Many will be familiar with Pastor Randy Frazee, he is the senior pastor of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio where ministers alongside Max Lucado. This second edition of the Connecting Church is Randy’s distillation of his study and research in the span of the last ten years since Connecting Church was published. This book is really a goldmine of biblical and spiritual truth! The book is divided into four major sections with the major labels: common purpose, common place, commons possessions, and connecting church. What was most helpful in each section was the remarkable clarity of thought that Randy brought to the table. In each section, he addressed the problem, wrote about characteristics of the theme he was developing and brought it all together by a rediscovery of the outworking of his goal.
In addressing the difficulty in small groups, Randy points out a particular problem about the individualism found in these small groups. Bolstering his argument by using the work of Robert Wuthnow, Randy writes, “He identifies that most small group members do not enter the group with a common set of beliefs and purposes. Instead, everyone carries his or her own individual set of beliefs and purposes into the group” (40). Even in small groups with a direct purpose, often there is a tendency to shy away from making challenging remarks to others in a call for discipleship for fear of what might happen. Randy is right that often small groups fail to bring about a close sense of community because there is no clear belief and purpose structure which holds everyone together. Fearing that holding to close to a firm set of doctrines and purposes will lead to an abuse of power (44), many reject the notion of a band of brothers meeting together. Yet, as Randy points out, it is the steady explanation and application of basic Christian teaching that will help overcome this radical individualism. It is most difficult to act as the church without the knowledge of who and why the church exists.
In the section on Rediscovering Biblical Purpose, Randy makes a powerful statement about the nature of the church by writing, “Our command is not to “go to church” but to “be the church.” We are not to hide our light under the bushel of a church building but let it shine out in the community” (69). The body of Christ are Christ’s representatives upon Earth to reflect his glory and to imitate his life. The following pages in the chapter elucidate the nature of belonging to a community of believers, sharing a meal, growing, serving in the neighbor hoods they find themselves in. What I thought was insightful here was that Randy makes no formal distinction between the church on Sunday and the church throughout the week. Later on in the book he distinguishes church’s that focus on Sunday for their programs and growth and ones that start with neighborhoods, but here he casts a vision of the church that is appealing as much to the street cleaner as it is to the business owner in your neighborhood.
One of the best chapters in the book was entitled Rediscovering Neighborhood. Randy delineates some guiding principles for acting upon our desire to be a good neighbor. One of the principles was ‘the ten-minute rule. Stop by to see neighbors spontaneously, but don’t stay more than ten minutes’ (119). I have found this principle immensely helpful when working in the yard. When seeing a neighbor working outside in the yard, taking ten minutes to talk with them is really not hard at all. Often, you end up talking for longer because you find out more things about them you never knew. I would add one thing to this list; sometimes it is very important to be open to just ask questions of your neighbors. Finding out what your neighbor’s passions and things they live for gives you an indication of their heart as well. Overall, the points about downsizing, cutting out the commute, and living simply go a long way in promoting a life that is less concerned with stuff and more concerned with people.
Much of the last few chapters deal with church growth strategies targeted at the neighborhood approach. I think this book will greatly encourage believers to engage in ministry in the context they live without the spurious notion that only church ministry inside the church walls really counts. Randy’s challenge for small groups to come together for a common purpose around common beliefs is a great reminder to every church.
Thanks to Zondervan and Cross Focused Reviews for the copy of this book in exchange for review.