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”