Sunday, February 19, 2017

Faithful presence - review

I finished reading David Fitch's nice little book "Faithful Presence: Seven Disciplines That Shape the Church For Mission" this past week. I'm glad I read it. As with most of David's writing (book, blog, twitter, etc.) it was challenging to many evangelical conventions, but it spoke to me richly.

In paperback it came in right around 200 pages, so it was fairly easy to read (especially for DF books). It was broken into two sections. Part 1 describes the theology of God's faithful presence, and how he believes the church is the answer to changing the world. Part 2 is then the seven disciplines to guide us in carrying it out.

The book was written in response to questions regarding whether the church has anything more to offer a world full of injustice. As Fitch writes on p. 10:
"Can the church reach out to the worlds around me in a way that doesn't judge them, alienate them, or ask them in some way to come to us? Can the church engage the hurting, the poor, and the broken with something more than just handouts?"

He continues on p.10 to propose that the answer to these questions is 'faithful presence:'
"Faithful presence names the reality that God is present in the world and that he uses a people faithful to his presence to make himself concrete and real amid the world's struggles and pain. When the church is this faithful presence, God's kingdom becomes visible, and the world is invited to join with God. Faithful presence is not only essential for our lives as Christians, it's how God has chosen to change the world. In this book I aim to describe what this faithful presence looks like."

The rest of the book is then a description of the seven disciplines given to us by Christ that shape us into his presence. He lists them as:
  1. The Lord's Table
  2. Reconciliation
  3. Proclaiming the gospel
  4. Being with "the least of these"
  5. Being with children
  6. The fivefold ministry
  7. Kingdom prayer
He states that "In these disciplines Jesus has given us all we need to shape our lives into his presence for the transformation of the world."

Fitch also proposes that these disciplines are best understood as 'on the move.' He says they occupy three spaces continually - what he calls the close circle, the dotted circle, and the half circle. These circles basically represent within the church, in our homes, and in the community.


So, my personal take on the book (for what it's worth)... Like I said, I am glad I read it. I haven't read too many "church" books for awhile and this was good for me. That said, as much as I think Fitch doesn't want it to be, he writes at a fairly high level of understanding. This was probably his most "readable" book to date, but I'd say it's still not something the average church attendee and/or Christian would take much interest in.

I read it with great interest though. I liked all seven of the disciplines he pointed out. I was perhaps most surprised - and blown away by - the one on being with children. That chapter by itself was worth the price of the book to me. And that's what I like about Fitch, God's grace, and Jesus as well - the surprising little ways that really reach out and slap you in the face but caress your heart at the same time. Anyway, I don't want to give too much away, but I really like that Fitch's church requires everyone to work with children at some point, but at the same time they don't separate the children from the adults for everything either.

Overall, the book is written very well; I believe very solid biblically; and filled with a lot of good real-life stories and examples to explain and give credence to his proposal that what the world needs more of is God's faithful presence through His church. I highly recommend it for church leaders of all stripes.