Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Review: The Church As Movement by JR Woodward and Dan White, Jr.

In August, I received a copy of The Church As Movement: Starting and Sustaining Missional-Incarnational Communities by JR Woodward and Dan White, Jr. from their publisher, Intervarsity Press. I was excited to dig into the book as I have known JR for a long time, and I’m regularly impressed by his thoughts on church and faith. When I first met JR, he had recently transitioned from an incredibly successful church plant on the campus of Virginia Tech to starting a cluster of neighborhood churches in three different communities in Los Angeles. Since that time, he has been on the forefront of missiology and church planting in various contexts in the US and abroad. While I am not familiar with Dan White, I know that JR keeps company with many thoughtful individuals who are serious about a fresh embodiment of what it means to be a Christian. I have enjoyed many long conversations with JR through the years about living a deep and fulfilling life of faith and leading others to do the same, and I deeply appreciate his friendship, his example, and his words for fellow sojourners on the journey.  

The layout of The Church As Movement was not what I expected it to be. When looking at the cover and skimming the pages, this book is not just laying out some new theory on church-planting or comparing and contrasting styles of developing and cultivating faith communities (although there is some of both in its pages). Rather, the book is meant to be a workbook and a framework for mission focused faith communities who are serious about facilitating transformation in their neighborhoods and the world.

As I read through each section, I found myself laughing out loud at some metaphors, and quietly nodding my head in agreement at the ideas developed on the pages. I read it as someone already aligned with the concepts laid out in the text. JR and I have had many conversations (although we have not been able to connect directly for a few years) about how to facilitate growth of individuals and communities with a primary focus in depth.

The book is laid out as a series of chapter concepts and sub-concepts with a series of reflective questions at the end of each section. The questions are meant to help land concepts as well as perform self-assessment of the reader and his/her faith community. Each chapter’s questions drive toward discovering gaps and thinking through how to address potential pitfalls for an aspiring church planting team or existing faith community looking more seriously at how they can aspire to be a sign, a foretaste, and an instrument of God’s Kingdom come and will being done on earth as it is in heaven.

Are you looking for a personal or communal assessment tool for evaluating the strengths of your faith community? Are you trying to think about how you can take the Good News of Jesus into the world without being a clanging gong or without being obtuse? Are you curious about how to think about shifting your thinking about faith from an extraction or attraction mindset to an embodied and missional mindset? Do you want to learn more about how to lead as a team and not with a CEO mindset? Would you like to see your faith community develop into one that looks more like the early church? If you answered yes to any of these questions, or if you just want to take a look at different approaches to living out a life of faith in community, I believe you will appreciate The Church As Movement. I hope you will give it a read, and that it will stir your imagination to think about all that is possible for running strong in your personal and communal life of faith.

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