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Friday, June 14, 2013

"Church Zero" (Peyton Jones)

TITLE: Church Zero: Raising 1st Century Churches out of the Ashes of the 21st Century Church
AUTHOR: Peyton Jones
PUBLISHER: Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2013, (240 pages).

This book is about Church planting. It is about starting up from scratch. Why is it necessary to start from ground up? That is because not only are many churches losing the young, they are modeled incorrectly, and far too different from the early New Testament Church. For instance, we have the numbers-driven MegaChurch movement, that continues to attract people and using a quantitative yardstick to denote success. Then there is the counter-MegaChurch movement, called the Emergent movement which rises up as a response to the rising disenchantment with the megachurches. Then, there is the inward-looking churches. Instead of reaching outward, they are dying inwards due to its self-serving programs. In Jones's words, churches in America and Britain are "already dying from within." Going back to the Early Church and the book of Acts, Jones argues that a major problem lies in the wrong structure right from the start. The voice of the apostles has been replaced by a pastor-boss led structure. Instead of innovating outreaches, churches are now managing programs. Instead of starting new parishes, many are preserving old ones. Instead of flourishing, many churches are floundering. Jones asserts that the vocation of "apostles" is to actively be sent out to start new churches. The mission of churches is to plant other churches. Together with the apostles, there are then the three amigos of evangelists, pastors, and teachers who make the ragtag group of gifted individuals to expand the kingdom of God. The gift-driven ministry forms the core element of raising first century churches out of the ashes of the modern church. With wit and humour, and parallels to many modern stories we are familiar with, Jones seems to really enjoy the whole process of writing and sharing.

There is hope for reformation of the modern Church, away from inward to outward, from Church programming to Church planting. In addressing the lack of "missionary" zeal, Jones makes a fervent case for the Church to identify more missionaries from among their midst. In a way, Jones is still seeking more numbers for "Church Zero." He wants more people to catch the vision for Church planting, and to reform their church wherever they are. At one point, he takes on a radical position and seeks to "blow up the death star." In some cases, change by innovation or reformation is not enough. It needs revolution. He tries to blow up the measurement by numbers, the way churches do their budgets, and the "celebrity performance" element in churches.

My Thoughts

Jones is fully aware that his ideas will not be easily accepted. That is why he says that being a prophetic voice for such changes can be lonely and is also an "occupational hazard." I am not sure how well churches will receive such a "game changer" book. I think it boils down to first recognizing the problem and the symptoms of the problems. If leaders are in self-denial, it is hard to convince them to do any change. If leaders are fearful, they will prefer the safety of the status quo. Only when they recognize the problem, then this book will be most helpful. Maybe, this book can force leaders to take a hard look at their own churches first, and then decide.

Change is not easy. Trying to catch a vision is important. Peyton Jones has a powerful message to share, but the implementation aspects will be a bit more complicated. Every reader and Church leader intending to put the principles of this book into practice will need to spend more prayer and persuasion among their team members to first recognize the problem, second bring them on board, and third, to identify an appropriate strategy for change. While top-down can sometimes be fast, it is better for a more broader base of supporters, and people who are prepared to "bite the bullet." Multiplication efforts need to be Spirit led and empowered. If you are concerned about the sustenance of the Church, don't bother with this book. If you are concerned about the gospel, and how the Church can play an active part in promoting this gospel, you need to pick up this book.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


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

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