About ten years ago I read Randy Frazee’s The Connecting Church. It had a signifcant impact on me. While I typically don’t read mega-church pastors hoping to find deep community, Frazee had substance. I found real theological depth and sociological insight. He challenged churches to be more attentive to solid biblical teaching, to commit to a particular place, and to share life together. While other church leaders were touting small groups as their complete answer to building community, Frazee kicked it up a notch. This book challenged me and after reading it I found myself in thicker community, living in the inner-city sharing life with fellow believers and missionally trying to reach out to neighbors. Frazee’s book helped prepare me to make sacrificial commitments. It also helped me form my convictions about intergenerational ministry.
This month The Connecting Church 2.0, is released. Frazee revisits the topic of community and reflects further on how to implement his suggestions.
Parts one through three follow the original book (slightly expanded). Part 4 discusses how to implement the vision. In part one Frazee tackles the problem of individualism by exhorted us to community around a common purpose.For Christians who seek to be biblical, the Bible provides us with the story of God’s plan of redemption brought to fruition in Christ and his call on our lives to be his ambassadors. Frazee challenges us to know the Bible story. [This of course dovetails nicely with recent work that Frazee has done (with fellow pastor and author Max Lucado) on The Story].
Frazee addresses the problem of isolation in part two. Because of urban planning, automobiles and the suburbs, more and more people live in isolation from their fellow neighbors. Middle class culture tends to prize self sufficiency and independence. The tragic outcome is that we do not know our neighbors nor are we known. Frazee exhorts us to buck the trends and connect to a common place. This means investing in your neighborhood, stopping by to see your neighbor, borrowing things (putting yourself in a place of need) and spending time in the front yard (being accessible). He also has some proactive ideas for church small groups. He suggests not breaking people up by life-stage-affinity groups but geographically. That way a small group, in a given area of the city is able to be really community for one another and a missional presence of their neighborhood.
Frazee discusses the problem of consumerism in part three and challenges us to share common possessions. By this he means more than just sharing stuff. He is exhorting us to a lifestyle of interdependence, intergenerational life, shared responsibility and mutual sacrifice. In many ways, this section puts all of the above together and was one of the things that really excited me about the first edition of this book.
Part four is written for ministers and church leaders to help them process how to become a connecting-church. Frazee opens this section with a chapter discussing some lessons he’s learned in the past ten years. He then discusses spider or starfish organizations (referencing a popular business book) to contrast centralized leadership in a church versus decentralized, organic approaches to organization and ministry. Most churches are more like spiders (a head with legs and a complex web surrounding them). Starfish have their DNA written in every part of their being, at every level. Frazee suggests a hybrid model where the church provides organizational structure but frees up small groups to pursue community and mission more organically. Ultimately he commends the starfish model as the goal but knows that our churches are not able to make the shift yet.
I liked this book a lot and consider it an essential resource for church leaders seeking to deepen their experience of community. At the very least, this book should be in every church library, if not in every pastor’s study. I think that Frazee’s challenges are good ones. But I found that what I liked about this book most was what I had read in the earlier form. I really appreciated Frazee’s thoughtfulness about how this works out and the wisdom he’s learned, but for me the thing that captivated me most was the original vision: a community united around a common purpose, in a common place, sharing common possessions. That is what church should be. Unfortunately that isn’t always what church is. I am grateful for Frazee’s prophetic challenge and hope that this new edition will help the church to be the church.
I give this book 5 stars: ★★★★★