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Thursday, March 14, 2013

"The Connecting Church 2.0" (Randy Frazee)

TITLE: The Connecting Church 2.0: Beyond Small Groups to Authentic Community
AUTHOR: Randy Frazee
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013, (256 pages).

No man is an island. In fact, authentic churches are not collections of individuals, but communities of disciples who are constantly on a lookout for one another, and to share the kingdom of God's love far and wide. In a follow up of the first book published ten years ago, Randy Frazee not only updates the book, he presents new ideas with regards to how to become a better and more effective "connecting church" in our times. Three quarters of the book are allocated to defining the problems of the common Church life, and to help rediscover the purpose of Church, the place of neighbourhood witness, and the need to let community take priority over possessions. The last part of the book provides some implementation strategies using best practices of four churches and a presentation of a hybrid starfish model. The book is essentially about community.

A) The Problems
Frazee flashes out the three problems that prevent authentic community building. Firstly, there is the problem of individualism that diminishes community, creates breakdowns in common beliefs and purposes, causing any highest virtue to be mere tolerance rather than wholehearted acceptance of one another. Secondly, there is the problem of isolation that has been fueled by individualistic cultures. Loneliness, separation by physical distance, and a lack of interactions, turn many people and families into isolated enclaves, where people hardly know their neighbours. The third problem is consumerism, that assumes self-dependence, distrust of people, readiness to file lawsuits, lack of social accountability, and unending greed. The book is about addressing these problems head on first to stem the tide of decay. After that, Frazee proposes a constructive approach to redeem people, relationships, and society at large in order to build a connecting Church that reaches out to people and touches lives.

For each of these problems, Frazee provides a series of helpful strategies to counter them. Against individualism, Frazee proposes five ways to counter individualism.
  1. Authority: Inculcating a healthy respect for the authority structure so as to establish a working framework for community building.
  2. Common Creed: Using shared beliefs, people can work together for a common purpose
  3. Traditions: This is a crucial vehicle to impart knowledge, history, values, purposes, heritage from one generation to the next
  4. Standards: With recognized guidelines, communities can feel safe and are able to work together to uphold the standards.
  5. Common Mission: Having a clearly defined mission often draws communities closer together.
There are also five ways to counter the problem of isolation.
  1. Let there be Spontaneity that it is not the schedule or time that directs the relationship, but real needs of people that determines the time and place.
  2. Let there be Availability where people in a community put each other as more important, and where community goals trump individualistic concerns.
  3. Let there be Frequency of getting together, for all kinds of reasons. Daily interactions are far better than rare meetings.
  4. Let there be Sharing of Meals where people can hang loose, relax, and share naturally.
  5. Let there be Geographic proximity, where people can build communities without the threat of distance. 
In countering the problem of consumerism, Frazee proposes five characteristics to develop.
  1. Interdependency: Instead of trying to build up independent lifestyles that express no need for others, take time to question ourselves that just because "I could" (ability) does not necessarily mean that "I should" (application).
  2. Intergenerational Life: Learn to appreciate the challenges of different challenges and work together to live, to learn, and to leave a legacy.
  3. Children: The raising of children is not simply the parents' responsibility, but the responsibility of the whole village or community.
  4. Responsibilities: In an individualistic culture, people talk more about rights. In a community, people are ready to exercise responsibilities.
  5. Sacrifice: This negates consumerism straightaway as it not only refuses to fatten oneself up, but to sacrifice for the sake of others. In giving to others, we will truly receive something more important in return.
The final part, Part IV supplies the "2.0" content of the book. Frazee shares his top ten learning tips from his ten years of teaching and preaching "Connecting Church." He proposes a "starfish church" structure that decentralizes rather than a "spider structure" that centralizes. While the latter attracts people fast, it is the former that helps the process of discipleship better. Four churches of various sizes are highlighted to demonstrate the effectiveness of the strategy. It helps readers to appreciate that the theory has been successfully put into practice. In belonging, growing, and serving, one builds the connecting church.

I appreciate this book for its clarity and practical applications. Frazee has powerfully described the three problems of modern society, especially the rich West. It is most applicable to churches that are sub-urban, middle to upper class, and some may say, mostly white communities. When compared to other cultures like parts of Asia and Africa, community building can come more naturally than many communities in the West. One can argue that an Asian living in the West can also become individualistic and consumeristic over time. Culture is a powerful force that can mold people into a new state. That is why we need to counter society not as individuals but as communities, not as self-sufficient persons but as humble learners ready to learn the ropes of interdependence. Some of the strategies can be immediately applied to churches that look similar to the examples given in the book. That said, it is important to remember that culture is a strange animal. Unless we learn to read and diagnose our own culture correctly and accurately first, we cannot apply. Unless we read this book with a readiness to apply, we cannot establish any purpose in reading culture.  Most importantly, we need to change not because it is a new idea worth trying out. We need to start moving because it is one powerful way to live out the Great Commission. I like the way Frazee opens with a problem and closes with some positive recommendations on what to do about it. In fact, he goes much farther to help readers see the grand story, that apart from mere solving of the three problems of individualism, isolation, and consumerism, one needs to push toward strengthening communities. After all, life is not about solving problems. It is about linking people up toward a common purpose and to grow a common identity that fully appreciates our uniqueness. The Church as the Body of Christ must show the way.

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Zondervan and CrossFocusedReviews without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.


  1. Great review Conrade! Thanks for contributing to the blog tour.

    Shaun Tabatt
    Cross Focused Reviews