I few years ago, I began conversations with friends about what the nature of church was. At that time, I was a part of a congregation that was dedicated to offering programs to reach out to unbelievers and to serve believers’ needs in order to integrate them into the life of the church through Sunday morning worship. When a person began to attend the large gathering of Sunday worshippers they had started being a “part of the church.” Until that point, they were not considered a part of the congregation.
When I began these conversations among fellow believers I began to ask them, “What counts as ‘church’? Does only the Sunday morning gathering of the entire congregation count as church? Or does participation in a small group in someone’s home count as ‘church’ as well? What about the folks that attend Sunday school but leave before worship? Do they count as part of the church or not?”
Small is Big! argues that our understanding of church has become too institutional and too narrow. As members of what is alternately called “house church,” “organic church,” and “simple church,” Tony and Felicity place before their readers a different vision of what the word “church” means and what church can be. In arguing in favor of house churches, they believe that a simpler model of church is not only more efficient and effective, but also more biblical.
The text of Small is Big! reads as part memoir and part thesis. The Dales begin their book by sharing about their own journey toward “simple church,” and how it has ministered to them and others they know effectively. Throughout the book, they share examples of their joys and sorrows in their spiritual and church journeys. The authors also make a convincing case for house churches as a biblical model for living out the Christian faith in community. They thoroughly speak about the history of house churches (Chapters 3 and 4) and the biblical basis for organic churches (Chapter 9 and 13).
Small is Big! also practical. Most of the last third of the book addresses how leadership (Chapter 17) and finances (Chapter 18) work in a house church. The Dales do not simply wax eloquent about their vision for the church; they are very clear about how this kind of church functions well.
The biggest problem I have with Small is Big! has to do with the way it is being marketed. It is a re-release of a book previous titled The Rabbit and the Elephant. This practice of selling the same book under a different title always bothers me, especially when I buy the same book twice under two different titles.
All in all, Small is Big! is an excellent primer for understanding the house church, or simple church, movement. It is well written, conversational, biblically based, and well reasoned. If anyone is interested in starting or participating in a house church model of Christian community, I would recommend this book strongly. – Clint Walker, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
Church planters Tony and Felicity Dale and acclaimed researcher George Barna bring a big message to God’s church. How might we change the world if our Christian faith began multiplying at a rapid pace—through a way of life that is explosive and transformational? It happened once before, in the early days of the church; what will it take to bring us to that point of urgency and determination again? Small Is Big (originally published as The Rabbit and the Elephant) offers keys to 21st-century evangelism: leveraging the power of the small—and taking the gospel to where the people are and the pain is. And as God uses us to channel Jesus’ love into a hurting, desperate world, we’ll see his church grow beyond anything we could have imagined.