I've been procrastinating on writing a review of Small Is Big (originally published as The Rabbit and the Elephant) by Tony Dale, Felicity Dale and George Barna. The problem with this book is there are so many parts to it that I find encouraging. I don't know if a short summary will do justice. I'd like to say "I like this part", and then quote the whole book, but that may break some copyright rules.
If I were to write a short summary of this book, this is a thought that kept coming to me as I read it:
"This is a record of somebody who is actually living the way I've been thinking lately."
I enjoyed reading their personal stories of their involvement in simple relational church life. I found it encouraging to read stories that had a familiar resemblance to what we find in the New Testament. Tony and Filicity have numerous first hand accounts where the living spirit of Jesus has made an impact on the lives of others and resulted in groups of people following Jesus together. They are actively making disciples of Jesus, building them up, and sending them out to make more disciples.
Unfortunately these stories are too many and too long to include in a blog post here. So you'll have to get your own copy of their book if you want to be encouraged by these stories. (and/or follow their blog here)
I will share a couple of sound bites of what they have learned along the way:
"The phenomenon that is occurring in front of our eyes is a rebirthing of the church - God is taking an event-based institution and re-forming it so that it is becoming life - and relationship-based.".
"The Gospel of the Kingdom. Jesus was very focused on His Father's Kingdom, speaking about it more than any other subject. The Gospels include more than a hundred references to the word Kingdom. Jesus preached about it (Luke 4:43) and told people to seek it above all else (Matthew 6:33). He told parables about it (Matthew 13; 25) and said that the Kingdom was near to people who were healed (Luke 10:9)"
"This Kingdom of God is an upside-down kingdom. It takes the world's values and exposes them for what they are: hollow and superficial. And then it sets its own standards: up is down, death leads to life, law is transformed by grace, the poor are rich, leaders serve, and the humble are exalted."
"Liquid church happens when we stop inviting others to come to church and instead we go out into every sphere of society as the Lord leads. We reach out to our neighbors or our coworkers, and instead of asking them to come to church, we get together with those people right where they live or work. In this way segments of society that might never have experienced church life are affected by the Kingdom of God"
"Jesus is far more interested in our hearts than He is in our pursuit of correct doctrine or the right church structure. All who know Jesus as Lord are the body of Christ, no matter which spiritual family they may belong to (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). "
"Non-religious Christianity.... This kind of spiritual life cannot be put into a box or placed on an agenda. It cannot be programmed or reduced to a curriculum. As Wolfgang Simson likes to say "Programs are what the church resorts to when the Holy Spirit leaves."
"One of the biggest paradigm shifts within the simple church reformation is the understanding that when we are following the Holy Spirit, there is little need for organization and no neeed for hierarchical control. Ordinary people can be entrusted with the affairs of the church, and since Jesus is head of the church, we need to be willing to risk letting the Holy Spirit direct things as He wills."