Although Jesus’ command to his disciples was to GO and make disciples, it seems that the Church has a tendency to forget the GO part and instead remain tied to a building. The expectation has become that if the Church would just hold events in a building, people will flock there to be a part of them. Christians can become insular and shortsighted, more concerned with comfort, security, and convenience than in actually taking Jesus’ command seriously.
In his book “Loving Your Community,” Stephen Viars shares stories from his own experience and the experience of his church. He talks about how they have practiced loving their community through various means, encouraging his readers to do the same.
While it seems that the gap between the Church and the culture has grown ever wider, Christians won’t win anyone over with the message of hatred, anger, pride, self-righteousness, or apathy. So, Viars suggests loving those who don’t consider themselves Christians. That usually involves going outside the doors of the church.
Viars is clear that there is work to be done in order to better understand the needs of your community. Too often, Christians simply make assumptions about what the community needs or project those needs without fully researching or spending time determining what they are. The experience of Viars and Faith Church, the church he pastors, is that it is necessary to get your hands dirty and find this out by talking to real people in real situations.
The experiences that Viars describes in the book can easily be intimidating, especially for those who are starting at the ground level or below. But Viars is pretty candid about that as well, talking about how long it has taken his church to come to the place where they are loving their community well and making a difference.
Every chapter ends with two sets of questions, one for personal reflection and one for group discussion. These questions help to think about next steps, not only for yourself but for your church and any group with whom you might be reading and discussing this book. There are also accounts from people from Faith Church who have been impacted along the way by the various things that Faith Church did to love their community. It is helpful to hear these stories from voices other than Viars, the voices of those who have been personally affected.
As I read through this book, it was hard not to dream about what could be in the future for my own church and the community in which we serve and minister. I’ve always thought that we should only dream dreams that are big enough that only God can accomplish them. Stephen Viars gives us a picture of how to dream big and just how awesome God is as he has grown this church in loving their community.
(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge by Baker Books. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)