Church for Every Context: A Book I Wish Every Minister Would Read

by Jason Locke

If you’re familiar with any of the blog posts from my sabbatical partly spent in the UK, then this book by Mike Moynagh explains a big piece of my research. During our 10 days based in Oxford, I got to visit with the author over cool drinks on a warm, summer afternoon. That two-hour chat was one of the highlights of my sabbatical.

Mike is incredibly pragmatic, knowledgeable and humble. We had a wide-ranging conversation about how most efforts to “diagnose” the church’s problems are quite misguided. What often results amounts to little more than prescribing surface changes: sprucing up the building, livening up the worship service, preaching more emphatically or with better theology, or simply doing the liturgy well. These changes, Mike suggests, never really address what lies at the heart of church decline in Western societies today.

To be clear, Mike Moynagh loves the traditional church. He personally prefers the Anglican liturgy above more “contemporary” worship styles. As a church-going person with deep roots in the church, it’s what makes him feel most at home.

But Moynagh realizes that this is not a place of comfort for the vast majority of people. The church, he says, must meet people where they are at home. We have to meet them on their turf and on their terms. What Mike suggests is that the church today must look for new ways of doing Christian community WHERE PEOPLE ARE rather than eternally tinkering with our ways of doing church in the hopes that non-church-goers will eventually show up.

Church for Every Context is one of the best books on “doing church” I’ve ever read. Honestly, I can’t think of a better one. I cannot fathom why this book isn’t being universally used in seminaries to train pastors and church leaders. It’s that good.

Why is it so overlooked? Well, it’s got the weight of a doorstop. And it doesn’t seem as widely available in the US as it is in the UK. So perhaps those are obstacles. It also doesn’t propose popular fixes but rather centers mission at the heart of the church’s endeavor. While this way of thinking might seem biblical, it is a foreign language to most seminary professors and church leaders today.

So why is this book so important, in my opinion? First, it’s written through the lens of mission. Moynagh grew up in East Africa, the son of missionaries. Like Lesslie Newbigin and many other Christian English writers before him, his whole frame of reference is to help the established Western church rediscover mission in their communities and backyards.

Second, Mike integrates cutting-edge thinking in business leadership & church leadership. I’ve never seen a book that sifts so widely and integrates so well. He draws as comfortably from the Harvard Business Review as he does from the notes of the latest Anglican synod.

Simply put, this is an amazing manual for leading existing and new churches to embrace new ways of doing church that will better engage our contexts. READ THIS BOOK!

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