Church Without Walls


This is an ACOM text for the course Culture and Mission. I thought I would have a read…and boy was I blown away, I loved this book. Right where I am at in church thinking.
Jim Petersen wrote “The Church Without Walls” some time ago now as a result of his missionary experiences in Brazil and assimilating them into ‘normal life’ after returning to his home in the US. He makes some poignant reflections on what we need to do to effectively do local mission. He makes a strong case for what Ralph Winter (Fuller) calls modalities and sodalities, the solid fixed church/denomination’s structures and the looser ‘out there’ missions workers/evangelists like the apostle Paul and his team.
He speaks strongly to both groups of people and shows how we need each other. He uses the language of relationship between the two groups not heirachy and authority.
He spends a great deal of time discussing the tough issues of contextualisation, but changes the focus a little as he is referring to local mission. So the change in context is not between one language group and another or one country and another but between our church culture and our streets, our neighborhoods.
In Church Without Walls, Petersen offers an exciting definition of the church that pushes beyond the too-small boundaries we’ve inherited from the past. First-century Christians had to sort out Jesus from Judaism in order to become a people for all nations. Today, we have to sort out Jesus from our religious traditions in order to make Him available to our nation. That’s the challenge we face: Will we be the church without walls, communicating a gospel free of cultural trappings? Or will we continue to reproduce our forms and structures, hiding the essence of the gospel within?

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3 thoughts on “Church Without Walls

  1. I had the chance to read Church Without Walls last year. Definitely a good read!

    In a lot of ways Peterson was ahead of his time (in a positive sense), as the book fits perfectly with today’s cultural climate and the issues that the Church is only just beginning to seriously wrestle with.

  2. If we had a clear answer to that we’d have to bottle it for all the ACOM students that continue to walk away from subjects & facilitations with that dazed look in their eyes representing a much greater inner turmoil!

    But I have a feeling it’s the kind of burden God wants us to have continually, at least in part. It’s what leads us to seek Him all the more urgently and change our hearts towards His passion.

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