In Joining God, Remaking Church, Changing the World, Alan J. Roxburgh invites congregations on a different kind of journey. This journey involves releasing the desire to fix the church and embracing the practice of discerning what God is doing ahead of us in our neighborhoods and communities. For Roxburgh, this journey demands a shift from church-centered questions to God-centered questions. Roxburgh provides hope for weary congregations and leaders by inviting churches to learn a new rhythm for congregational life. This rhythm includes a body of practices (e.g. listening, discerning, experimenting) that will nurture a new imagination into churches and help congregations to focus on God’s activity and being with others.
Roxburgh invites congregations to be liberated from the temptation to fix what he asserts has been The Great Unraveling in Euro-tribal North American churches and instead fix their eyes on what God is presently doing in neighborhoods and communities. Roxburgh’s descriptions of The Great Unraveling and reactions to it are helpful for people who want to understand declining church participation and the “fixit mentality” that has largely guided church leaders desperate to keep people in the pews. Roxburgh’s assertions are compelling because the hope for North American Euro-tribal churches does not exist in repairing budgets or convincing people to visit church buildings. The hope is rooted in Luke 10, a missiological framework for Christian hospitality and witness that demonstrates God’s mission involves disciples that are willing to go empty-handed into communities and join God’s work there. This is not only biblical, but also does not require money, pastoral expertise, or creative visionaries with innovative strategies, all of which declining churches are probably short on or have already tried.
Roxburgh’s final chapter is particularly interesting given he prepares readers for potential defaults and roadblocks on this new journey. This section of the book demonstrates Roxburgh’s experience in consulting numerous churches through challenges and opportunities. By naming these defaults and roadblocks, Roxburgh helps readers to be prepared to gently begin this journey with their congregations. The ecclesial yearning to control agendas and relationships and to do for others (rather than be with) is deeply embedded in the psyche of Euro-tribal North American churches. However, Roxburgh’s invitation to engage historic Christian practices centered on joining in God’s sending and participation in neighborhoods is an invigorating proposal for those of us who are ready to venture into our communities, especially those of us in congregations that may not have a bag, purse, or sandals to take with us anyway.
March 8, 2016