Slow Churches in the Lead

by Amos Smith

I just finished reading Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus by C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison (much of the writing below is paraphrased from the book’s Introduction).

The authors of Slow Church explain that the industrial revolution made us obsessed with speed—fast cars, fast food, fast computers, and “the fast track.” In resistance to this, an international “Slow Food” movement arose. The Slow Food movement has inspired other Slow campaigns. Cittaslow (Slow Cities) was launched by a group of Italian mayors in 1990 and now includes more than 140 communities in twenty-three countries, which are committed to sustainable agriculture, local food cultivation, local land use, and hospitality.

Other manifestations of wanting to down shift sometimes, rather than stay in high gear, are Slow Gardening, Slow Parenting, Slow Reading, Slow Design, and Slow Art. There is even a World Slow Day, which some playful Italians recently celebrated by issuing fake citations to pedestrians who were walking too fast or taking too direct a route.

Canadian journalist Carl Honore describes “the cult of speed.” Fast and slow, Honore writes, do not just signify rates of change; they are shorthand for ways of being, or philosophies of life.

“Fast is busy, controlling, aggressive, hurried, analytical, stressed, superficial, impatient, active, quantity-over-quality. Slow is the opposite: calm, careful, receptive, still, intuitive, unhurried, patient, reflective, quality-over-quantity. It is about making real and meaningful connections—with people, culture, work, food, everything.” (pg. 13)

Many church growth models come dangerously close to reducing Christianity to a commodity that can be packaged, marketed, and sold, instead of cultivating a deep, holistic discipleship that touches every aspect of our lives.

“Following Jesus has been diminished to a privatized faith rather than a lifelong apprenticeship undertaken in the context of Christian community.” (pg. 14)

Congratulations to churches that foster sustainable community that is primarily about relationship to God and relationships with each other. Congratulations to churches that understand that the quality of relationships is more important than the numbers of bodies in the chairs on Sunday and the number of dollars in savings.