Today, 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?
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.
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.
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)
- See Rabbit and Elephant Webinar Resource Page for resources and bibliography.