Item description for The Connecting Church: Beyond Small Groups to Authentic Community by Randy Frazee & Dallas Willard...
Overview A senior pastor at Pantego Bible Church in Arlington, Texas, shares the secret of building a successful, healthy, functional Christian community. Original.
Publishers Description The development of meaningful relationships, where every member carries a significant sense of belonging, is central to what it means to be the church. So why do many Christians feel disappointed and disillusioned with their efforts to experience authentic community? Despite the best efforts of pastors, small group leaders, and faithful lay persons, church too often is a place of loneliness rather than connection.Church can be so much better. So intimate and alive. The Connecting Church tells you how. The answer may seem radical today, but it was a central component of life in the early church. First-century Christians knew what it meant to live in vital community with one another, relating with a depth and commitment that made 'the body of Christ' a perfect metaphor for the church. What would it take to reclaim that kind of love, joy, support, and dynamic spiritual growth? Read this book and find out.
From Publishers Weekly Pastor and consultant Frazee begins with a problem that many church leaders
admit only hesitantly: small groups, widely hailed as a means to achieve
authentic community, often fail to achieve the hoped-for experience of "life
together." This book follows the story of Frazee's congregation, Pantego Bible
Church in suburban Dallas/Ft. Worth, in its efforts to "take [the small group
movement] to the next level." Frazee's proposal is no quick fix; it belies
megachurch stereotypes by taking a countercultural stand against the
individualism and consumerism that Frazee says plague contemporary American
life. Drawing on biblical models as well as sociological research and urban
planning principles, Frazee makes a strong case that the mobility and privacy
of "American Dream" suburbia fosters a spirit of fragmentation and isolation
that is unworkable as a basis for authentic community. Frazee recommends
"consolidating relationships," opting out of multiple activities and
superficial social circles in favor of "a circle of relationships that produces
a sense of genuine belonging." Small groups emerge as a necessary but
insufficient ingredient for attaining Frazee's vision of "biblical community."
The author's fondness for lists and systematization make for a dense read at
times, but the human insights and real-life examples that really drive the book
have a powerful appeal. Given the popularity of small group spirituality, and
its potential discontents, this book should find a wide audience. (Mar.)
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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As the senior minister of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas, I have the privilege of teaching and leading in partnership with pastor and author, Max Lucado. Prior to coming to Oak Hills, I served as the teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church and spent 15 years as the senior pastor at Pantego Bible Church in Fort Worth Texas. God has filled my life with amazing experiences and for that I am grateful.
I’m also the author of several books, The Connecting Church, Making Room for Life, The Christian Life Profile Assessment, and Renovation of the Heart Student Edition. Currently I am most excited about my new book coming out in August of 2011, The Heart of the Story: God’s Masterful Design to Restore His People.
And as for the roles I cherish most in life, it’s husband to my incredible Rozanne, father to four remarkable children, and of course the unspeakable joy that comes with being a proud grandfather.
My prayer for you is not complicated. It’s real simple. I desire that you won’t let another day go by without taking hold of this precious life that God has made available for you. I hope you find what’s shared here full of practical ideas and the courage you need to seize the day.
SPANISH BIO: Randy Frazee es ministro principal de la iglesia Oak Hills de San Antonio, Texas. Es author de The Connecting Church, Making Room for Life, The Christian Life Profile, y Renovation of the Heart Student Edition. Es graduado del Dallas Theological Seminary. Frazee y su esposa, Rozanne, tienen cuatro hijos.
Randy Frazee currently resides in Fort Worth.
Randy Frazee has published or released items in the following series...
Emersion: Emergent Village Resources for Communities of Faith
Reviews - What do customers think about Connecting Church?
Challenging but profound... Dec 1, 2006
This is the second time that I've read Randy Frazee's "The Connecting Church," and it has become a favorite of mine. I've read it both times with other people, and in both cases, there were folks who struggled with his concepts. His basic premise is that the American lifestyle, even (and maybe especially) in the church, is dominated by the triplet evils of individualism, isolation, and consumerism. These principles are ultimately antithetical to the gospel, yet they dominate the lives of most American Christians. So, he suggests the reestablishment of common purpose, common place, and common possessions as the solutions to these crises. And his explanation of those solutions is radical, to say the least.
One of the strengths of Frazee's book is his ability to describe the problem. And I have never heard anyone who was able to refute his assessment of American (suburban) life. Most Christians experience aggravating levels of isolation and overcommitment and stress and hecticness, but they feel hopeless to change it. Where most people buck against Frazee is his proposed solutions to the problems.
Frazee suggests that if we want to fix the woes in our lives, we need to make seismic shifts to how we do things. And that means that small groups, the common antidote for isolation within the church, may not be getting the job done. He suggests that most small groups are actually just another layer of complexity, another thing to do, and further aggravate our isolation, rather than providing a place for authentic community and relationships as God intended for us. And my own experience, personally and as I work on our church staff to help oversee our small group ministry, certainly confirms a significant grain of truth to that assessment.
So, Frazee has the guts to suggest that we ought to make some or all of the following changes. We need to stop spending so much time commuting, either changing to a less lucrative job or moving closer to work. We need to move away from the assumption that two incomes are prerequisites for happy living. We need to stop spending so much time ferrying children around to various activities, limiting their involvement in extracurriculars. We need to draw back from being on a dozen different teams and committees at church and spend more time at home. We need to become less independent and allow our neighbors to regularly get into our lives. We need to intentionally connect with our neighbors, spending time in the front yard and on the front porch. This neighborhood focus should be where we invest our relational energy, thereby providing the context for the following tenets of healthy Christian relationships: spontaneity, availability, frequency, common meals, and geography.
At the end of the day, Frazee proposes big changes. And many people are unwilling to give up some idols in which they have placed their trust, like high-paying jobs and multiple-income households and lots of unnecessary purchases and complete autonomy from other people. But it is our commitment to these things that keeps us from experiencing the abundant life that Jesus promised us.
I am a long way from implementing everything in this book. I haven't even figured out exactly which parts I need to implement. And I'm further still from deciding what I think I should pursue as areas of growth for our church. But I know that Frazee has provided us with many nuggets of hard truth that we need to hear and ponder. And I know that the picture that he presents of what authentic community could look like is extremely appealing to everyone who reads it. And I know that it's not purely idealistic because there are people who are actually doing it.
So, the challenge is to not sit in complacence or laziness and actually do something to make a change because I know that God has called me and our church to something more than what we have right now. And I thank Frazee for having the courage to lay it on the line and share his learning with us. I think that every American Christian ought to read this book and at least give some time and effort to consider how God might want us to respond.
Diagnosing the Ills and Prescribing a (Structural) Cure to Weak Community Jul 26, 2006
If you're like me (or the fictional Bob and Karen Johnson in this book), genuine community is hard to come by, even in small groups. Ever find yourself frustrated by the low-level of relational connections at church? Have small groups, no matter how small, ever failed to meet your expectations, your need, of community? Have you ever deliberately avoided talking to a neighbor because you felt like you didn't have time to talk? If so, I encourage you to read two books--Kindgom of Couches (which i posted on earlier) and The Connecting Church: Beyond Small Groups to Authentic Community. If Walker's book focuses more on the inner workings of community, Frazee focuses on the outer obstacles and structural solutions to a culture rife with individualism.
Former pastor of Pantego Bible in Arlington, Texas, Randy Frazee lays out a simple, straightforward critique and cure to the ills of the Evangelical church's lack of significant, authentic community. Small groups won't cut it. Something greater, more systemic is at odds with our need for community. Frazee writes: "The church of the twenty-first century must do more than add worlds [i.e. personal world, parent world, etc.] to an already overbooked society; it must design new structures that help people simplify their lives and deveop more meaning, depth, purpose and community." (37) Frazee delivers. He gives us vision and structure for more satisfying community.
The obstacles of individualism, isolationism, and consmerism are critiqued by Frazee through his pastoral experience and sociological analysis (Locke, Meeks, etc). These ills are offered a cure through three main venues: Common Purpose, Common Place, and Common Possessions. The book is full of pastoral insights, some of which can be found on (49, 67, 82-3, 92). I'll just give some broadstrokes here.
Common Purpose - Too many churches don't really share common beliefs. Sure, the church has a statement of faith, and members sign off on it, but most churches fail to shepherd thier flock into a common creed. This raises Frazee's more questionable solution, identifying 52 values (community), beliefs (Trinity), and practices (social justice) that constitute his preaching calendar. It seems to me that the biblical interpretation will inevitably be forced to fit the mold of his Spiritual Formation Calendar. Nevertheless, the critique rings true and the solution is to more faithfully catechize, not just doctrinally, but also practically.
Common Place - Frazee essentially argues for a return to the neighborhood concept, where your neighbors really are people you hang out with. He recommends several Christians moving into a neighborhood to deliberately pursue community and outreach, making small groups geographic-specific and involvement intensive. Alongside these small, neighborhood groups, he recommends larger, mid-size groups, composed of regional small groups for the purpose of corporate teaching instructionand fellowship. The large worship service is reserved for inspiration and preaching.
Common Possessions - It's not what you think. Frazee doesn't recommend forming a commune and sharing everything you own- one T.V. per 10 families- no. Instead, he recognizes in Acts a willingness to and practice of sharing one's possessions. He suggests several key characteristics: interdependence (consider how you can share your resources, not just add to them), intergenerational life (seek the wisdom possessed by others), sacrifice (giving to others, even when it hurts), responsibility (recognize the biblical imperative to care for others), and children (include them, no matter how difficult, in small groups).
More could be said. I'll leave you to read it. Suffice it to say, this book will significantly shape the structure of my approach to community. One thing the book lacks is a biblical motivation for community (the gospel- forgiveness for failure and strength for victory). It is, at times, hyper-optomistic, but it does cast a vision.
I suppose a grade of 'E' might assume that there was Effort. Dec 9, 2004
I am a strong advocate of churches taking hold of the principles of community that appear to be evident in the book of Acts. I can also see why some might read this book and give it 5 stars for proposing any old solution to what is a rather profound problem in the church today, and perhaps (as I think most would concede) for its interesting account in the 2nd half of the book regarding the author's experience with small groups in his church in Texas. The first half of the book, however, starts with such extreme and completely UNFOUNDED conclusions about American society and churches that many readers may not bother to read the rest of the book. Reading this book produced a few brief moments of excitement over sharing the author's view of the "lack of community" in the American church today, followed by several hours of HORROR at the extreme position the author takes and the extensive and rather mindless proposal he sets forth as THE (one and only) "solution," perhaps punctuated with some thought-provoking opinions about how small groups can best be structured in churches. The author begins in the early chapters by taking aim (obviously with a sawed-off shotgun) at an enemy he calls "the plague of individualism". Red flags go up in the first chapter or two regarding the broad definition of the "individualism" enemy as the author begins to lob his grenade-like rhetoric well beyond issues such as vain conceit and self interest to the exclusion of others. It becomes clear as one reads further that this author boldly advocates against church members thinking about an issue on their own and reaching a conclusion that is in anyway different from their religious leaders. Next, the author's idea begins to surface that church members should put the needs of others ahead of their own needs. At this point, those who read beyond an 8th grade level become aware that the author might have entitled the book "How to Start a Cult." This conclusion is confirmed again and again throughout the book. The author refers to urban gang-leaders (who kill people who disagree with them) and exclusionary Amish elders (who engage in mental warfare with, and often shun people who disagree with them) as good examples of effective authority. The author recognizes that "there are abuses that must be guarded against," but does not account for this in his principle that members must make themselves of "one mind" with their leaders. The author advocates throughout the book that individual thinking is a bad thing, with statements like "there is no need for fresh thinking in this area - just fresh obedience." (Has this author totally missed the child-abuse issues in the Catholic Church, or the recent Amish rape trial in the midwest involving a young Amish girl that was repeatedly assaulted by various community members with NO ACTION being taken by the community authorities??) The author also contradicts himself throughout the book. First, he says that "individualism" is a recent phenomenon that didn't even have a name prior to the mid 1800's. Then, he quotes scripture with the twisted introduction, "Notice how [the apostle] Paul challenges the mind-set of individualism." (Hello!?!?! Why would Paul be challenging something that didn't exist until mid 1800's???) This particular misapplication of scripture reveals the author's frightening view that disagreeing with church leadership constitutes "individualism" - an enemy that the church "must" root out. Throughout the book, he quotes polls (i.e., NOT extensive, empiracle, published research data) about how Americans (at large) do not understand basic principles of the Bible. Then he takes this poll data (which must certainly be considered at least suspect as it applies to the whole of America - including non-Christians) and applies it to the Church. He concludes upon this mis-application of questionable data that our Christian community is ignorant of its core beliefs and is not "committed to growing in the crace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." All I know is that if Christ's words "Judge not, so that you are not judged," and mean anything, this author is in danger of a world of hurt. Again, what is really painful about this atrocious book is that I believe that the American church needs more community. What we do NOT need, however, is McCarthy-ism or facism masquerading as unity or community. I am afraid that I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone who is not solid enough in their knowledge of scripture to recognize its misapplication, or not proficient enough with critically analysis to distill an ounce of truth when its laced with a pound of potentially-fatal falsehood. - Be blessed.
NT Church for the 21st Century? Aug 20, 2004
Randy Frazee's "The Connecting Church" is a book not unlike a coin; it has two sides--hope and frustration. Reading it will find you both wistful and pounding the table. Unfortunately, you end the book doing the latter.
Frazee is one of a cadre of author/pastors spearheading a self-proclaimed renaissance within Christianity. Often called "postmodern Christianity" or "The Emerging Church," this trend seeks to recover the spirit of the early New Testament Church. "The Connecting Church" embodies one of the most prominent aspects of Emerging theology: recovering deep human relationships via a "satellite house/neighborhood church" model.
Tested within his own church in TX, the ideas espoused by the author take small groups to the extreme. Instead of traveling by car to a small affinity group of ten or so, the small group is your entire neighborhood. You reach your neighborhood by incorporating the people in it into your group through strong relationships and friendship evangelism. In a variation, a set of Christians moves together into a neighborhood and pursues the same ends.
The part that few people will object to is living out a Mayberry-like ideal of community. You open your homes and lives to your group. You socialize with your group daily, almost to the exclusion of other relationships, pouring yourself relationally into a set of people that will stay together for years. Its an accumulation of social capital now sorely lacking in most people's lives.
The larger church body itself works to enact a consistent discipleship program that supports the neighborhood groups. It has a distinct preaching cycle that repeats yearly. This program has measurable checkoffs for spiritual growth, meaning the church can see how effective it is in this area. The teachings aim to release people from a prison of consumerism, careerism, and isolation into a balanced love of God and love for others. In its purest form, this model moves into a semi-communal living mode that can even include shared possessions.
A superficial reading of this book yields an immediate desire to make it work. I know that I would love to try to make such a community possible. But problems exist. As much as Frazee insists that people stay in one place, the nature of work today means that a family moves nearly every seven years, usually as a result of work situations. With the last recession forcing many families to move just to put food on the table, unless the Church in America is willing to work harder to help Christians keep their jobs, the dream of staying in one place is elusive. Truth is, the small rural communities revered in "The Connecting Church" are progressively becoming ghost towns because the jobs went elsewhere.
There are other issues with idealizing small, tightknit, rural communities; in the book, the very model Frazee encourages cannot be applied to small, rural communities at all! It's inherently a suburban or city-only model. It's odd that Frazee cannot provide a workable modern solution for the very type of community he idolizes. I live in the country, and as much as I'd like to implement Frazee's model here, the basic elements of it do not play well in the countryside.
Lastly, the emphasis on keeping neighbors together creates an unintentional ghetto-ization of the Church. If the residents of a rich neighborhood are encouraged to stay together exclusively, as is the poorer neighborhood, when will they mix? They used to mix on Sundays at the church, but Frazee encourages hanging with your group even at the whole church meetings. And as much as the goal is to create multigenerational, multicultural communities, most neighborhoods are remarkably homogeneous.
In the end, the proof of concept is in the doing. Churches in my area that have adopted the model in "The Connecting Church" have been disappointed in the results, many abandoning it altogether. People are quite set in their ways, and the old small group model that is based mostly on affinity is not that creaky, yet. Like the Israelites who had to entirely die off before their descendants finally entered the promised land, this generation of Christians may some day pass on and allow Frazee's model to assume prominence in an upcoming generation that fully embraces it.
"The Connecting Church" is filled with great ideas and will definitely get you thinking. Hopefully, Frazee will work out the bugs and find an audience willing to give it a try.
Essential Reading for All Jul 17, 2004
Randy Frazee's book, "The Connecting Church", has influenced my thoughts on numerous areas of spirituality, Christian living, and church as much as any book I've read. Frazee's insights into daily life in today's large cities form an essential foundation for understanding so many of our current frustrations, both personal and institutional, both spiritual and emotional. To try to lead a spiritually or emotionally fulfilling life in the city, or to try to lead a church with any relevance to lives of citydwellers, one has to understand the basics of the development of the city.
It is worth mentioning here that cities are not generally mentioned in a favorable light in the Bible. The Genesis story, from the fate of Cain to the fate of Babel, indicates serious concerns that God has about the development of cities.
We should join Frazee, then, in not presuming that the lifetyle dictated by the modern city provides either an opportunity for personal fulfillment or, for Christian leaders, an opportunity for ministry. Maybe the city is the problem. Maybe the city developed from diverse forces which were oblivious to the spiritual and psychic needs of the self, such that to fulfill those needs, one needs to rebel against that which the city claims is normal daily life.
It is striking that the mode of daily life for over 99% of human history - in which one has a single circle of friends that span work, neighborhood, religious life and leisure, all of whom know each other and see each other spontaneously and frequently - has radically ended in the modern city. Now we have numerous circles of friends, who don't know the friends in the other circles, and very few of whom do we run into spontaneously. Rather, our get-togethers with friends are usually highly-scheduled and coordinated events, of necessity, in today's sprawled and fragmented city.
To think that one can have personal community, much less a church that ministers to people effectively, when we live this way, is a key source of our frustrations. Frazee's book further develops this thesis, with which I agree, and then advises the reader on creating the conditions for spiritual enrichment within the city.