Brief Reviews, VOLUME 3

Brief Review: The Gifts of the Small Church – Jason Byassee [Vol. 3, #33]

A Brief Review of
The Gifts of the Small Church.
Jason Byassee.
Paperback: Abingdon, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Jason Jones.

A small church resembles a late-model Hyundai.  At the car show, everyone oohs and has over the luxury car prototype.  The used economy car doesn’t even make it to the show floor.  When it comes to actually transporting drivers from point A to point B, though, the used Hyundai is exponentially more successful than shiny prototypes that may never carry someone on a real street.  Small churches are the same.  Books and conferences and speaking engagements are devoted to describing super-sized churches, but as far as persons encountering the gospel, small churches may be the most successful thing on the road.  “The small church is God’s primary way of saving people,” says Jason Byassee in The Gifts of the Small Church, and the most unreported news about churches is he is probably right.  From Paul writing to the small New Testament churches to the rural North Carolina churches Byassee pastored, small has been the norm and big box churches where attenders can remain anonymous are only the new kid in town.

What we are given in The Gifts of the Small Church is a humble meditation of praise to the goodness of these smaller churches, where enemies have to sit in pews next to each other, where those with broken lives are not only tolerated but loved, and where –most of all– God is known among those who keep being church in small fellowships.  Byassee does not ignore the challenges of these smaller churches; he shows repeatedly that small church life is often messy.  He does not offer, either, a how-to book on making a small church more effective or bigger, but what is offered instead is a picture of small church life where relationships, grace, and discipleship happen amidst the messiness.  Byassee’s experience with small churches is rural, and another book could be written concerning the experience of urban or suburban small churches, but most of what Byassee describes is true wherever the location of the small church.  Those who inhabit small churches understand the good found there.  Here is hope that with The Gifts of the Small Church, pastors, church leaders, and the like might begin to understand, too.


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C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at:

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