What is a church? Is it a denomination, a building, or is it a people? Are two or three enough to be a church like Matthew 18:20 suggests?
In the book Small is Big, the Dales and George Barna present a look at the growing movement of simple churches spreading throughout the world. Perhaps the most famous are the house churches of China, which have spread out of a necessity via a repressive government. (See Brother Yun’s Heavenly Man and Paul Hattaway’s Back to Jerusalem) The stories that have come out of these churches have caused many traditional church goers begin to wonder if they were missing something about what Christ intended His church to look like. Small is Big looks at models of simple/house churches in the world, what goals of the simple/house church should be, how these churches relate to legacy and mega churches, and also the Dale’s experience in planting and networking simple churches.
Overall, I loved the book. I have pushed off this review for days trying to think of things that I could critique, and while I can certainly point to doctrinal issues I don’t necessarily agree with, the overall position they take is that the simple church, the legacy church, or the mega church are all God’s churches, and He should be the ultimate power and authority of every position of leadership, revelation, counseling, outreach, and doctrine. And it’s hard to argue with that because it’s true.
The one thing I did disagree with, that I think is worth mentioning, is the notion that simple churches are largely incompatible with legacy or mega churches. That they cannot be small groups of those larger churches or that members of the simple churches have to give up going to their larger churches and just focus on their simple church. I think simple church leaders would benefit greatly by having a legacy or mega church home, especially one that was willing to be a network hub for their churches with a pastor or leader who could give resources, guidance, and prayer when it’s needed rather than just dividing the simple church or networked church from the rest of the body. I see simple churches as fingers and hands. They are more outward focused than most of the body, and they do a lot of great, skillful work, but separated from the arms (legacy) and the torso (mega), fingers don’t have much strength or purpose. The Dales admit to receiving a lot of help from these sources, but they discourage those starting simple churches from continuing to attend at legacies and megas. It seemed to be a contradiction.
All in all, Small is Big a great resource for the simple church movement beginning here in the West.
I received a free copy of the book for review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.