Review: "Thin Places"
In the introduction to "Thin Places" (House Studio, 2012) Jon Huckins and Rob Yackley include a quote from theologian Christopher Wright. It is this quote that sets the book, and the whole project, on fire:
...Christopher Wright defines mission as 'our committed participation as God's people, at God's invitation and command, in God's own mission within the history of God's world for the redemption of God's creation.' (from "The Mission of God")
What the authors do following this quote is something that readers such as myself have longed to see - they lay out a practical series of steps to enter into a missional movement toward our communities, cities, and neighborhoods. There are other practical books out there, but Thin Places marks a contrast as the authors have concentrated heavily on the story of the unfolding mission that they are engaged in through their NieuCommunities throughout the world. The companion DVD gives flesh and blood and voice to the stories in print, which helps the reader to engage even further in the larger discussion.
Thin Places follows in the path of other recent House Studio resources, doing more than adequate double-duty in providing both intellectual and conversational stimulation. I greatly appreciate the closing questions in each of the six formational postures that allow the reader to share the discussion and form their own understanding of what the content may look like in their local context.
The idea of this book being built on postures rather than steps or principles is refreshing to me, as well. It allows for genuine human interaction and engagement on the deepest of levels for the sake of the Gospel. As the authors contend in the section on "submerging" in their context,
Submerging cannot be accompanied by thoughts that we are simply trying to go out and save everyone from their problems, but must be done in a posture of humility that acknowledges that we are as much in need of restoration as those we seek to serve. (59)
Strengths of the book are easy to see: strong appeal to human narratives, simple and straightforward application of mission to practice, and the format of both print and visual mediums. The weakness of the book is more subtle, and likely comes from my own bias and perspective as a reader: in today's discussion of church and the missional vs. "extractional" (the author's term) debate, there seems to be a very high sense of either/or attached to our practice of gathering and/or scattering people for mission. The authors of this resource seem to convey that the missional expression of church that they embody is the legitimate form of church while the "extractional" (go to a church, in a neighborhood you don't live in, and focus on the gathering) is inferior.
What I disagree with is how broad-brush this approach is - groups like Alan Hirsch's "FutureTravelers" seem to be bridging the gap between extractional churches and missional living. Perhaps the length and focus of this book didn't allow for the larger discussion, and in the end it is not an overall detriment to the book but more a concern that likely could bear further discussion.
I applaud Huckins and Yackley for their work and feel blessed to see the work God is doing in their communities, even if it is only through print and DVD. I would recommend this resource to any group or individual who is looking for inspiration and preparation to move toward their communities and neighborhoods with the goodness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.