“Slow is the opposite [of fast, etc.]: calm, careful, receptive, still, intuitive, unhurried, patient, reflective, quality-over-quantity”– C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison
Fighting what George Ritzer called the “McDonaldization” of society and church, pastors C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison deliver a look into what counterculture church might look like, as reflected in their home communities in Indianapolis and Portland. They quote sources from Pope Francis to Walter Bruggemann, sharing examples from coffee beans to local church life. Most of the book provides an overview of examples until they lock in on some practical ways in the end that churches can adapt.
Focusing on incarnational church over attractional church, they recognize that churches in communities can follow some of the same principles but can’t blueprint copy when it comes to experiencing healthy church in different areas. (One of the best quotes they use is from Warren Wiersbe: “You can never franchise the blessings of God.”) In fact, they flip The Prayer of Jabez (via Paul Sparks): “God, shrink our territory, and narrow our boundaries, that we might be a blessing to all.” It’s revolutionary stuff, right? But somehow, it’s as old as… Jesus.
The authors encourage us to examine questions that relate to our settings and our communities. What are barriers or causes of growth? What factors have we seen work elsewhere and what can we reproduce? Many of their examples are grassroots that grow, from sharing supper to the Eucharist in community– many of their examples are about food! One example highlights how you can’t enjoy coffee as a just a bean (it must be roasted, ground, and boiled), and compares it to the Eucharist, as stomped grapes and grinding/baking of wheat.
While much of this is practical, I appreciated the story vignettes most. My clear favorite is from Phil Kenneson’s church, from a Christmas Eve where a nearby fire caused his congregation to abandon actual worship services, and be church by opening itself up to firefighters, medics, those displaced and killed, etc. They went to work being the church, rather than just sitting back and watching the community around them. What would happen if we were more like that?
Overall, Slow Church plays out well for pastors and highly involved volunteers, but it may be too heady and detailed at times for just a Bible study. Andy Stanley’s book Deep and Wide may be more approachable, but you can’t pass on the opportunity to stop and consider what it would be like if we’d actually practice Sabbath and stop just talking about it.