Our mainstream culture is tempting us to construct the church off the draft of magnetic personalities and dynamic stage presentations. This seems to be the most obvious approach to attracting people to the church. Alan Roxburgh in Joining God, Remaking the Church, and, Changing the World flips this on its head. The church must re-imagine its presence in the world and more specifically in the neighborhood. Alan wastes no time in this book. He takes us on a historical jaunt that helps us understand why the church finds itself in a missional predicament in the 21st century. This history lesson might be the most concise and helpful narrative explaining the past seventy five years of what he describes as the “Euro-Tribal Protestant Church”. It’s clear that coming to grips with where we are right now will inform our discernment in how to move forward.
Alan Roxburgh starts the journey with a question, “Where is God at work out ahead of us?” This is no light question it begins and sustains the church’s recalibration around the passions of God and the activity of God’s spirit in our local places. It’s this high belief in the work of the Spirit in the world that birth’s certain postures of practice. These practices are memorable but more than that are meaningful for re-orienting the church around God’s mission in the world rather than being oriented around the anxiety ridden effort to attract people with relevant goods and services. Alan creates a clear and accessible outline for the practices of: Listening, Discerning, Testing and Experimenting, Reflecting, Deciding. His exploration of each is short and punchy but this is its beauty. What screams from the pages is that as the people of God move out in a posture of humility into the neighborhood they meet God. There is a mutual transformation that occurs in being carefully and intentionally present with others.
This book is a gem and should be shared with parishioners, leaders, church planters and anyone curious about the future of the church. Thanks Alan for crunching down such a robust theology and practice for ordinary Jesus-followers to digest and carry into the world.
March 1, 2016