About 18 months ago I spent a week with London Institute of Contemporary Christianity (LICC) in London on their Toolbox course. It was probably one of the most equipping things I’ve done for living as a Christian in a western consumerist culture.
As part of the week we heard a short presentation from Neil Hudson about the Imagine Project. Neil had been working with 16 churches around the country, asking how they could create ‘whole life’ disciples. Christians who realised that their whole life mattered to God, not just the few hours that they devoted to gathered church activities.
For me, a guy who has spent most of his life in and around one church or another, this gave language and context to a problem that I’d seen but couldn’t articulate. I was excited, enthused and completely stuck to know what to do next.
Well, in part, the answer is finally here in this book. Rather than personal reflections on the history of the Imagine Project, Imagine Church is really an outcome. A book to give background and some direction to churches and church leaders that have noticed a disconnect between what we say we mean (‘yes, your whole life matters to God’) and the way that we act (‘I missed you at the prayer, members, home group, meeting this week’).
Fortunately, Neil doesn’t just launch into a list of new ideas and programmes to get your church working towards whole-life discipleship. The vision and values need to come before the actions, otherwise, come the first painful challenge, the slide back to the old familiar ways will occur before you’ve got very far at all. So a good proportion of the early part of the book looks at culture change, our motivation and some of the practicalities of moving a group of people forward on a journey.
The second part looks more at the practicalities and give some good examples, from churches that were involved with the pilot project, about how change can be implemented. Now, before you run away thinking, the last thing we need is more to do, Neil walks us through the idea of ‘one degree shifts’. Meaning, you don’t need to change everything in one go, instead it’s by incremental changes working their way into the fabric of church life that big impacts can be made.
The best bits…
…of this book are the real life examples that come from a range of churches that still do things very differently. This isn’t about becoming a new denomination, changing service styles, playing louder music and installing a new AV system, it’s about how the gathered church can have an impact throughout the community.
The worst bits…
…are the references to LICC resources. This may seem like a strange criticism simply because, as far as I’m aware, LICC are the only organisation devoted to revolutionising the church in this way. But, for some reason, references to LICC resources in the body text seem cumbersome and would have been better placed in the Further Reading sections at the end of each chapter.
Quite simply, this is an excellent, must read, book for any church leader. I reckon I’ll be sending a few out over the summer.
In case anyone is interested. LICC are currently recruiting for a Training and Development Director to work on the Imagine Project. More info on their vacancies page.