Book Review: Small Is Big

Small Is Big – Unleashing The Power of Intentionally Small Churches is the latest offering from the good people over at Tyndale House Publishing.

As someone who grew up Catholic, then left the faith, then returned to a megachurch plant, is currently part of an Emergent cohort, and now trying to figure out what “church” should look like, this book immediately appealed to me.

The book is authored by Tony and Felicity Dale, along with church researcher George Barna, and explores the impact of intentionally small churches on the people who attend and the communities they exist in.

The first thing that came across is that the authors hold little love for the behemoth American megachurches.  They look at them through the eyes of scripture and openly wonder how, with thousands of attendees, even at the most basic level the church, meaning the people, can honestly bear each other’s burdens (Gal 6:2) when most of them couldn’t name everyone that sits in the same row during services.  They also discuss how most megachurches, and their members, are disconnected from their communities and are bound by self-imposed restrictions (i.e. buildings, etc.)

The Dales look at church differently, more akin to an Acts 2 church, where believers gathered, shared meals, etc.  They also discuss how intentionally small churches, even though they lack the resources of the megachurch, are more flexible, adapting easier to the needs of and societal structure of community they reside in.

Perhaps the most striking portions of this book deal with leadership and the role of women.  In intentionally small churches, leadership is flat, and each member of the church has their function, taking what Paul says in 1 Cor 12 to heart.  The Dales also approve of women leading, saying that there are NT examples of women having ‘leadership roles’ within the new church.

The good: This book does a good job discussing the strengths and weaknesses of intentionally small churches.  There is little love for the American megachurch in this book, as the authors leave the impression that they believe they have taken on too many characteristics of the world, losing the message of Christ amid the coffee shops, stadium seating, and fog machines.

The bad: The language of the book has a strong Pentecostal influence, which may be a turn-off to those not versed in Pentecostal tradition and language.

The ugly: Absolutely nothing.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Disclaimer: Tyndale provided a complimentary copy of this book to me.  I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.   I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255:“Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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  2. As one of the authors, I am always facinated and frequently also blessed with what is written by different reviewers. To have nothing come in under the “ugly” category is high praise! We have actually been very blessed by a number of mega-churches and I would want everyone to be aware of that. Churches like Northland-A Church Distributed in Orlando have been exemplary in the way they have responded by finding ways to promote simple church movements world-wide. Righthere in Austin, churches like Austin Stone have welcomed us and our message into the core of much of what they are doing through missional communities. It is a privilege to work with all part of the body of Christ.

    1. Tony,

      I’m honored you’ve come by my humble little blog here. I truly enjoyed the book. I have no doubt that megachurches do substantial good, I just happened to agree with some of the same concerns you have about structure, etc. Like I said, that was one of the first things I noticed about the book. I’ve had my experience with megachurches, and can honestly say without that exposure, my faith wouldn’t be as far along as it is today.

      Again, thanks for your kind words and I look forward to reading more from you and Felicity in the future.

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