Monday, June 30, 2008

Book Review: “Church Distributed”, by Joel Hunter

Ovverview—Give a brief overview of the book, including its theme, perspective and approach.

Joel Hunter, author and pastor, seeks to apply the theological doctrine of the Trinity to church life. The church must be relationally connected, like the Trinity, and outward focused, as we are shown in the doctrine of the Incarnation. Such a church is "distributed". The book begins with a retrospective of Hunter's ministry at Northland and the emergence of the "distributed" philosophy of ministry. With each subsequent chapter the author adds to the definition of a "Distributed Church" in its noun and verbal forms.

Critique—Offer a brief critique of the book, including elements of strength and weakness.

"Church Distributed" was a very thought provoking book. Though I am familiar with the ministry of Northland, it was nice to see the "schematic" and philosophy behind the church. Joel Hunter's writing is marked by a lot of creativity and freshness. He spends considerable time in interaction with contemporary thought and its application to ministry. It was challenging to see his relentless focus on "outside the walls" relationships.

"Church Distributed" also raised a number of questions. Is this a truly Biblical ecclesiology? Is the Trinitarian overlay seen explicitly in the NT? One also wonders how elders and church discipline factor in. Also, is this an historical ecclesiology? Are the three marks (right preaching of the gospel, church discipline, and right sacramental theology) seen in a distributed church? The book could greatly benefit from more practical examples and illustrations. I was constantly wondering exactly what the various points would look like. And is technology (which seems to open important new vistas for ministry) neutral? Would it pass the "test of the catacombs"? What happens when the power goes out?

Application—Offer some specific application to your own ministry— demonstrating the value and relevance of the material in this book.

I was challenged to a greater decentralization of ministry initiatives. I need to encourage church members to develop outside the walls ministries of outreach and service. I am also taking away the deliberate and relentless outward focus of the church. The leadership characteristics of a great leader (Chapter 9) were well worth applying to my leadership style.

Best Quote—Be sure to include the page number where the quote can be found.

Page 96: "The mark of the early church was the pattern of growth that resulted from its immersion in ordinary daily life. The early church was not armed with evangelism tools and strategies, as we are. Christians did not stop their conversations about the faith when they exited the church. In those conversations the ancient Christians included the 'regular world', the people they worked with and lived beside."


Anonymous said...

Wait, he ties the Trinitarian nature of life to Northland's multi-campus set up? Trinitarianism applies to liturgy, sure, but to stretch it to that seems a bit far. I'll hold off on bogus for a better understanding what he's saying though.

tom said...

The trinitarian emphasis is a bit of a stretch - he seeks to apply it to philosophy of ministry more than anything. The basic idea is to structure ministry so that it is relational and incarnational. I'll post you a picture of the (rather confusing) diagram he uses.