Christianity Today Award of Merit
Readers' Choice Awards Honorable Mention
Best Books About the Church from Byron Borger, Hearts and Minds Bookstore
"When . . . faith communities begin connecting together, in and for the neighborhood, they learn to depend on God for strength to love, forgive and show grace like never before. . . . The gospel becomes so much more tangible and compelling when the local church is actually a part of the community, connected to the struggles of the people, and even the land itself."
Paul Sparks, Tim Soerens and Dwight J. Friesen have seen—in cities, suburbs and small towns all over North America—how powerful the gospel can be when it takes root in the context of a place, at the intersection of geography, demography, economy and culture. This is not a new idea—the concept of a parish is as old as Paul's letters to the various communities of the ancient church. But in an age of dislocation and disengagement, the notion of a church that knows its place and gives itself to where it finds itself is like a breath of fresh air, like a sign of new life.
"What would it look like if God's reign were to be more fully realized in your neighborhood? In The New Parish, Tim, Paul and Dwight team up to answer this question in concrete ways. With a rich theology of place and practice, they guide us in how to have a humble posture and be a faithful presence in the neighborhood. This is a must-read!"
"Quietly, beneath the purview of the dominant social systems, a revolution is taking place. The church is returning to the local. In The New Parish, three subversives plot the church's simple way back into the neighborhood. The result is flourishing, renewal of the Spirit, indeed the gospel taking on flesh! This book is your invitation to the revolution!"
"In The New Parish, Paul, Tim and Dwight offer a theologically rich vision of church life intertwined with the places we inhabit. In stark contrast to the displacement and fragmentation that dominates our age, this important book calls us to slow down, become rooted, and experience a taste of the abundance and healing that God intends for all creation. Church leaders take heed, the new parish is, without question, the church of the future!"
"The New Parish offers a vision for Christian community that honors place amidst fragmentation. This book will inspire a new generation of Christian leaders who will answer the yearnings of all of us for authentic community."
"In a world of increasing mobility, fragmenting relationships and a loss of any real sense of covenant, we need learn again to attend to the various people and places where God has located us. This book is a much-needed antidote to the endemic alienation of our time. Missionary grow home!"
"In a society addicted to the next technique, a thought-provoking and insightful book, The New Parish, provides a refreshing solution. God has a sense of place, and when followers of Jesus share life together and put down roots in a specific location, they become something new, something that has the power to transform and energize that community. God is at work in neighborhoods, and the church does well to pay attention."
Sparks, Soerens and Friesen are on the leading edge of a massively important return to place-based ministry. I have been an admirer of their frontline work in this area for years and am now excited to see their platform grow through this book. If the missional church movement hopes to still be around for the next generation, it is going to have to keep the question of place front and center. The New Parish does just that while continuing to push this discussion in challenging and fruitful directions."
"At last a candid, thoughtful, insightful book that provides a practical framework for doing church in the city. The New Parish offers a much-needed roadmap for regrounding the church in the soil of community—the key to recovering its transformative power in our urbanizing society."
"The New Parish is a gift to church leaders like me. Though the authors challenge the most fundamental understandings of the church's mission and its presence in the neighborhood, they do so as practitioners deeply invested in its flourishing. This book sets out a challenging agenda for the local church, but with such encouragement and hope that one is left in no doubt that the challenge is within reach. In fact, it's right outside our front doors."
"Paul, Tim and Dwight each live the reality they describe. I know they've paid high prices for taking a journey born out of biblical imagination and profound instincts for the practice of gospel life in North America. The path they describe is not and will not be popular. It sounds sexy and seems full of romance, but, as they well know, this is another kind of journey—without glamor, romance or individualistic heroism—focused on the agency of God and the disorienting, disturbing, disrupting work of the Spirit. We are being invited to refound the church for the sake of the healing of neighborhoods and communities in the name of Jesus. Read this book and ask how you can practice life in the 'parish.'"
"Something's up in neighborhoods right across this country. Kids raised in the generica of American suburbs are becoming adults who yearn deeply for a sense of place, for belonging, for community. The New Parish is a passionate call for churches to join in the beautiful work of placemaking, not only as a response to this yearning but as a core expression of the mission of God in our world."
"The New Parish is, hands down, one of the most sensible and simultaneously exhilarating books I have read in a long time. Rich in specific details and concrete examples of a new old way, it will serve its readers as both instructor and encourager. The underlying, foundational concepts here, together with the central theme of localization, make for prophetic reportage, and the result is as exciting as it is rife with hope."
"Here is a must-read book for those who are looking for creative ways to join with others in becoming a life-giving presence in your neighborhood in these uncertain times. We urge you to use this book as a study guide in your congregation in reimagining how to become a source of compassion and hope in your parish."
"The New Parish is a needed admonition on what the church must become if she is to rise to the challenges of the twenty-first century. The authors provide fresh applications of ancient truths, offer sober reflection with a pastoral touch and create a viable framework for fruitful engagement. I would recommend this book for all who are serious about what the church and her faithfulness in the twenty-first century can look like."
"If you cut Paul, Tim and Dwight, they bleed parish. The hope and integrity of the twenty-first-century Christian church may require that the rest of us learn to do the same."
"This is a must-read book for those who know deep down in their bones that the life of following Jesus is meant to be anything other than a weekly jaunt to a building referred to as a church. Rather than a mere critique, this compelling, winsome and wise book is an incendiary love letter that invites us to develop the eyes, heart and imagination to follow what the Spirit is already doing to foster reconciliation, justice and care in our neighborhoods. Sparks, Soerens and Friesen are potters whose artistry has required them to immerse themselves in all that is broken, dirty and beautiful about the church and envision a new parish life that offers us all a taste of the banquet of reconciling love. Come, taste and see."
"This book articulates the answer to a question many of us have been asking: What might it look like to do ministry in a real way in the neighborhoods in which we live and work? It is a wonderful combination of practical insight and fresh vision. We will be using this book as a catalyst for our own missional work and as a resource to pass on to others who are also eager to engage their neighborhoods in practical ways in the name of Christ."
"Local. Global. Presence. Linking. Rooting. Parish. Commons. Integration. These words will radiate with meaning when you finish this important, needed, comprehensive and truly worthwhile book. I would wish it upon every seminarian, church leader, church member and church dropout. The New Parish is one of the most important books on the church, Christian identity and mission that I've read in a decade."
"The New Parish offers a rich, thoughtful exploration of the characteristics and processes of ministry that is deeply rooted in faithful presence in local neighborhoods. This book is an important reflection on how to overcome one of the biggest threats to the vitality of ministry in the Global North: disembodied practice that doesn't recognize or collaborate with the active presence of the Holy Spirit incarnate in our communities. I particularly recommend The New Parish for denominational leaders and church planters. It will give you critically important advice for leading the church into the future."
"As our vehicles and gadgets get faster and faster, people are hungry for a place to belong and a people who know them. What a gift the notion of the parish is for our time. And what a joy to know this collective that's figuring out how to breath life into this ancient notion in our time."
"The New Parish is the faith-based version of Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone. Not only do the authors make a compelling case for getting out of the sanctuary and into the neighborhood, but they provide the inspiration and advice to make it possible. This book is full of inspiring stories and practical lessons to help Christians connect with their neighborhoods and, in the process, connect more deeply with one another and their faith."
"A bold, refreshing exploration of how to be the church in the twenty-first century. Rooted in experience, theological reflection and ecclesial study, this book invites us to express church in a way that commits to a people and a place, making possible real transformational change of persons, communities and systems of degradation and injustice. A practical guide for any group of people committed to relevant church expressions, The New Parish will encourage and inspire you to continue the slow and patient work of nurturing the body of Christ in our broken but hope-filled neighborhoods."
"What is so significant about this book is that its content is the direct fruit of a Spirit-led convergence between friends. Dwight, Tim and Paul's profound reflections are rooted in the relational journey they have been on for meaning, connectedness and a way of being that bears evidence of 'thy kingdom come' in their own respective contexts. Together they offer us a taste of what it looks like when the church becomes a faithful presence in a given time and place. Those who have experienced the kinds of things they talk about through their stories will find affirmation. Those who still yearn for it will find reason to keep hope alive. The book exudes the patient and passionate commitment to praxis that the authors live out in their neighborhoods. We are grateful for their collective contribution to the kingdom community."
"Across North America and around the world, churches are moving into the neighborhood, faithfully rooting themselves there and connecting with neighbors to weave a fabric of care in their communities. The New Parish is the handbook for that movement. Paul, Tim and Dwight have been mentors in my own journey into place. It's likely that my copy of their wise, inspiring and even essential book will never make it on to my bookshelf; I'll keep it close at hand and return to it again and again."
"Journeying with these three brothers through the various iterations of Western Christianity into the 'new parish' reminds me of the traveling school of the prophets in ancient Israel--except they are walking with me in my hood. Sparks, Soerens and Friesen are giving us new eyes to see and convening a new space for what is emerging in our context by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. In The New Parish we are being invited to participate more fully and faithfully into this Spirit-led, ancient-future social technology of the kingdom of God. Are you in place?"
"What makes this book so refreshing is that it is not another program for church renewal and growth. Instead, it is a call, a guide, and a toolkit written by three colaborers engaged on the frontier of the twenty-first-century Christian community. In contrast to a church blown by the fragmenting winds of capitalist creative destruction, consumerism and individualism, Sparks, Soerens and Friesen offer us a hopeful alternative vision. This is a church that abides in fragile dependence on the Spirit and sees in the bricks, mortar and faces of its neighborhood the real substance of the kingdom of God. Even more, they present us with practical suggestions on how those of us seeking to feel our way forward in this time of transformation can begin to cultivate such formative, missional and deeply relational communities."
"All paths to the future of the church must pass through this book."
"Everyone wants 'tweaks'--slight adjustments that will finally be the silver bullet, costing very little and doing little to challenge our prevailing ideas and ideals of ministry. They don't exist! What is needed for the church today are wild ideas that line up with the story of Scripture. In The New Parish, we finally have a group of friends telling their stories and giving us something radical to consider: behaving as Jesus would in our neighborhoods. This book will blow some circuits, but seriously, aren't you tired of reading the same stuff in different packages? Read at your own risk."
"Teeming with fresh ideas and rich energy for the future of the church. The authors fully recognize the sorry state of much of the church in our culture, but insist, in most imaginative ways, that another way of church is possible. It is all about relationship, listening, communicating and caring in bodily, concrete ways. The New Parish reveals why such a practice is deeply grounded in the gospel and how this is contrary to so many current church strategies. This is hands-on missional ecclesiology in its most generative mode."
"The traditional idea of a parish is just what this book is reclaiming--'churches rooted in the neighborhood.' The idea and reality of a parish used to be geographical. Those called to lead the parish did not organize for the purpose of drawing people to a specific theology or affinity or program. Done well, those called to lead 'read' their neighborhood and responded. They did not wish for 'other people,' they thanked God for the people in their neighborhood, put down roots, built relationships and incarnated the body of Christ. This book is an attempt to reclaim that traditional understanding in a new day for a new generation. It is much needed, and I am so thankful for it."
"Time and space are honored in this book. The neighborhood is honored in this book. The kingdom of God is proclaimed in ways that are ancient and new. Sparks, Friesen and Soerens are not wild-eyed dreamers, but make no mistake, they have eyes to see and ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church. What these creative pastors understand is that there is, in fact, a new parish. It calls for deep local practice fueled by incarnational presence, solidarity and collaboration with the Spirit in the neighborhood. Much of theological education seems to miss that point. Warning: Don't read this book unless you care about the ministry of the church in the next decade."
"Strong communities, strongly rooted in place, are the future: for food, for energy, but also for our spiritual life. This is a powerful account of a necessary future."
"The authors explore how the limitations of staying rooted in a particular place actually provide opportunities for transformation and mission. This is a counterintuitive notion for churches that have bought into the mobile and transient values of our culture."
"Faithfulness needs to encompass more than worship to include the mundane activities of everyday life, according to The New Parish. In prophetic tones the authors suggest that if the church cannot be present and involved in its neighborhood, it has lost its way. These theologically trained authors all propose a new parish. Follow Jesus into your neighbourhood with other followers of Jesus. This means 'taking your bodies, your locations and your community very seriously, as seriously as God in Christ took them.' If a church is in, and for, the parish, everything changes, and might result in what they call 'slow church.' . . . This book would be an excellent resource for small group study."
"Paul Sparks, Tim Soerens and Dwight J. Friesen have seen . . . how powerful the gospel can be when it takes root in the context of a place, at the intersection of geography, economy and culture. This is not a new idea, the concept of a parish is as old as Paul's letters to the various communities of the ancient church. But in an age of dislocation and disengagement, the notion of a church that knows its place and gives itself to where it finds itself is like a breath of fresh air, like a sign of new life."
"As someone who is doing church as parish, I have found this book a very helpful guide in practically answering what a church could look like as it is lived in community. What I also appreciate is the authors do not gloss over the challenges presented and the hard work involved in developing a new parish. They acknowledge the journey is complex, the transition difficult, and experienced guides are few. This is a resource that will definitely be a textbook for those wanting to embrace a localized view of church in years to come."
"The authors offer fresh insights into the fragmentation of Western Christianity and explain why moving from megachurches to neighborhood churches is impacting the spread of the gospel."
"This book introduces a way of understanding the local church grounded in appreciation for where and when God has placed it. . . . Church leaders who get that they need to learn to see and listen first of all—to God and to their parish context—will cultivate practices of discernment for themselves and the communities they lead. In this way they will 'spark the communal imagination toward Spirit-led action in the parish' and—as the stories in the book demonstrate—plant seeds for ministry that will bear much fruit."
"We are accustomed, as the authors here argue, to 'living above place': leading individualized lives within a fragmented, globalized economy. Real gospel transformation has to start in our neighborhoods, as people root themselves—their spirits, emotions, and bodies—in a particular place. The New Parish shows how believers can come together, both within the church and beyond, for the good of their communities. If you aren't jazzed about what God is doing in your neighborhood after reading this book, it might be time to move."
Introduction: Three Lives Transformed by Rooting and Linking Together
Part One: Why Do We Need a New Parish?
1. Dislocated: Naming the Crisis We All Create
2. Misplaced: How the Church Lost Its Place
Part Two: What Is The New Parish?
3. Faithful Presence: Ending Techniques for Renewal That Perpetuate Fragmentation
4. Ecclesial Center: How Worship Beyond the Gathering Reconfigures the Church
5. New Commons: Finding the Church in All of Life
Part Three: How Do We Practice the New Parish?
6. Presencing: Adapting to the Spirit?s Movement
7. Rooting: Growing Stability Within Your Place
8. Linking: Connecting the Church Across Places
9. Leading: Living a Life Worth Following
Conclusion: Presence in a Post-Everything Future
Glossary of Terms
About the Parish Collective
About the Seattle School