Review: Church Inside Out
I’ll never forget my grandmother teaching me how to interlock my fingers while she would say, “Here’s the church. Here’s the steeple. Open the door and see all the people.”
Tim Archer mentions that rhyme at the beginning of “Church Inside Out” and then explains why it is imperative that the church take what we learn inside the building out into our communities. In a time when church attendance is dwindling nationwide, we need a reminder to take the mission of Christ to our neighbors.
Archer, a bilingual minister for the University Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas, and coordinator of Spanish-speaking ministries for Hope for Life, a Herald of Truth ministry, suggests we treat his book as we would an annual physical. He boldly, yet gracefully, calls us out on our inward-focused attitudes and myopic vision. He offers practical-yet-prolific advice on how the church can be more attentive to the needs of not only each other, but also the communities we’re a part of.
Inward-centered churches end in downfall, he writes. We can’t just be about survival. Our churches must have purpose — and get out of our comfort zones, get to know our neighbors. Complete, holistic worship reaches up to God, in to the church and out to the nonbeliever. If those three aspects don’t work together, Archer writes, the church will not last.
“It isn’t about defending or condemning your local congregation,” he writes. “It’s about finding ways to love God and love your neighbor.”
We’re reminded not to “speak past” the visitors in our assemblies — talking to them without understanding them and learning about them. Archer also invites us to assess our worship services. Are they visitor-friendly? Is our building? What would a visitor notice? Will they return?
Throughout the book, he carefully lays out the mission of the church: sharing the Good News of Jesus. He includes simple, biblical ideas for getting to know ourselves and our neighborhood.
For anyone who feels inadequate to teach the Gospel, this book provides numerous teaching tools and suggestions…
Archer encourages us to make ourselves vulnerable to our neighbors, giving them every chance to get to know us as we love and serve them. One particularly profound statement should be taken to heart by every Christian: It is our job to make the initial move in getting to know our neighbors. We must make that first step. He offers several suggestions for doing so.
At the end of each chapter, Archer provides a study guide for small groups or families. He suggests additional readings. I admired the heart behind this gesture and felt the importance. Archer cares deeply for the church.
We’re also reminded that the path Jesus marked for us is a path of service. Archer calls to mind what Jesus said in Matthew 6, “We are the light of the world.” He tells us that the church should be known as a complete community of people dedicated to good works.
In one of my favorite parts of the book, he provides an easy formula of what our gifts are and where we should focus our service.
For anyone who feels inadequate to teach the Gospel, this book provides numerous teaching tools and suggestions used by the author during his many years on the mission field. He offers suggestions on how to begin the conversation, explaining that it’s a process, not an event. He encourages the reader to ask questions as they teach Jesus to friends and family. With each question, he offers guidance and encouragement.
An accompanying workbook offers students a handy guide to learn about themselves, their congregations and their communities.
The book and workbook should be read and discussed in every congregation. The material is powerful, but the book is not one bit intimidating. They are straightforward and easy to read, yet hold a great deal of worth for every Christian.
PAULA HARRINGTON is a Christian writer and member of the Lone Oak Church of Christ in Paducah, Ky. She is the compiler and editor of the books “Once Upon a Bible Class,” “A Common Bond” and “A Sunday Afternoon with the Preachers’ Wives.”