Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus, By C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison
Slow Church
  • Length: 247 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.25 in
  • Published: May 06, 2014
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: 4114
  • ISBN: 9780830841141

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Fast food. Fast cars. Fast and furious. Fast forward. Fast . . . church?

The church is often idealized (or demonized) as the last bastion of a bygone era, dragging our feet as we're pulled into new moralities and new spiritualities. We guard our doctrine and our piety with great vigilance. But we often fail to notice how quickly we're capitulating, in the structures and practices of our churches, to a culture of unreflective speed, dehumanizing efficiency and dis-integrating isolationism.

In the beginning, the church ate together, traveled together and shared in all facets of life. Centered as they were on Jesus, these seemingly mundane activities took on their own significance in the mission of God. In Slow Church, Chris Smith and John Pattison invite us to leave franchise faith behind and enter into the ecology, economy and ethics of the kingdom of God, where people know each other well and love one another as Christ loved the church.

"At long last, a book I relish giving away to the vast number of people longing for an alternative between 'McDonald Church' and the end of the church altogether. In neighborhoods across North America there are hundreds of thousands of Christ-followers trying to experiment with a new way of being the church in everyday life. Now there is a hopeful guidebook that is rich with empirical and anecdotal research, historical depth and theological savvy that can guide their way. This is the book you rush out and buy a dozen copies of to give hope and help to your friends who want to follow the way of Jesus."

Paul Sparks, coauthor of The New Parish and cofounder of Parish Collective

"Smith and Pattison marshal the wisdom of our greatest cultural thinkers—people like Berry, Heschel, Pollan and Vanier—in this tour-de-force manifesto. This smart book reveals the vacuity of fast church and realigns us with the locality, rest, unpredictability and simple delight that comes with the way of Jesus."

Jon M. Sweeney, author of When Saint Francis Saved the Church

"In this agitated and anxious world, our worth is determined by our productivity and our value is measured by how much we can devour. Without much thought, even our churches have become tangled up in our quick-consumption mentality. In the midst of the greedy mindlessness of ministry, C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison evoke a different vision—one of a careful community of deep relationships. As a pastor, I lingered over the words of Slow Church with delight as they inspired me and made me welcome what we might become."

Carol Howard Merritt, pastor, author of Reframing Hope and Tribal Church

"Hurry, worry, stress and striving have come to dominate human consciousness in the twenty-first century—the logical consequences of a society built on individualism and productivity at any cost. We long for a pace of life that allows us to enjoy deep relationships, meaningful work, spiritual vitality and the simple pleasures of life. In Slow Church, Pattison and Smith offer a hopeful vision of the future, rooted in the Christian gospel, that provides a comprehensive orientation for pursuing a more integrative path. This book tenderly calls common assumptions about the church and society into question, carefully synthesizing Christian theology with emerging ecological consciousness. For the sake of our souls, our grandchildren and the planet, I hope we pay attention to Smith and Pattison's conclusions and take action."

Mark Scandrette, author of Free and Practicing the Way of Jesus

"All of our churches are shaped by our cultural environments, and Smith and Pattison note how forces such as fragmentation, impatience, commodification, branding, hypermobility, individualism and efficiency too often dominate our practices and priorities. So we strive for control in the midst of fears and self-protection. Slow Church provides theology and imagination that connect gospel embodiment with place and neighbors, calling us to slower lives around tables and conversations that nourish and interweave gratefulness, listening, work, hospitality, justice and the biblical trajectory toward the reconciliation of all things. Less of McDonalds; more of sabbath feasts."

Mark Lau Branson, Homer L. Goddard Professor of the Ministry of the Laity, Fuller Seminary

"Slow Church spurs imagination for God's patient, diligent working in the small everyday peculiarities of our lives together with him. It's a call to the simple goodness of life--made possible with God in community and neighborhood. Read it and be cured forever of programmed church."

David Fitch, B. R. Lindner Professor of Evangelical Theology, Northern Seminary, and author of Prodigal Christianity

"James Houston once wrote, 'the speed of godliness is slow.' In a culture that values speed and worships efficiency, Christopher Smith and John Pattison show us the graceful rhythms of fully embodied presence. Food, farming, faith and friendships cannot be rushed; neither can the church. Quality is more important than quantity. Slow Church reveals that there is a better, freer and more hope-filled way than frenetic ministry and exhausted lives. It sees slow not as lazy or bad but as rich and meaningful. This book challenges us to savor--not devour--the blessings of God in the midst of community. Ecclesiologically, patience truly is a virtue. Food tastes better when it marinates. Church is no different."

J.R. Briggs, pastor/cultural cultivator, The Renew Community; founder, Kairos Partnerships; author, Fail: Finding Hope and Grace in the Midst of Ministry Failure

"The only way the church can be the church as God wants it is when the people of the church slow down enough to become the church. Good themes, excellent quotations, compelling stories and solid research mark what is one of the freshest alternatives to church life as it is today. Buy this, but don't read it fast. Read it slow."

Scot McKnight, professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary

"Recognizing the destructive consequences of church structures and individual lifestyles built around efficiency, control and hypermobility, Smith and Pattison challenge us to recover the social significance of God's slow and patient work in the world. This beautifully crafted book offers perceptive analyses, asks crucial questions and provides gracious wisdom for finding ways to live more fully attentive to God and to our particular time and place. Slow Church, like a well-prepared meal, provides nourishment and delight, and invites long and fruitful conversation."

Christine D. Pohl, professor of Christian social ethics, Asbury Theological Seminary

"In this timely book Smith and Pattison lead us into the habits and practices that are essential if churches are to savor, mobilize and celebrate the gifts of God's goodness all around. Read it with friends and then be prepared to discover the grit and the grace that make life together a foretaste of the kingdom of God. Slow Church is a beautifully conceived book that challenges us to live more deeply into community and in discipleship of Jesus Christ."

Norman Wirzba, professor of theology and ecology, Duke Divinity School

"The internet providers have persuaded us that 'fast' is better--about everything. As a result, 'slow' is a deeply subversive, countercultural notion in a culture of 'fast.' This thoughtful, discerning book advocates 'slow' in faith and in life. This advocacy is a recognition that faith is a practice of relational fidelity that cannot be reduced to contractual or commodity transaction. The authors ponder and reflect on this summons with both pastoral sensitivity and missional passion. Readers eager for an evangelically paced life will pay close attention to this advocacy."

Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary

"Chris and John have done a fantastic job of envisioning a wholesomely sustainable, spiritually alluring and thoroughly kingdom-centric church that is simply fulfilling its purpose of witnessing to Jesus in the rhythms of God's grace. I just have to join in! An inspiring read."

Alan Hirsch, author, activist, dreamer,

"The authors write clearly and persuasively; each section of the book offers a theoretical and scriptural basis for the ideas discussed and practical suggestions for their implementation."

Publishers Weekly STARRED REVIEW, April 14, 2014

"Slow Church is a manifesto and handbook rolled into one. Unlike most manifestos, it is beautifully written, blending historical analysis, personal narrative, and scriptural exegesis into prose that is languid, incisive, and eloquent. It reads like what it is: the long, patient fruit of two men deeply rooted in a particular place, among neighbors they know, love, and serve. . . . No matter the size of our church body or the kind of neighborhood we live in, we would all do well to slow down and examine ourselves in the clearest light available—the light of history, the light of Scripture, and the light of Christ himself—rather than the fluorescent light of business models and burger joints. Make haste, then. Run, do not walk, to your favorite bookstore, buy a copy, and set your church table for a feast."

Leslie Leyland Fields, Christianity Today, September 2014

"Slow Church explores being church in a way that emphasizes deep engagement in local people and places, quality over quantity, and in all things taking the long view—understanding individuals and congregations as participants in the unfolding drama of all creation. . . . The strength of this book is in its consistent encouragement to reorient ourselves through prayer, scripture, and practice to God's abundant gifts and wellspring of possibilities, even in broken places and circumstances. While the generative imaginative space this creates doesn't work miracles (remember, we're talking slow) on tight church budgets, neighbors struggling with an exploitative landlord, or conflict in community, it does open us up to material and spiritual resources we might otherwise overlook and remind us that transformation, though it may be a long time coming, is promised to us and all creation. . . . For inspiration you may find yourself returning to this gracefully written ode to God's wonders close at hand, with its vision for individuals and faith communities to savor that goodness and more fully incarnate Christ's love, wherever we have been called to be."

Julie Polter, Sojourners, September/October 2014

"The final chapter of Slow Church envisions, quite biblically and appropriately, church as a shared meal; a 'dinner table conversation as a way of being the church.' Questions that arise during the course of planning a meal—What will we eat? Who will do which tasks? Where will we buy the food and who is invited to the table—reflect many of the same questions raised throughout the book about the way communities of worship think about and implement their way of being in the world. They are questions worth lingering over, even for those who are content with their current ways of being a part of the church, for they invite everyone to a deeper enjoyment of and engagement with the often-strange experience that is church."

Rachel Marie Stone, Books Culture, September/October 2014

"Inspired by the 'slow food' movement and disheartened by the 'fast' church trends, Smith and Pattison are advocating for 'reimagining what it means to be communities of believers gathered and rooted in particular places at a particular time.' Slow Church promises something richer and more substantive than quick fixes."

Relevant Magazine, May/June 2014

"Slow Church offers a layered challenge for congregations to trust that God calls them to be fully present with their community, that God equips them to be instruments of God's gracious hospitality and that God sends them to embody God's love in open conversation with church and community members alike."

Felipe N. Martinez, Presbyterian Outlook, August 19, 2014

"Smith and Pattison do a fantastic job presenting an imaginative vision for what the church could be if it chose to reject the fast and McDonaldized views of our culture and exchanged it for a more intentional, organic, communal way of being God's people in this world."

Christopher G. Woznicki, Themelios, April 2015, 40:1

"Those who are questioning (or despairing over) the temptation of successful, efficient and fast modes of doing church—being part of the 'fast food' culture—will find in this book a helpful way to think about ethical orientations, environment and finances in light of the call of the Gospel. What I think may be particularly helpful is Smith and Pattison's exploration of our understanding of work and the ways Christian communities can encourage people to discriminate between 'good' (meaningful, creative) and 'bad' (depersonalized, isolating) work."

Lina Toth, Regent Reviews, April 2015, 6.2


Foreword by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

1 A Theological Vision for Slow Church

2 Terroir: Taste and 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 Sabbath: 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

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C. Christopher Smith

C. Christopher Smith is editor of The Englewood Review of Books and a member of the Englewood Christian Church community on the urban Near Eastside of Indianapolis. He is the coauthor of Slow Church. Chris's writing has appeared in Books and Culture, Sojourners, The Christian Century and Indiana Green Living.

John Pattison

John Pattison's essays, articles and reviews have appeared in Relevant, Books Culture and other magazines around the country. A member of the National Book Critics Circle, he is the coauthor of Besides the Bible.