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Monday, September 22, 2014

"Being Church Doing Life" (Michael Moynagh)

TITLE: Being Church, Doing Life
AUTHOR: Michael Moynagh
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Monarch Books, 2014, (352 pages).

It is impossible for one person to reach the whole world. What about people groups reaching people groups? What about communities of faith reaching out together to other communities? Indeed, there are no lone-ranger Christians. Being Church is not about personal devotions or individual heroics. It is about living as a Church by weaving together visible faith through "gospel communities."  This means that doing church is not about activities within a church building. It means flourishing Christian witnesses in all parts of the world. Unconvinced? Then learn from more than 120 examples that have been offered to trigger our imagination and creativity. From the get go, Moynagh offers readers glimpses of possibility in witnessing. He gives us seven reasons for ordinary persons to reach out together.
  1. That we can reach out more to those on the edges of society
  2. That we can connect Church with society
  3. That we can revitalize our own Church
  4. That we practice discipleship better
  5. That we serve others more effectively
  6. That we encourage ordinary people to witness
  7. That we obey God's Great Commission and see mission as of primary importance than simply an add-on to our Christian life
Ideas are plentiful. Firstly, Moynagh shows us the "what" of how communities have been witnessing in various places. There are "prayer spaces" in schools to enable people to share their heartfelt needs for spiritual help. There are virtual communities to demonstrate grace. There are communities that are formed out of common interests like arts, books, crafts, sports, etc. Most of the ideas come from very usual interactions with normal activities. Like the Methodist Chapel on the verge of closure that reaches out to families by creating a "Wesley Playhouse" for birthday parties and celebrations; the "Uncommon Grounds Cafe" that provides people a place to hang out; or how a Church in Perth, Ontario worked with the relevant authorities to build a skateboard park for young people. Secondly, we learn of tools to develop witnessing communities. Being intentional helps, like targeting particular audience or age groups. It can also be journey based, like "worship first," "relationships-first," or "serving-first" strategies. Prayer, focus, support, teamwork, and getting partners form some of the many tools needed for any strategy. There are simple steps to get started. There are gospel values, practices, and ways to do discipleship. There are exhortations for disciples to make disciples, to connect faith to life, to grow disciples via rhythms of engagement and withdrawal, and using the power of stories to multiply disciples. Thirdly, for the wider Church, Moynagh spends time on leadership matters through the pastoral cycle of Experiencing-Exploration-Enquiry-Enacting Jesus. He explores the ways in which Churches and their respective denominational networks can support one another before concluding with three keys to success. That is not all. He even gives readers ways to evaluate our progress. 

So What?

Like Starbucks having their "instant coffee" or bottled Frappuccino that tastes like the real thing, Moynagh packs in a lot of practical tips and stories of active witnessing communities in different parts of the world in one book. These stories are how the communities began their engagement with the world at large with very simple and doable initiatives. For too long, Christians have depended on superstar personalities and big-time projects to draw in the masses. They have even failed to do any outreach unless something big is in the works. No. Jesus did not ask megachurches or big Christian organizations to reach out. He calls on individuals, small groups, and communities of faith wherever they are to do what they can. The early disciples were not trained in Ivy Leagues. Neither were they schooled in the high energy seminars and expensive conferences by management gurus or strategy consultants. They were simply ordinary men with a divine purpose. This book attempts to bring back the ordinariness into our mindsets. It instills a "Why not" instead of "Why," a possible out of the impossible, and the boldness instead of fear.

Just reading the pioneering stories alone will be enough to galvanize us toward doing the same in our own communities. If you are desperate for ideas on how to even begin a witnessing program or initiative, pick up this book and flip through pages and pages of real life examples of how simple initiatives can have such a big impact.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Kregel Publications and Monarch Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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