One of our families early encounters with missional church was being a part of Bluer (now Renewal Vineyard) in Minneapolis. I often remember Pastor John Musick’s expression for sin: “disintegrated lives.” It really caught the essence of all the ways our culture tries to pull us away from the holistic, integrated lives God desires for us to live. Sadly, it’s often hard to see how contemporary Evangelical church offers anything different from the compartmentalized lives corporate America sells us on a daily basis.
In light of this, it’s refreshing when a book like Slow Church by Chris Smith and John Patterson comes along. This book paints a picture of church that is counter-cultural to the fast-paced, compartmentalized lives many of us live. Borrowing from the language of the Slow Food Movement, it challenges the reader to think about how to make life and church more integrated without resorting to the “church-bashing” that can sometimes find it’s way into missional church literature.
Chris and John are not professional clergy trying to sell you on their program for building a church. They are self-professed amateurs in the truest sense of the word: lovers of church-life that seek to see it integrate into every other part of their lives. They live in two different communities and have found their way into congregations that encourage their ability to live these principles out. Drawing from their own experiences, both healthy and unhealthy, they provide an appealing vision of what church could be.
The book is laid out in a very accessible format that anyone can pick up and enjoy. Chris and John begin by presenting a theological basis for the type of church they desire to see. They follow-up with nine characteristics of slow church broken down into three “courses:” ethics, ecology, and economy. Throughout the book they revisit several of the challenges that contemporary culture pose to living out these characteristics and ask whether the cost of acquiescing to the status quo is worth what we appear to gain by following the cultural norms of a society living at supersonic speed. Slow Church is not simply a manual on how to “do church.” It is a call to live a more integrated life that will naturally include a different approach to how church integrates with that life.
During a time of great stress in his life, King David wrote a hymn that invited others to “taste and see that the LORD is good.” (Psalm 34:8) Slow Church invites readers who are worn down by our fast-paced culture to take the same taste and discover the goodness that can be found in living and worshipping at the pace God desires for us. For those of us who are professional clergy, it is a challenge to create the type of faith communities that allow the weary to enter in and slowing taste the goodness of God at a pace that is healthy for their soul. For those of us who consider ourselves “amateurs,” true lovers of church-life, it is a call to examine our own pace of life and find ways to make it more “tasty” to those around us. For both groups of readers Slow Church is a meal worth tasting and digesting.