New forms of congregations are appearing in the United States. Some of these congregations can be characterized by how and where they meet: pub churches, Wednesday evening house churches, satellites of larger congregations, worshipers meeting in movie theatres. Authors Tim Shapiro and Kara Faris, both from the Center for Congregations in Indiana, have observed and learned from congregations they call divergent churches. Regarding these divergent churches it is not just where they meet. It is about what brings the participants together. These divergent forms of congregating consist of what the authors call “church plus.” That is, there is typically an aspect of life in addition to worship that serves as an ultimate concern of the faith community. For example, a congregation might focus on growing food. Another congregation focuses on being a home for spiritual refugees. Still another congregation’s primary concern is social justice for the poor. These ultimate concerns shape the practices of the congregation. These practices include shaping community, conversation, artistic expression, breaking bread, community engagement and hospitality. You don’t have to be part of a divergent church to find this book helpful. Clergy and laity interested in innovation, what others have called the “discipline of newness” (Harvard Business Review), will find this book helpful. Each chapter ends with evocative questions that can be discussed by your board or team leaders.
Reviewed by Tim Shapiro