I recently finished reading The Rabbit and the Elephant: Why Small Is the New Big for Today’s Church by Tony & Felicity Dale and George Barna. This book offers the perspective that the church may be more effective in making disciples of Jesus Christ by multiplying rapidly rather than seeking to grow larger. The authors offer both practical tips and a thought framework for launching house churches and creating networks.
Tony and Felicity Dale share their stories of house church planting in both England and the United States. Some of their reminders include listening to God, focus on prayer and to model a simple pattern so that it can easily be repeated.
An outline for engagement in a house church is taken from Acts 2:42 – apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking bread together and prayer. Each gathering includes conversation, a meal and prayer. None of these are to be the best possible (for example a gourmet chef) to encourage the participation of all. The authors suggest a framework for teaching which involves studying the scripture in a community and using symbols as a guide to the conversation.
- Question mark – “something we don’t understand”
- Lightbulb – “something that sheds light, either on that passage of Scripture or something going on in a person’s life”
- Arrow – “represents God piercing a person’s heart – he or she has heard from God and needs to do something about it.”
The authors suggest that it is important to consider starting new groups with new people rather than assimilating others into existing groups. They suggest looking for a person whose leadership could be key in influencing a new circle of people to start the next group – a “person of peace” (see Luke 10:5-6). Finding this person of peace may be accomplished by telling one’s story as this can be a key opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ. They suggest this simple pattern for sharing (pg 135):
- What was life like before you became a Christian (or before your faith became real to you)?
- How did you meet Jesus?
- How has Jesus changed your life?
I found particularly important the reminder that there will be a difficult time of transition for persons who are moving from a more traditional form of church to a micro church. It will not be what it was, nor will it likely be exactly what is envisioned when first starting out.
Many of the themes in this book were quite helpful for those considering the possibility of living out one’s faith in a micro church. Unfortunately, the book did not flow smoothly from beginning to end and there were parts of several chapters that did not add to the advancement of the thesis. Nonetheless, this was a solid book and I recommend it for anyone considering a life of faith in a micro church.
2 replies on “The Rabbit and the Elephant – a review”
Felicity and I really appreciate the thorough and thoughtful way that you have reveiwed our book. The book, just like what is actually happening in house churches around the country, is far from perfect. But if it an be used to help people in their walk with the Lord and their journey into simple church life, then it will have accomplished its purpose.
Tony and Felicity
Tony – Thanks for your response. I think that you are right on with the book. It has certainly helped me learn more about the simple church life and has provided guidance in my journey of faith. Thanks!