AUTHOR: Caesar Kalinowski and Seth McBee
PUBLISHER: Exponential Resources, 2013.
[Free ebook available here.]
There is a popular saying that a picture speaks a thousand words. Indeed that is true in many ways. Whether we are talking about concepts, ideas, or plans, the moment we can put them into pictures, more people can connect, especially in an increasingly visually stimulated culture. The book has this one central goal: Making it clear and simple the two most important callings for the Church: Discipleship and Mission. This is what the Church exists for. This is what the Church lives for. Such is the convictions of the authors that they have decided to put these important ideas into 10 pictures. They have kindly made it free for download here. One of them includes Seth McBee's Napkin Theology. Let me make a few comments about the ten pictures.
The first is about Church being a people of God, not a building of bricks. This is something that is often missed in our everyday language. "I am going to Church. Are you going to Church?" Statements like these will give hearers the impression that Church is basically a place for people to gather. No. Theologically speaking, Church is not an institution. It is a living organism. Our language needs to change to reflect what is biblical and accurate. Church is about a people of God coming together. The authors draw out clearly that when the people are gathered together, they become witnesses far and wide.
The second drawing talks about the identity of the Church. Based upon the identity of God as Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), the authors make a parallel to Father as "Family," Son as "Servant," and Spirit as "Missionary." On a modal sense, it is very understandable. It reveals the identity of God through the works being done. Unfortunately, I think it is overly reductionistic, especially on the Personhood of God. God is God, and He cannot be defined simply on the basis of what he can do.
The third drawing is about the purpose of the Gospel. Disciples will make disciples to fill the earth with God's glory. It shows us that Church is not about growing one place or organization. It is about expanding as wide as possible with God's kingdom in mind. The word "exponential" clearly fits the description.
The fourth drawing shows readers the four pillars of discipleship: Bible study, Social Justice, Evangelism, and Fellowship. Unfortunately, it does not explicitly mention spirituality of prayer, worship, praise, meditation, etc.
The fifth drawing again uses a tri-circle Venn diagram to talk about Head, Hearts, and Hands in how to make disciples. The head is about learning; the heart about believing; the hands about experiencing. It is an easy to remember image and will help readers avoid lopsided emphasis on any one area.
The sixth drawing has Christ at the center of all of our lives. I like this because it runs against the oft-glorified idea of "balance." Far too often, I have heard people arguing for a balanced life between work and family; friends and Church; time management; busyness and leisure; and so on. So much so that it seems life is about balance as a final objective. No. For the Christian, Christ is at the center of all.
The seventh drawing is a mission focused on. Called "Gospel communities on Mission," it highlights mission as the #1 priority in being a gospel community. This is what the missional movement is all about: becoming gospel communities everywhere we go; anywhere we can; and influencing everyone we meet.
The eighth drawing compares and contrasts the place of "small groups" versus "missional communities." The former tends to be inward looking while the latter is outward looking. For growth purposes, especially numerical, the authors are right. Churches must learn to be outward looking. Yet, I have a small reservation. What about spiritual growth? Surely, there is also a need for groups requiring soul care and inner nourishment. For every harvesting of the field, there need to be planting, watering, fertilizing, etc.
The ninth drawing looks and compares "proactive mission" with "reactive mission." It is thought provoking and challenges Church leaders to think about and the re-think their own mission strategies. I agree that it is better to be intentional about our mission rather than to scramble when we are asked to do mission.
Finally, the tenth is a realistic look at a "Missional Community Growth Chart." I loved it. Christian discipleship is not one nice bold line drawn neatly upward. It comprises of ups and downs, messy-like meanderings as we search for what is best.
What I like most about the book is that it not only puts ideas into pictures, it spurs conversations. That way, it is not a book that puts concepts cast in stone, but becomes like invitations to discuss and to work on what is most appropriate for each community.