They Like Jesus But Not The Church – A Review

likejesusnotchurch.jpgI recently picked up and reread my copy of They like Jesus, but not the Church by Dan Kimball, in review to a post I read this week at the Christian Manifesto.

Kimball gears his book at those who want to get out of the Christian subculture and actually engage people in spiritual conversation.

In fact, most of Part I is how he came to that discovery in his own life as a pastor and church planter.  I found myself nodding in agreement way too many times, guilty as charged.

Most of us, including many of you who read this blog, would probably agree that

we are too busy inside the church to know those outside the church.

To me, this was one of the seminal books in my missional thinking. Many others have followed in its path, such as

I’m sure there are other books, but these three immediately come to mind in terms of reengaging the culture.

Part 1 of They Like Jesus

Part 1 of Kimball’s book describes how the culture is changing, particularly in North America.

These are not statistical observations, but observation based on his real life conversations and interactions with the culture.

What he states may seem obvious now, as many others have followed in Kimball’s footsteps.  I need not spend a lot of time here. He’s quite brutally honest about how the church has failed to stay connected with the culture.  The message may not have failed, but we are failing in our method.

Part 2 of They Like Jesus

Part 2 asks the question: What Emerging Generations Think about the Church.

This 6 chapter section reflects hundreds of personal conversations that Kimball has had, and many of the same things that Barna’s statistical research revealed in unChristian.

Anyone who is seeking to engage the current culture shapers should be aware of these items.  This part provides an excellent window into North American Culture.

A list of non-Christian perceptions of the church addressed in this book are as follows (taken directly from the table of contents):

  • The church is an organized religion with a political agenda
  • The church is judgmental and negative
  • The church is dominated by males and oppresses females
  • The church is homophobic
  • The church arrogantly claims all other religions are wrong
  • The church is full of fundamentalists who take the whole Bible literally

Part 3 of They Like Jesus

Part 3 is on how the church can respond.

His book has excellent ideas about conversation, dialogue, and theological discussions about conversational evangelism.

I like what he has done with the Bridge Illustration, by adding a 2nd chasm to cross – that second chasm is the Christian subculture that has so alienated seekers, that one needs to build bridges of connection there as part of the gospel explanation process. Bridging that gap by being in the world but not of it, spending time in conversation with non-Christians are all part of that trust building process.

Main takeaways:

1. “We must see ourselves as missionaries vs. having an evangelism department or program.”

2. “We must become listeners of people and watchers of culture.”

Sign up for our Newsletter

Each week, I send out new articles to help you grow your church through personal evangelism, invitations, improving your greeter ministry, and refreshing your vision for church hospitality.  You’ll usually find a gem that you can use each week or at least every other week.  Join our community and share your thoughts.

Sign up here.

The Rabbit and the Elephant Review

rabbitandelephantcoverToday, I’m participating in a blog book tour for The Rabbit and the Elephant: Why Small Is the New Big for Today’s Church Tony and Felicity Dale.

Others have published their entry ahead of me (see below), and a few others will follow behind.

The Rabbit and the Elephant

A movement of house churches is reaching the tipping point in North America.  Some claim it’s a second Reformation.

How could we change the world if our Christian faith began multiplying at a rapid pace — through a way of life that is explosive and transformational?

We can grow, can we reproduce?

pic_lg_dale_tonyx100Fleicity Dale

As Christians, we are the church—whether we meet in office buildings, college dorm rooms, coffee shops, factories, or homes—and the Holy Spirit uses us to expand that church to the far reaches of the globe.

By practicing “simple church,” we’ll find that a small gathering of friends loving Jesus together and reaching out to the community around them can help us to be the church, the way God intended.

The Rabbit and the Elephant Synopsis:

If you put two elephants in a room together and close the door, in 22 months you may get one baby elephant. But two rabbits together for the same amount of time will result in thousands of baby rabbits!

In The Rabbit and the Elephant, “micro church” planters Tony and Felicity Dale use the “rabbit” illustration to show the pace at which the Christian faith can (and should) be growing—through evangelism that is explosive and transformational. The Rabbit and the Elephant contains the key to 21st century evangelism—taking the Gospel to where the pain and the people are.

My take on the Rabbit and the Elephant

If you are familiar with Neil Cole (Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens and Organic Leadership: Leading Naturally Right Where You Are) you are likely familiar with the simple church movement.

This book by Tony and Felicity Dale adds to the body of literature about the house church / simple church  movement.

The Rabbit and Elephant can serve as a great introductory book for Christians looking into this model of church planting.  The entire book is written so that one can grab a good introductory level concept of what a house church might look like, how it might multiply, and how a house church can rapidly do the work of personal evangelism.

Overall, I found it to be an easy read, easily digestible, and full of personal stories that model what a house church might do, including some of the messiness of spectacular failures.

Because every house church is unique, The Rabbit and Elephant can’t get into every single detail or challenge presented by one house church, so the authors have to stay at a generic overview level.

But they do provide enough information that one could follow a few practical steps and launch a house church in their own area.

Included are some sample meeting outlines, a FAQ appendix, and a good review of common pitfalls in a simple church.

Worldview

The writers are well seeped in a charismatic worldview, which believes in the ongoing operation of the spiritual gifts and the realty of spiritual warfare.  They firmly believe in God’s miraculous activity and the guidance of the Holy Spirit about how and where to share the gospel.

I share their worldview, so much of this text and examples were easily digestable.  For those that don’t share that worldview (such as dispensational cessationists, or people who aren’t even aware of their worldview), some of the stories and principles may be a stretch, a sticking point, or even heretical in your worldview.

Yet the Dales are clear to say that not all simple churches share their worldview with regards to the spiritual gifts and spiritual warfare.

As another part of their worldview, there is a nice mixing of relational evangelism, which means their church meetings might have more non-believers than believers in them.  If this makes one uncomfortable, then this model of doing church might not work for you.

The best chapter in the Rabbit and the Elephant

Chapter 13, called Luke 10 Principles, outlines their entire church planting methodology.  This chapter alone is worth the price of the book, whether you want to plant a church or simply learn about small group expansions through networks.  In my estimation this chapter is the crux of the entire book so let me give you the basic outline.

1.  Trust God to provide the strategy and workers (Luke 10:1-2)

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.

The disciples were sent out as “church planting” teams and directed where to go.  The job of the disciples were to obey His instructions, and go to places where He was to visit.

The root of this is prayer.  They recommend prayer walking (webinar, resources) where you sense Jesus is sending you.

2.  Trust in God’s protection (Luke 10:3)

Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves

As you go places you may very well confront demonic powers (which exposes a worldview claim in the text).  We are to bind the strong man (Luke 11:21-22) and cooperate with God’s rescue.  Ed Silvoso writes much more about this in That None Should Perish.

3.  Trust God to provide Resources (Luke 10:4)

Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road

4.  Trust God to lead you to the Person of Peace (Luke 10:5)

When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you.

This is the most crucial insight into the methodology.  Look for the person of peace who will invite you into their home to start a house church within their social network.

This is a person who has some kind of reputation (good or bad) and has a wide circle of influence.  The church is usually started in that person’s home (p. 105).

New Testament examples would be Cornelius (Acts 10), or Lydia (Acts 16), or perhaps the woman at the well (John 4).

5.  Enjoy the Hospitality that God provides (Luke 10:7-8)

Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you.

Don’t move from home to home, but stay in the home of the person of peace.  House churches celebrate meals together as part of their practice.  Eating with people creates relationship.  At this point, you’ve only become a friend.  There has been no proclamation to this point.

6.  Trust God to Answer Your Prayers (Luke 10:9)

Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’

Look for opportunities to pray with and for people.  You’re looking for opportunity to bring people face to face with God’s activity.  Once you identify needs you can put your faith on the line and pray.

Then watch God respond.  In their experience, this often happens in connection with one of the spiritual gifts, such as prophecy or word of knowledge, as a demonstration of the kingdom of God.  When people experience the power of God in this way, word of mouth causes more people to gather to start studying and learning from God.

The Rabbit and the Elephant For Legacy Churches

They use the term Legacy churches to speak of what most of us think as church:  a gathering of believers in a building, led by one or more pastors, with a worship service that follows some kind of liturgy.  Mainline denominations, evangelical denominations, all of these have what we would consider traditional churches.

For legacy churches thinking about migrating to simple church, this book hints at such a transition, but doesn’t serve as a how to manual to make that transition.  It also doesn’t get into helping one re-frame their current way of doing church into this model.  It doesn’t get into issues like 501c3 status, record keeping, membership, articles of organization, paying a full time pastor, and stuff like that.

It doesn’t deal with some of the confessional theology of legacy churches (such as what are the marks of the church, Westminster confession of faith, ch 25.4).  I think this direction is outside the scope of the book.

However, legacy churches that want to expand their small group structure, this book can have a lot to say in terms of launching new small groups, and empowering people to launch small groups in their areas of influence.  The Luke 10 principles above are, I think, equally applicable there as well.

I also commend the Dales for not ripping the legacy churches as they present an alternative model.

Order your copy of The Rabbit and Elephant from Amazon. (affiliate link)

Related Resources

Other Reviews of The Rabbit and the Elephant

The Rabbit and the Elephant Webinar

Rabbit and the Elephant Tony Felicity Dale

This webinar has passed.

Grab our EvangelismCoach newsletter to get future webinar announcements.

A movement of house churches is reaching the tipping point in North America.  Some claim it’s a second Reformation.

How could we change the world if our Christian faith began multiplying at a rapid pace — through a way of life that is explosive and transformational?

We can grow, can we reproduce?

EvangelismCoach Webinar with Tony and Felicity Dale

pic_lg_dale_tonyx100Fleicity Dale Tony and Felicity Dale of  will join me, Chris Walker, and share some of the insights found in their book on simple churches. “The Rabbit and the Elephant: Why small is the new big for Today’s Church.” (Barna Books, May 2009)

As Christians, we are the church—whether we meet in office buildings, college dorm rooms, coffee shops, factories, or homes—and the Holy Spirit uses us to expand that church to the far reaches of the globe.

By practicing “simple church,” we’ll find that a small gathering of friends loving Jesus together and reaching out to the community around them can help us to be the church, the way God intended.

The Rabbit and the Elephant Synopsis:

If you put two elephants in a room together and close the door, in 22 months you may get one baby elephant. But two rabbits together for the same amount of time will result in thousands of baby rabbits!

In The Rabbit and the Elephant, “micro church” planters Tony and Felicity Dale use the “rabbit” illustration to show the pace at which the Christian faith can (and should) be growing—through evangelism that is explosive and transformational. The Rabbit and the Elephant contains the key to 21st century evangelism—taking the Gospel to where the pain and the people are.

We’ll look at

  • how “church” across the world is changing from being event-based to life and relationship-based.
  • how small and simple churches can multiply rapidly.
  • how to incorporate spiritual growth and outreach into every aspect of our lives.

*** No product pitches or sales (with exception of book mentions), but donations towards the cost of the webinar can be made after the webinar. ****

After the event, a PDF handout will be made available to participants.

Special note: I will conduct a special giveaway to 2 webinar attendees.  The only requirement is that you must be a resident of the US or Canada and that you attend the webinar.

Registration is Free, but required.

Date doesn’t work for you?

To be automatically informed as to our next webinar, signup for our Free Evangelism Newsletter and the a 5 part course on Church Hospitality.

The Art of Noticing People

BlurryCrowdonBusyStreetA moment with strangers

Have you ever been with a group of people and felt like you just needed to talk to that person over there?

A sense that God was pointing out that particular person?

Phillip (in the story of Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunuch) was prompted to “Go Stand next to THAT chariot.”

Of all the chariots on the road that day, he was prompted to go next to one.

A moment with Friends

Maybe been with a friend, visiting in the coffee shop, and you have this unmistakable sense that they want to talk with you about their faith or yours?

Or maybe a friend has surprised you and started opening up about their faith struggle and search for God?

What are these moments?

These moments have the potential to become kairos moments, moments where we as Christians are aware of the gentle prompting of the Holy Spirit to pay attention and likely talk about faith.

The are moments that are full of possibilities for a persons spiritual journey towards Christ, where the person who are talking with may make more steps closer in their relationship with Jesus.

Some might call these divine appointments.

I call them kairos moments.

Here are some examples:

Each conversation moment has been prepared and thanks to the working of the Holy Spirit another person makes another step forward towards discovering their relationship with Christ.

Some people search for God

Luke 19:1-10, the familiar story of Zacchaeus shows that noticing people and these divine appointments turns out to be more art than science.

Verse one says; “Jesus entered and walked through Jericho.”

Luke transitions from story to story with phrases letting you know that Christ was on the move.

On this particular day he came across a shunned tax collector named Zacchaeus whom we would place in the category of lost.

Nevertheless, verse 3 says that Zacchaeus “wanted desperately to see Jesus” (The Message).

The Greek rendering of the word “desperately” is zateo.

Zateo carries with it a meaning of a frantic pursuit. This is a very dramatic and passionate verb that Luke uses.

If you lost your child in a crowded public space, “zateo” describes the desperate search.

If your passport is missing the night before your international flight, zateo is the word to express the intensity of searching.

Do we believe that some people zateo Jesus?

They have been prepared and are so full of spiritual thirst they will do anything to find the water of life?

Jesus looks for them, rewarding their search.

Here’s what’s remarkable about Jesus. As he’s traveling along, he comes upon an ordinary tree and then does something extraordinary; he stops and notices! Jesus is busy, the religious crowd wants his attention and yet he stops and stares up at a tree. Go figure!

With all the travel language in the book of Luke, when Jesus stops it’s a big deal. What really happened at that tree could not be seen, the beauty is in the unseen.

When Jesus stopped at the tree of Zacchaeus, he ascribed worth to him and said that Zacchaeus mattered.

This was Jesus’ paradigm for letting people know that he cared about them—he stopped and noticed them. It wasn’t what Jesus said that was so compelling but what he did. In the economy of Jesus, Zaccheus had high value.

Others may grumble because you don’t do it right.

Verse 7 says, “Everyone who saw the incident was indignant and grumped, ‘What business does he have getting cozy with this crook?’ ”

Jesus was not playing the part correctly.

He was supposed to let Zacchaeus know how much he didn’t approve of his sin and share “the gospel” with him, which starts with an explanation of his failures.

Instead, Jesus stopped, noticed, called him by name and had a conversation with him on his turf.

The story ends with Jesus making this statement, “For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost.”

The Greek verb that is translated ‘find and restore’ is none other than zateo.

The art of Noticing People

Apparently, Jesus is passionately pursuing the people formerly known as lost. Pursuing Jesus was his business, his passion, his reason for existence.

Jesus profoundly impacted Zacchaeus not by sharing good news with him, but by being good news to him on that day. He stopped and noticed.

If we want to be on mission with Jesus, we’ll need to relearn the lost art of noticing.

Some of those conversations will go deep.

Some of those conversations that happen will go deep.  Others will remain shallow.

I have experienced lots of moments where after noticing people as in the Zaccheus text, the opportunity to offer a piece of the gospel happens.

Sometimes I get to harvest what others have sown, other times I get to water what was already there.  Sometimes I get to plant a seed for the first time.

It all starts with noticing those promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Evangelism Coaching corner

For a 5 CD audio set that will help you with this, click on the banner below.

If you want more personalized coaching for you or your team over a 3-4 month period, see our

Image credit: xiaohuan / 123RF Stock Photo

Pray First then Watch

Prayer_Before_EvangelismI truly believe that prayer opens conversational doors.

One of the principles that I put forth in my Fear Free Evangelism Seminar  is that when you pray, evangelism stuff happens.

Conversations appear.  You don’t have to force a conversation.  Conversations about faith simply show up.

The challenge is then how to listen to their spiritual thirst and listen to the work of the Holy Spirit to help the other person discover their next step towards faith.

Here is a recent testimony from a pastor’s wife after a recent Fear Free Evangelism Seminar.

Notice that they took the initiative to pray first and then the conversations unfolded.

My husband and I attended a Christmas party on our street last evening. All of the people on the street were invited. This is a first since we have lived here.

I connected with an older woman in her 80′s. After probably 30 minutes of conversation, she said, “Is your husband a minister?”

I replied, “Yes.”

She shared about being raised in a strict Catholic home (very common in our town), but she doesn’t “practice it” anymore. She hasn’t since she was about 18.

I asked “why?”

She said it was the confession to the priest that turned her off.

I asked if she had ever tried any other church.  She said no. She never wanted to.  But, she hastened to assure me she believes in God and do it their “own way.”  She said religion has never been a real priority.

She began to make a negative comment about “these born-again Christians.”  I felt very peaceful in gently saying to her, “I’m a born-again Christian.” She apologized and I said, “Oh, no. I understand.”

About then her husband and a young woman joined us. The husband said, “I’m reading the Bible.” and the young woman said, “That’s on my list, too.”

The older woman said, “It’s too hard to understand. I tell him he’s just reading it to make him sleepy.” She and her sister had tried to read it when they were young and “there was no one to explain what it meant” to them. They couldn’t understand it.

By this time, my husband joined us. I asked the husband what version of the Bible he’s reading and he said the King James. I said, “Oh, you could read a more modern version.” I don’t think he even knew there were other versions.  I told him we could give him one and I plan to take it to their house.

We parted with hugs and the older lady invited me to come to visit them and bring my grandson.

I was amazed that my husband and I were talking with three of our neighbors about reading the Bible!! But, we did pray before we went to the party.

Now my husband wants to make a list of our neighbors and pray for them. He talked with some people that I didn’t. I’m very excited about how God may what to use us here.

This is an excellent step in growing.  The conversation was natural, and I already know that the Bible has been delivered.  That led to a follow-up conversation that may turn into an investigative Bible study.

See another testimony at: Fear Free Evangelism Case Study.

Let me ask you this?

Have you spent time asking God to whom are you going to speak with today?  Do you notice those who cross your path?