Monday, March 22, 2010

Review of Your Church Is Too Small by John H. Armstrong

The name John H. Armstrong may ring a bell with a few of my readers.  He was the editor for a helpful book in the late 90’s called The Compromised Church: The Present Evangelical Crisis .  I had the wonderful opportunity to review his new book Your Church Is Too Small: Why Unity in Christ's Mission Is Vital to the Future of the Church .  I cannot at this time offer my typical full review of the book.  The reason?  This book is causing me to think far too deeply to rush into a half-way done review.  I am still working through whether I “like” or “dislike” some of the things in the book.  It is causing me to rethink aspects of my theology and practice. 

By way of review allow me to offer you a quick summary, a few helpful links, and a plea to buy the book and work through it. 

Quick Summary

  Armstrong has caught some flack in recent days.  His name was found among the McLaren’s, Bell’s, Miller’s, Warren’s, and Pagitt’s of our day in John MacArthur’s recent book The Truth War.  Armstrong has been sharply criticized for his move towards a broader ecumenism.  This book is perhaps a defense of that move. 

Armstrong’s major thesis is that our comfortable disunity with those in the body of Christ of different ecclesiology is sin.  In the first section Armstrong gives reason for such a broader unity.  He argues that the unity Christ calls for is not simply invisible unity but should be actually visible. 

In the second section Armstrong calls for a restoration of unity within the church and provides a few helpful pointers towards pursuing unity.  He identifies the enemy and begins paving a road towards a greater unity.

In the final section Armstrong outlines the “Missional-Ecumenical Church” as a new paradigm (or rather the recovery of an old one).  He gives a few comparisons to outline this new paradigm.  He closes the book by praying that the Lord may disturb us and call us toward that which he lays out in this book. 

What I cannot offer is my critique or commendation of this book.  I am still chewing on it. 

A few links:

Should You Buy It?

I would strongly suggest buying this book and thinking through some of the issues that Armstrong raises.  Whether you agree with him or not, you will learn much from what he has to say.  We do indeed need greater unity within the church.  I am not convinced of the sectarianism that is often rampant within our churches…but I am also working through whether or not I agree with that which Armstrong lays out.  I invite you to buy the book and work through this with me.


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  2. What an honest and intriguing response Mike. I respect you far more than my words can express in a blog comment. You have at least given me and my book a "fair" hearing by reading it more carefully and seeking to follow the argument closely.

    The book is not a "defense" of my position, unless by defense we understand explanation in the face of misunderstanding. It is a narrative of my journey to understanding and then wrestling with John 17 and Ephesians 4. I may be wrong but this is my own story and that story needed to be told because my story is often mistakenly reacted against but much more important it needed to be told because what I am arguing for positively can bear good fruit for the kingdom in the light of John 17:20-23. If our unity reflects to the world the unity between the Father and the Son so that the world will "see" what they do not now see then this does matters. If this is Christ's will then if does matter. Obviously, I am convinced it is his will and thus it does matter. Readers like yourself are wise to give it a hearing and then to ask, "What does the Word say and does this matter to me and my life?" This is why I give stories in the end about Christians actually doing what I am writing about. I found such hope from these stories.

    Blessings to you my brother. And again, thank you.



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