“Waiting is Our Friend”

When the Church Stops WorkingProbably the thinker who has influenced me most these last five years when it comes to faith and church life is Andrew Root.  His writing on church life in a secular age has been a vital way for me to orient myself in my understanding of the way the world of today works.  Part of what resonates with me from his work is that he doesn’t simply restate the party line of “church growth.”

He just released a shorter book that brings together various threads from his work from the last few years.  Co-authored with Blair Bertrand, When Church Stops Working revisits the ideas of secularity, acceleration, resonance, and even the “watchword” concept from Root’s most recent book.  Root and Bertrand attempt to help readers understand that the problem of decline is not the thing the church should be worried about.  It’s not about speeding up and doing more to keep up with our always-accelerating culture.  Instead, the one thing the local church can and should do is learn how to wait.  An excerpt:

But waiting is our friend. The only way we can survive is by waiting. Waiting puts our attention in the right place. When we forget to wait, we become too distracted, too impatient, too angry to see God’s action. The stories that form the church are about God’s actions. Attention ought not to be on the church but on the God who moves, the Jesus who lives, bringing life out of death. The church is the witness, the narrator, to the bigger story of God’s action to save the world.

We know of very few churches that intentionally turn away from God. They don’t do it on purpose. It happens because our attention is directed somewhere else and our secular imaginations don’t let us see that. With our attention on the anxiety to survive and the rush to do something, God is inevitably replaced as the star of the church’s story. It becomes so easy, particularly in our secular age, for God to be just a subplot of our congregational life. We’re so anxious that this becomes inevitable.

Root and Bertrand make suggest a handful of good “moves” that the church would be wise to take, but they are the kind of moves that have to be made intentionally and at the right place/right time.  The key move is to think about Acts chapter one before jumping into Acts chapter two.  Many churches, at least those you hear about the most, will likely keep moving faster and faster, trying to grow larger and larger, applying one corrective or new program after another to keep the ball in the air.  For the rest of us, though, the word to wait is good and right and definitely worth considering.

You can read more of the excerpt here.  And while Root’s longer books are better, this one reads well (and is almost a nice bookend to Jamie Smith’s book on secularity from almost a decade ago).

(image from amazon.com)

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