Reflection on Slow Church

Reflection on Slow Church: Cultivating Cumminty in the Patient Way of Jesus (C. Christopher Smith & John Pattison)

Slow Church is a countercultural approach to being church in a society in which speed and efficiency are prized beyond the patient life that true community in Christ demands. Churches fall prey to the ‘cult of speed’ as they prioritize programs over relationships, numbers over spiritual growth and conversion over discipleship. In this reflection, I will focus on the patient character of God in which Slow Church is rooted and its implications for missional church planting.

Smith & Pattison argue that our churches should be rooted “in the deep, still waters of a remarkably patient yet radically immanent God” (p. 24). God’s patient character is demonstrated in at least three ways. First, Scripture provides a witness to a God who cannot be rushed. For example, this God can wander with a rebellious and grumbling community in the desert for forty years while the Israelites relearn to depend on and trust God alone. Second, God is working to restore all creation to Him – a long and slow process due in part to our own rebellion against God’s ways. Expedience is in conflict with our free will and waywardness. Third, God could employ more efficient methods of turning hearts towards Him. However, His patient commitment to humanity is demonstrated in His desire to work with a broken humanity to spread the Gospel.

Missional Church Planting should reflect this patient character of God. Churches need to commit themselves to prayerful discernment of what God is already doing and what He is calling us to do in our particular contexts. There are no shortcuts to this process nor will there be quick answers. While Slow Church does not offer a one-size-fits-all blueprint, several implications for missional church planting can be gleaned.

First, we need to intentionally create spaces in which relationships can develop and strengthen. This will require time spent playing and working together, as well as making room for our stories to be told and held together. Second, we need to focus on faithfulness and not attractiveness. Attractional church feeds into our consumeristic mindset and breeds individualism and personal preference. Instead, we need to encourage faithfulness to the God who redeems the world through the unattractive cross and suffering. Third, we cannot truly show God’s compassion to the world without cultivating patience. Patience will enable us to resist the urges to fix people’s problems or to give up when change takes longer than we expect.

Slow Church offers us an alternative approach to being church that resists our culture of speed. As we plant churches, we must join God’s patience as we walk alongside those to with which we have been called to be in community and to serve.

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