I just finished reading a wonderful book called Slow Church, Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus, by C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison. Slow Chursh is about taking the time to cherish the depth of life in the church. We live in a world that lives mostly on the surface. Smith and Pattison call us to go down into the center of ourselves and the church, and find the Lord working in and through his people in ways that one might not expect. Right after reading Slow Church I came across the following blog post from David Benner. I think it is an apt description of some of the things the authors were trying to get at in their book:
“The French novelist, George Baranos, described sin as the patterned way of being in which we remain on the surface of life. Living on the surface is a great waste of life. Something in us remains asleep when we prefer fast food to a gourmet meal or when boredom fuels an addiction to stimulation. These are signs that we are living on the circumference and far from the center. Moving to the center is a journey of awakening. The route to that awakening is presence.” David Benner http://www.drdavidgbenner.ca/living-from-the-center/
The following comes from the introduction:
“Fast is busy, controlling, aggressive, hurried, analytical, stressed, superficial, impatient, active, quantity-over-quality. Slow is the opposite: calm, careful, receptive, still, intuitive, unhurried, patient, reflective, quality-over-quantity. It is about making real and meaningful connections—with people, culture, work, food, everything.”
This book brought me back home to my own church. I have to admit that there are times when I want to go to a “fast” church. It is easier in fast churches. I can go there and be entertained by professional quality music that suits my taste; I can hear a good message that speaks to my “felt needs.” I am tempted to leave my “slow” church but I continue to make the choice to remain there year after year. It is close to my home. I know the people there… I mean really know them. They are family. My church struggles some. But, it is the church family that the Lord has called me to.
As I member and volunteer minister in my own church, I can relate to the authors who call themselves amateurs. They define the word in the sense that seems to fit the Slow Church mentality, “…amateur comes to us from the French and it literally means ‘lover.’ It implies a passionate love for the thing itself, quite separate from any compensation (money, fame, career) that could come from it.”
Slow Church is a call to modern people to appreciate real church. By real, I mean genuine. It is challenging to me to really spend time in my church, getting to know the people there, the history of the church, the people in the neighborhood and most especially the God who has given birth to the church.
I appreciate the quote by Goethe from the beginning of chapter two:
“To live within limits. To want one thing.
Or a few things very much and love them dearly.
Cling to them, survey them from every angle.
Become one with them—that is what makes the poet,
the artist, the human being.”
I think the primary call that sounds the loudest in this book is the call to patience. It is even in the title: “Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus.” The opposite of patience is, of course, impatience. The authors quote the book, Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life, by Henri Nouwen, Donald McNeill and Douglas Morrison who define impatience as an “inner restlessness . . . [that is,] experiencing the moment as empty, useless, meaningless. It is wanting to escape from the here and now as soon as possible.” Slow church is about learning to appreciate the here and now in the context of the church I am in; the one I am a part of here and now.
I highly recommend Slow Church. I think it has been aptly written for “such a time as this.” It is a great reminder to take the time to develop deep relationships with God and his people in the context of the local church; your local church. The book calls us to take ownership of our church and patiently engage in the life-changing message of the Gospel through our own church in our own neighborhoods.