My latest book (co-authored with my friend Chris Smith) is Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus (IVP, 2014). The book is inspired by the language and philosophy of the Slow Food movement to rethink the ways in which we share life together in our church communities. Just as Slow Food offers a pointed critique of industrialized food cultures and agricultures, Slow Church can help us unmask our industrialized approaches to church. Slow Church roots us in the pace and place of our neighborhoods. It spurs our imaginations with a rich vision of the holistic, interconnected, and abundant life together to which God has called us.
Slow Church received a coveted starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, as well as glowing, feature-length reviews in the print editions of Sojourners, Christian Century, Christianity Today, and Books & Culture. It was also the subject of a wire-service article syndicated in the Washington Post, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Huffington Post, and many other North American and European publications.
Officially debuting on June 2, 2014, Slow Church is already in its fourth printing. Since the book was released, Chris and I have been able to speak in dozens of venues. A busy first half-year of touring will culminate this November with multiple events in Lexington, Kentucky, including the closing session of the Slow Money Conference, where I will talk about Slow Church with the founder of Slow Money, the president of Slow Food USA, and an executive from Slow Food Italy. Slow Church is being used in college classrooms, and it is now one of the five “books in common” incoming students have to read at Fuller Seminary, the most influential evangelical seminary in the country.
“Slow Church is a manifesto and handbook rolled into one. Unlike most manifestos, it is beautifully written, blending historical analysis, personal narrative, and scriptural exegesis into prose that is languid, incisive, and eloquent. It reads like what it is: the long, patient fruit of two men deeply rooted in a particular place, among neighbors they know, love, and serve.” — Leslie Leyland Fields in Christianity Today
“[For] inspiration you may find yourself returning to this gracefully written ode to God’s wonders close at hand, with its vision for individuals and faith communities to savor that goodness and more fully incarnate Christ’s love, wherever we have been called to be.” — Julie Porter in Sojourners
“The only way the church can be the church as God wants it is when the people of the church slow down enough to become the church. Good themes, excellent quotations, compelling stories and solid research mark what is one of the freshest alternatives to church life as it is today. Buy this, but don’t read it fast. Read it slow.” — Scot McKnight, professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary
“Chris and John have done a fantastic job of envisioning a wholesomely sustainable, spiritually alluring and thoroughly kingdom-centric church that is simply fulfilling its purpose of witnessing to Jesus in the rhythms of God’s grace. I just have to join in! An inspiring read.” — Alan Hirsch, author, activist, dreamer
“The internet providers have persuaded us that ‘fast’ is better–about everything. As a result, ‘slow’ is a deeply subversive, countercultural notion in a culture of ‘fast.’ This thoughtful, discerning book advocates ‘slow’ in faith and in life. This advocacy is a recognition that faith is a practice of relational fidelity that cannot be reduced to contractual or commodity transaction. The authors ponder and reflect on this summons with both pastoral sensitivity and missional passion. Readers eager for an evangelically paced life will pay close attention to this advocacy.” — Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary
“Slow Church spurs imagination for God’s patient, diligent working in the small everyday peculiarities of our lives together with him. It’s a call to the simple goodness of life–made possible with God in community and neighborhood. Read it and be cured forever of programmed church.” — David Fitch, B. R. Lindner Professor of Evangelical Theology, Northern Seminary, and author of Prodigal Christianity
“Recognizing the destructive consequences of church structures and individual lifestyles built around efficiency, control and hypermobility, Smith and Pattison challenge us to recover the social significance of God’s slow and patient work in the world. This beautifully crafted book offers perceptive analyses, asks crucial questions and provides gracious wisdom for finding ways to live more fully attentive to God and to our particular time and place. Slow Church, like a well-prepared meal, provides nourishment and delight, and invites long and fruitful conversation.” — Christine D. Pohl, professor of Christian social ethics, Asbury Theological Seminary
“In this agitated and anxious world, our worth is determined by our productivity and our value is measured by how much we can devour. Without much thought, even our churches have become tangled up in our quick-consumption mentality. In the midst of the greedy mindlessness of ministry, C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison evoke a different vision—one of a careful community of deep relationships. As a pastor, I lingered over the words of Slow Church with delight as they inspired me and made me welcome what we might become.” — Carol Howard Merritt, pastor, author of Reframing Hope and Tribal Church
“Hurry, worry, stress and striving have come to dominate human consciousness in the twenty-first century—the logical consequences of a society built on individualism and productivity at any cost. We long for a pace of life that allows us to enjoy deep relationships, meaningful work, spiritual vitality and the simple pleasures of life. In Slow Church, Pattison and Smith offer a hopeful vision of the future, rooted in the Christian gospel, that provides a comprehensive orientation for pursuing a more integrative path. This book tenderly calls common assumptions about the church and society into question, carefully synthesizing Christian theology with emerging ecological consciousness. For the sake of our souls, our grandchildren and the planet, I hope we pay attention to Smith and Pattison’s conclusions and take action.” — Mark Scandrette, author of Free and Practicing the Way of Jesus
“At long last, a book I relish giving away to the vast number of people longing for an alternative between ‘McDonald Church’ and the end of the church altogether. In neighborhoods across North America there are hundreds of thousands of Christ-followers trying to experiment with a new way of being the church in everyday life. Now there is a hopeful guidebook that is rich with empirical and anecdotal research, historical depth and theological savvy that can guide their way. This is the book you rush out and buy a dozen copies of to give hope and help to your friends who want to follow the way of Jesus.” — Paul Sparks, coauthor of The New Parish and cofounder of Parish Collective
“Smith and Pattison marshal the wisdom of our greatest cultural thinkers—people like Berry, Heschel, Pollan and Vanier—in this tour-de-force manifesto. This smart book reveals the vacuity of fast church and realigns us with the locality, rest, unpredictability and simple delight that comes with the way of Jesus.” — Jon M. Sweeney, author ofWhen Saint Francis Saved the Church
“All of our churches are shaped by our cultural environments, and Smith and Pattison note how forces such as fragmentation, impatience, commodification, branding, hypermobility, individualism and efficiency too often dominate our practices and priorities. So we strive for control in the midst of fears and self-protection. Slow Church provides theology and imagination that connect gospel embodiment with place and neighbors, calling us to slower lives around tables and conversations that nourish and interweave gratefulness, listening, work, hospitality, justice and the biblical trajectory toward the reconciliation of all things. Less of McDonalds; more of sabbath feasts.” — Mark Lau Branson, Homer L. Goddard Professor of the Ministry of the Laity, Fuller Seminary
“James Houston once wrote, ‘the speed of godliness is slow.’ In a culture that values speed and worships efficiency, Christopher Smith and John Pattison show us the graceful rhythms of fully embodied presence. Food, farming, faith and friendships cannot be rushed; neither can the church. Quality is more important than quantity. Slow Church reveals that there is a better, freer and more hope-filled way than frenetic ministry and exhausted lives. It sees slow not as lazy or bad but as rich and meaningful. This book challenges us to savor–not devour–the blessings of God in the midst of community. Ecclesiologically, patience truly is a virtue. Food tastes better when it marinates. Church is no different.” — J.R. Briggs, pastor/cultural cultivator, The Renew Community; founder, Kairos Partnerships; author, Fail: Finding Hope and Grace in the Midst of Ministry Failure
“In this timely book Smith and Pattison lead us into the habits and practices that are essential if churches are to savor, mobilize and celebrate the gifts of God’s goodness all around. Read it with friends and then be prepared to discover the grit and the grace that make life together a foretaste of the kingdom of God. Slow Church is a beautifully conceived book that challenges us to live more deeply into community and in discipleship of Jesus Christ.” — Norman Wirzba, professor of theology and ecology, Duke Divinity School
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