Slow Church By C. Christopher Smith & John Pattison

Slow Church

By: C. Christopher Smith & John Pattison

ISBN: 978-0-8308-4114-1
READ: June 2016
RATING: 7.5/10

Summary: Solid read on the impact of our culture on our faith. Organized around the concepts of ethics, ecology, and economy, the authors do a good job of looking at the presumptions that many Western Christians make with regard to stability, suffering, wholeness, work, Sabbath, gratitude, and hospitality among others. I thought it could have been condensed in places and likewise the writing wasn’t economical.

Chapters: 1. A Theological Vision for Slow Church 2. Terroir-Taste & See 3. Stability-Fidelity to People and Place 4. Patience-Entering into the Suffering of Others 5. Wholeness-The Reconciliation of All Things 6. Work-Cooperating with God's Reconciling Mission 7. Sabbath0 The Rhythm of Reconciliation 8. Abundance-The Economy of Creation 9. Gratitude-Receiving the Good Gifts of God 10. Hospitality-Generously Sharing God's Abundance 11. Dinner Table Conversation as a Way of Being Church


“Slow church is a call for intentionality, an awareness of our mutual interdependence with all people and all creation, and an attentiveness to the world around us and the work God is doing in our very own neighborhoods.” Pg. 16.

“…life is a human-divine interactive theatre, and theology involves both what God has said and done for the world and what we must say and do in grateful response.” Pg.21

Chapter 1 – A Theological Vision for Slow Church

“The primary roots of our rebellion are distrust and fear.” Pg 27.

“And yet, as much as we are formed by Western individualism, and though we have allowed that individualism to shape the way we read Scripture, our calling in Christ is to community, to a life shared with others in a local gathering that is an expression of Christ’s body in our particular place.” –Pg. 29-30.

Chapter 2 – Terrior

You can never franchise the blessings of the church. Pg. 41.

“Slow Church is a journey in the direction of ethics, of preferring quality of quantity, of seeking the well-being of our congregation as well as our neighborhood.” Pg. 43

Slow church is for those who long for the personal over the pitch. Pg. 43.

“…To commit ourselves to cultivating goodness through practices of nearness and stability, and to conversationally develop shared traditions, is to take a stand against alienation.” Pg.43.

Reconciled diversity is at the heart of the kingdom of God. Pg. 48.

“members often feel tremendous pressure to conform to the mold of model Christian carefully prescribed by leadership and church culture.” Pg. 49.

George Ritzer’s four key characteristics of McDonaldization: efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control. Pg. 51.

“Tasting God’s goodness and costly discipleship go hand in hand.” Pg. 56.

Chapter 3 – Stability

“ In order to bear fruit, to extend hospitality and to nurture a flourishing community, our faith communities must be deeply rooted and maturing in our particular places.” Pg. 60.

“If, however, we find our identity primarily in the scriptural story, we begin to understand community and place as integral to God’s reconciliation of creation through continuous incarnation of Christ in the world.” Pg. 64.

“For centuries, proximity was paramount. People went to the church that was closest to their home—or they attended the church that met in their home!” pg. 65.

“If our church suddenly moved to a new location fifteen miles away, would anyone in our neighborhood notice we were gone? Would we notice a difference?” Pg. 67.

How do we begin to cultivate stability, as individuals and churches?

“Place, like all things in life, is a good gift from God. Our calling is to come to know our places in ways that reveal God’s gifts to us and that evoke in us deep gratitude and rejoicing…” pg. 70.

“Rhythms are learned through attentiveness over time. The challenge of our time is to learn and engage with the rhythms of our places.” Pg. 70-71

“The church and its neighbors are engaged in the intense work of helping our neighborhood flourish..” pg. 71.

“We need practices that will reorient our desires to our places.” Pg. 73.

“Cultivation is conservation—ensuring the world we leave behind, whether natural or cultural, contains at least as many possibilities and at least as much excellence as the one we inherited.” Pg. 74-75.

“We can no longer afford to propagate the modern, Western illusion that communities and places are irrelevant.” Pg. 78.

Chapter 4: Patience

“[Patience] fortifies faith; is the pilot of peace; assists charity; establishes humility; waits long for repentance; sets her seal on confession; rules the flesh; preserves the spirit; bridles the tongue; restrains the hand; tramples temptations under foot; drives away scandals;…consoles the poor; teaches the rich moderation; overstrains not the weak; exhausts not the strong; is the delight of the believer.” Tertullian, Of Patience. Pg. 79.

Impatience = innerrestlessness…that is experiencing the moment as empty, useless, meaningless. It is wanting to escape from the here and now as soon as possible. Pg. 80.

“In patience we learn to abide in each particular moment, finding it not empty but rather full of the grace of God.” Pg. 80

**Patience in the this section is spoken of almost synonymously with the Buddhist concept of mindfulness.

“Our culture’s three cardinal virtues [productivity, efficiency, and speed] powerfully disincline us to placing ourselves among those who weep. Few people seem genuinely willing to slow down and offer real presence to those who otherwise weep along. ” Pg. 83

“The health and fruitfulness of a plant diminishes each time it is uprooted.” Pg. 87.

Chapter 5 – Wholeness

“We have been trained well to compartmentalize our lives and narrow our vision.” Pg. 100.

“Any theology that refuses to extend hospitality fails to consider God’s love for and the reconciliation of all humanity.” Pg. 113.

“If we believe God is indeed reconciling all humanity and all creation, we must be willing to extend hospitality and open the gate on the way toward reconciliation.” Pg. 114.

“Instead of hating the people you think are war-makers, hate the appetites and disorder in your own soul, which are the causes of war. If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed—but hate these things in yourself, not in another.” Thomas Merton, pg. 115.

Chapter 6 – Work

“All work must have not only a productive but also a protective aspect.” Miroslav Volf, pg. 126.

“One of the severe drawbacks of the division of labor is its alienating character.” Pg. 128.

Workers become estranged from themselves and their tasks, which are often repetitive, uninteresting and unsatisfying. The work can be dehumanizing and an assault on human creativity. Pg. 129

The worker has no occasion to be creative. He naturally loses the habit of such exertion and generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as possible for a human to become. Pg. 129.

The word ‘technology’ comes from a Greek compound meaning the systematic treatment of an art or craft. Pg. 131.

“In the past the man has been first; in the future the system must be first.” Pg. 131.

“The Jews didn’t look to the Hebrew Scriptures primarily to find answers but to help them know the right questions to ask. Scripture was the starting point for a lifelong conversation with God that took place within the context of a larger community.” Pg. 132.

To nurture good work: 1. Help people recognize and prefer good work over bad.

                                                -Bad work put the system before the person and lays waste to the earth. Good work is good for the community and good for the one doing it.

                                     2. Explore the possibilities )and limitations of work as worship.

                                     3. Champion work-related justice.

                                     4. Recognize the human resources within our congreations and leverage them in the reconciling work of the kingdom. –Pg. 133-136.

Chapter 7—Sabbath

The Puritans looked to worldly prosperity –hard work, generation of wealth through investments, etc—as a sign of their election. Pg. 140.

Three lessons God teaches Ex. 16:3-23: 1. The lesson of enough is enough. 2. The value of redistribution. 3. Sabbath and discipline. Pg. 143-144.

Chapter 8 – Abundance

“We live in a culture that is driven by an economy rooted in the myth that there is not enough, but we also live within the biblical narrative that repeatedly emphasizes that God created the world and loves to immensely and will sustain it.” Pg. 157.

Chapter 9 – Gratitude

“Open handed generosity and caring for the poor and marginalized as if we were caring for Jesus himself are extensions of our worship.” Pg. 174-175.

Gratitude is the vital bridge between abundance and generosity. Pg. 175.

“Certainly ingratitude is at the root of many other sins, including envy, covetousness, lust, and even idolatry, for in the OT, forgetting God was tantamount to idolatry ( 2 Kings 17:38, Jer. 13:25, 18:15).” Pg. 179.

“Researches have found that the happiest people also tend to be the most grateful.” Pg. 188.

Chapter 10 – Hospitality

“I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus.” –Mother Teresa Pg. 198.

Chapter 11 – Dinner Table Conversation as a Way of Being Church

“At the dinner table children learn the art of making conversation—how to take turns listening and talking and how to put their ideas into words.” Pg. 211

“The shared meal is no small thing. It is a foundation of family life, the place where our children learn the art of conversation and acquire the habits of civilization: sharing, listening, taking turns, navigating differences, arguing without offending.” Michael Pollan, pg. 211.

“The early church understood that the ‘meal Jesus blessed that evening and claimed as his memorial was their ordinary partaking together of food for the body.’”  Pg. 212.

“One practice by which we submit ourselves to one another—transforming our imaginations in the process—is conversation.” Pg. 215.