{Review} The Connecting Church 2.0


The Connecting Church 2.0: Beyond Small Groups To Authentic Community, is a second edition release of the best-selling book The Connecting Church, published a decade earlier. This new edition contains updated research, expansions, and relational experiences gained by Randy Frazee in his years of pastoral ministry.

The Connecting Church 2.0 opens in Chapter One with an interesting story of the fictionalized Johnson family, who, while living the suburban American Dream, are suffering relationally due to isolation from their neatly compartmentalized lifestyle. The Johnson's culture can represent many families in America who are living at a time of great technological advancement and social network connectedness, yet are too busy for the maintenance of lasting relationships. Very often, busy and isolated American families do not even know their own neighbors' names. Frazee, in Chapter Two, makes the argument that people are created for Biblical community and that a radical restructuring of the American church must take place for authentic community to be realized. With four divided sections that analyze challenges which fragment the American church, Frazee continues his analysis of barriers and solutions to this isolation and provides solutions for discovering community.

First, in Part One, Connecting to a Common Purpose, Frazee addresses the individualism that permeates typical American society and church culture. He offers that the modern American church culture is often not based on Biblical community, but rather is made up of a group of individuals with minimal commitment to one another. Frazee presents a solution to the obstacle of individualism, which relates to the ancient culture of the first century believers described in Acts. Frazee presents a solution in which community is developed through five commonalities:
  • Authority - mutual accountability to God's Word and to one another
  • Common Creed - set of shared beliefs and practices
  • Traditions - symbols and festivals which continues the culture of faith
  • Standards - written and unwritten guidelines which define expectations of community members
  • Common Mission - clarity of mission which unites individuals into a cohesive whole
Frazee asserts that these five aspects are essential to fostering authentic community.

Second, in part Two, Connecting to a Common Place, Frazee relates the difficulties of isolation, which prevent the formation of meaningful relationships. The culture of individualism creates isolationism, and prevents people from truly connecting on deep spiritual, physical, and emotional levels. Frazee aptly notes:

"Biblical community is a way of referring to a collection of people gathered around a common biblical purpose and common principles. We should realize that a group of people can be committed to the Bible from its opening to its conclusion and still not be a community. By the same token, a group of people can experience community together and not be biblical in its purpose. Biblical community is formed when purpose and principles unite to create the foundation for the community and its life together." (pp. 90-91)

Frazee shares insight that for biblical community to properly form, five characteristics are needed for a shared common place:
  • Spontaneity - life shared together on a regular basis
  • Availability - a simplicity of being accessible and available
  • Frequency - time spent with teaching, fellowship, breaking bread, and prayer (Acts 2:43)
  • Sharing Meals - sharing life and fellowship over meals
  • Geography - a closeness of proximity to one another
Overall, time and togetherness are factors into growing community, which is something that runs counter-cultural to the typical American culture.

Frazee shares a few radical suggestions to reinvent standard American family life:
  • Cut down commute times which lengthens the work day
  • Live off of a one-family income
  • Choose stability of settling in an area
  • Set geographic boundaries of living and blessing a neighborhood
  • Identify a core group of neighborhood Christian families
  • Free up the busyness of schedules and commitments
  • Spend quality meaningful time together
  • Agree to a common biblical purpose
  • Get to know your neighbors
What was once standard practice in the first century church, and common decades ago in American culture, can seldom be identified in our local, fragmented communities. This impacts the Christian church at large, and prevents the transformational work of the gospel to renew communities for Christ.

Next, in Part Three, Connecting to Common Possessions, Frazee provides a succinct analysis of the problem of consumerism, and how this mindset has adversely impacted church culture. Individualism, isolationism, and consumerism feed a negative cycle which prevents biblical community. Early believers shared all things in common and their lives were interwoven together in submission to the cause of Christ. The former and current prosperity of American culture, has led to expanding the "American Dream" at the expense of time, talents, and possessions being used fully for the sake of the gospel. Frazee relates five characteristics which demonstrate a community built around common possessions:
  • Interdependency - individuals choose to bless others from the abundance of their resources
  • Intergenerational Life - a familial structure of all stages of life contribute to the community
  • Children - learn discipleship through a valued participation in the community
  • Responsibility - commitment, service, and preferring others above oneself are key
  • Sacrifice - serving others in the community through authentic shared life relationships

Lastly, in Part Four, Implementing a Connecting Church, Frazee offers wisdom from his experiences, mistakes, and successes for encouraging the development of community. I am intrigued by the successful models of Chapter Fifteen and the Starfish Model of Chapter Sixteen. What Frazee puts forth would require a radical restructuring of the America church, which would place greater emphasis on local neighborhood gatherings of Christians, and less focus on large buildings and programs.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading, The Connecting Church 2.0. The challenges that Frazee details, which are obstacles to authentic community, are a sad reality within many faith communities in America. The solutions that Frazee offer are practical in theory, but may not quite be fully attainable on a broader scale within the American church until hardships arise which naturally would encourage interdependence of relationships. Around the world, the church grows prolifically in places where Christians face persecution and hardships. In those situations, church leaders do not have to encourage community, as basic survival needs depend upon Christians walking in close relationship with the Lord and one another.

Frazee presents an ideal depiction with, The Connecting Church 2.0, of how the church community at large should function. As pockets of Christian communities in America overcome the obstacles that arise from individualism and isolationism to form Biblical communities, the gospel is able to go forth with greater effectiveness.

Our family, and local church community, is on a journey towards greater missional living. Our local church has a focus of developing hubs of small groups, which meet on a regular basis for Bible study, prayer, and fellowship, sprinkled throughout our community. I look forward to recommending this book to our pastoral staff and leaders.

This book is suitable for family, small group, and church-wide study. Whether you attend a large mega-church, average-sized congregation, or neighborhood fellowship which meets house-to-house, this book provides up-to-date research and challenging ideas to consider.



Product details:
Title: The Connecting Church 2.0: Beyond Small Groups To Authentic Community
Author: Randy Frazee
Publisher: Zondervan
Format: Softcover
Retail Price: $16.99


Publisher 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 is too often a place of loneliness rather than connection. In this revised and updated version of his bestselling book, Randy Frazee shows us how church can be so much…better---more intimate and alive. 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.

Media:
Download Excerpt of The Connecting Church 2.0

About the Author:
Randy Frazee is the senior minister of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas, where he teaches and leads in partnership with pastor and author Max Lucado. Prior to Oak Hills, Randy served as teaching pastor at Willow Creek and as senior pastor at Pantego Bible Church in Fort Worth, Texas, for fifteen years. He is also the author of Making Room for Life and The Christian Life Profile Assessment Tool. Frazee and his wife, Rozanne, have four children and one granddaughter.

You can connect with Randy at his popular blog RandyFrazee.com.

For other reviews on this book, please visit The Connecting Church 2.0 blog tour at Cross Focused Reviews.

Disclaimer:
This book was provided by Cross Focused Reviews and Zondervan for review purposes. This author was under no obligation to offer a favorable review. All opinions shared about the product are the honest responses of Sharra Badgley.

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