In my experience there has often been a disconnect between going to church and the rest of life. The church usually focuses on the activities taking place at the church building and not in the everyday lives of believers, in fact the church can present the activities that take place at the church as significantly more important than the activities in our daily lives. This has been a subject of thought I’ve had for a few years now, but recently I read a book that also speaks to this reality. The book was Imagine Church: Releasing Whole-Life Disciples by Neil Hudson.
Basically Hudson is tackling the idea that we have this disconnect between going to church and the rest of life. However, Hudson’s goal in this book isn’t simply to point out the disconnect and the reasons for it, but rather it is a book to help guide churches to becoming a place that is connected to the everyday lives of believers and help believers to realize where they are in their everyday lives are important for the faith they hold as well. The concept behind this is for churches to make “whole-life disciples.”
As I read Imagine Church, it reminded me of two other books I have read fairly recently, but without some of the negative baggage that came along with them.The first of these books is Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby which I’ve talked about before. There is a similar idea of seeing where God is at work around you in your life and joining into that work present in Imagine Church. However, I felt that Blackaby focused too much on expressions of hearing God that were particular to what is considered “full-time ministry,” Hudson instead is focused on people experiencing God and living as disciples in whatever activity they are doing, while at work, home, at church, or anywhere else.
The other book that I was reminded of was Liberating the Laity by R. Paul Stevens. This book focused on finding ways to eliminate the division between the clergy and the laity. It was about how to release members of a church to minister. This is definitely a message that comes through in Imagine Church as well. It is about being disciples of Christ every day in all circumstances and not just at church. However, Liberating the Laity seemed to get a bit distracted about the idea of the pastor being a tentmaker and that idea hijacked a bit of that book.
So from that you can get the basics of what Imagine Church is about. It is about learning to meet God where you are and figure out how you can serve Him in your everyday life, or in ways you may be already. It is about seeing more than just the pastor or missionaries as ones with important calls on their lives and that everyone from stay at home parents, retail workers, teachers, and doctors all have a call to be disciples and ministers where they are, not just on Sunday or whenever they volunteer to help the church. I found that he gave some really good examples that were really subtle, like who does your church pray for (do they every pray for those in the workforce or local community?) or who are the heroes of the church (is there a focus on missionaries and pastors or are people who hold other professions given spotlight for their accomplishments?)
I simply found it a refreshing book to read. I’m sure it had negatives, but I can’t think of any of the top of my head. The only problem may be how to get a congregation to be passionate about such a thing. The book makes no false claims of ease or five steps to follow, which is good, but at the same time I think it is much easier idea to like than it is to put into practice in some churches. This is of no fault to the author, but simply a reality that we almost seem to like our church life to be divided from the rest of our lives for some reason.
Personally, I found the book very enjoyable. It isn’t going to solve the problem of any church simply by reading it, but I think it can get you thinking about ways to try to bridge the gap between the world we spend most of our time in and the times when we gather together to worship and study the Bible. There may be a disconnect between the church and the rest of life, but I’m glad there are books out there at least attempting to address that issue to some degree.