November 28, 2011 by Chris French
I’ve got to admit before you get into this review that I picked this book from the cue on Tyndale’s free books for review website because the Dales were using George Barna’s information. I won’t make the same mistake twice! Small is Big is not my favorite book. I completely disagree with their theology, they come from a European charismatic position, but there are a few gold nuggets.
The house church movement is the focus of the book. Apparently Tony & Felicity Dale are in some “leadership” position in the house church movement. They moved to America from London during the 80’s and were thinking along the same lines as several other people who were interested in making the way we do church more liquid. They were looking for an answer as to how to get people to come to Jesus when it hit them: our main focus shouldn’t be to get people into the buildings so we can talk to them there, we should take Jesus to people wherever they are. I like this idea. We have become so concerned with bringing people to church that we have forgotten the necessity of taking Jesus to people who won’t come to the church building. They tell the story about meeting a group of bikers, starting a relationship with them and eventually converting them all because they met in a diner instead of a church building.
Simple church, what the Dales call house churches, are all about everyone taking a part in the worship. They get the idea from I Cor. 14.26 where Paul instructs each worshipper to be ready to play a part in the worship service. Again this is something we’ve left out. We come, sing some songs, listen to the lesson and pray, but are we really tuned into what’s going on? They believe the Holy Spirit has enabled each one with a special prophesy so they make room for that by letting everyone take part. Their reasoning is wrong, but the motivation of wanting everyone to be plugged into the worship is right.
They have a slogan for their Simple Church Movement: No empire buildings, (meaning there’s no headquarters), no control (meaning there is no central theology or control of any kind i.e. who starts a house church, when they start), and no glory (meaning they don’t take credit for how much the movement has grown). A common fear among traditional churches or “legacy churches” is that people can not be trusted to teach the right things. Either thru indifference or ignorance heresy will come into the church and set up residence. The Dales believe that the Holy Spirit helps the person setting up the house church and He won’t allow them to hurt the church. I disagree there. Several people throughout history have hurt the church in huge ways! Think back to the Gnostics who thought Jesus only came in the spirit instead of the flesh, Origen who thought everyone went to Heaven regardless of their lifestyle or belief system, and the pre-Lutheran Catholics who sold indulgences to people to get their loved ones out of Purgatory. Now we’re only up to the 16th century! Think of how many people have hurt the church since then! The Dales do make a good point about our resistance to house churches though. People not being able to be trusted is the same argument the Catholics used about having the Bible in the vernacular. The fact is giving people responsibility not only helps take the load off you as the leader, but it also helps mature their faith. Some will fail under the pressure, but some will rise to meet the occasion. How sad that we might never give some of the best future leaders of the church the opportunity to lead because we were afraid they would teach something that wasn’t true. Teach them. Disciple them. Then give them responsiblity and watch them exceed your expectations!
I think I’ve mentioned before that I didn’t like Small is Big. I disagree fundamentally with their theology and that means other things that funnel from their theology are also skewed for me. There are a few ideas in here that are worth your time, but it’s not worth what you’re going to pay for it. I thought about giving it away here, but decided against it. I don’t want to further their thoughts. If you want it you can find it at McKay’s Used Books.