Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Reading on Relationships

I just finished Randy Frazee’s book The Connecting Church, Beyond Small Groups to Authentic Community.   Randy is a pastor at Oak Hills Church right down the street in San Antonio.  However, this book was written when he was at Pantego Bible Church in Arlington.  (He has also been a teaching pastor at Willow Creek.)

I found myself getting depressed while reading this book.  This was by no means a reflection on the author’s work.  What was bugging me was this:  when it comes to small groups, I have read more books than I can count.  There are always great ideas, new insights and stories of success.  However, when I talk to my colleagues, we all suffer from the same trouble of trying to create true, organic community within the church.  Occasionally, I just feel like I am feeding more data into my brain and going nowhere.  However, with Randy Frazee’s approach, I found a bit of hope.  I found hope in the fact that before offering more approaches, he starts with the problems.  The entire book is based around three problems that get in the way of true biblical community: the problem of individualism, the problem of isolation and the problem of consumerism.  For each of these problems he addresses the issue with, not just a small group plan, but a pathway to getting at the root of the problem.  For the issue of individualism, the solution lies in common purpose.  This may be my favorite part, Frazee points out that we often try to jump into small groups in order to nurture and sustain ourselves while we don’t even agree on what it is we believe.  It is awfully difficult to hold each other up and hold each other accountable when we don’t agree on even the basic tenants of our faith.  For the problem of isolationism, the author really digs deep and suggests we really reconsider where we live and how we live in community.  He suggests that true biblical community happens, not at church, but in our community, in our neighborhoods (imagine that!)  For the problem of consumerism, the path leads us to rethink our possessions and our interdependence and how our relationship to both can foster or prevent true community.

I really liked this book not because  it gave me a whole lot of concrete steps regarding small groups but that it helped me to better understand the goals and pitfalls of trying to foster true community.  I would be really interested to know how the author’s thinking has grown or changed in his time down the street at Oak Hills.  So, Randy if you read your reviews, give me a call or yell real loud, we aren’t too far away.



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