the weblog of Alan Knox

Community and Multiplication

Posted by on Jun 2, 2009 in books, community | 7 comments

I am looking forward to reviewing two books in the next few weeks. The first book arrived recently: The Rabbit and the Elephant: Why Small is the New Big for Today’s Church by Tony & Felicity Dale and George Barna. This is the official description of the book:

If you put two elephants in a room together and close the door, in 22 months you may get one baby elephant. But two rabbits together for the same amount of time will result in thousands of baby rabbits! In The Rabbit and the Elephant, “micro church” planters Tony and Felicity Dale use the “rabbit” illustration to show the pace at which the Christian faith can (and should) be growing – through evangelism that is explosive and transformational. The Rabbit and the Elephant contains the keys to 21st century evangelism – taking the gospel to where the pain and the people are.

While I’m not fond of phrases like “the keys to 21st century evangelism” (I wonder if the authors or the publishers added that phrase), I’m excited to read this book. Why? Because the simple church movement stresses community. And, community is very important to me, because I think community is important to God. Since Tony and Felicity Dale are active within simple churches, I expect community to be important in this book.

Also, I am very interested in how close communities can multiply – taking the gospel to the surrounding areas and the world – without fracturing the community. Perhaps this is impossible – some modern church growth gurus suggest that you can’t have both. But, I think we see both in Scripture, and I’m hoping that the Dales flesh out the intersection of community and multiplication. I don’t know if they deal with these issues in this book, but I’m hopeful.

Guy at “The M Blog” has been very helpful to me in this area. The churches that he describes demonstrate both the strong bonds of Spirit-bred and -led community, as well as the desire and action of taking the gospel outside their community. (For example, see his posts “How 29 believers became 110 believers starting 5 new house churches–and all in less than a year” and “When can we be a church?” among many, many others.)

I think that the believers that I know have started developing the kind of community that I see in Scripture. Sure, we often fail, but in many ways I’m beginning to see the kind of love and concern for one another that we see among believers in Scripture. This is very exciting, and I’m glad to be living among this group of Jesus followers.

However, I don’t think we demonstrate the desire to take the gospel to our neighbors that we see in Scripture. I would like to see this desire develop in my own life as well, and I’ve been praying towards that end.

For these reasons, I’m interested in reading what the Dales have written. I’m looking forward to reading about their suggestions and trying to understand how God has worked among other believers. Hopefully, I’ll be able to write a review of this book in the next week or so.

In the meantime, do you have experience with a group of believers that exhibits both community and a desire to see the gospel and the church multiplied?

(p.s. I notice that my friend Joe (JR) at “More Than Cake” is reviewing “The Rabbit & the Elephant” as well.)


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 6-2-2009

    No answers or responses here…

    but I look forward to the review of the books and hearing from anybody who is actually part of a community that is experiencing true community yet being fishers.

    My thoughts right now are….
    Can you be a follower without being a fisher? "I will make you a fisher of men"… and then, can you be a fisher without fishing?

    I have a feeling that those who have the right "balance" of community & GO-ing/proclaiming/multiplying will be part of something that looks a lot like Jesus did His work… intense mentoring with a few… disciplieship mentoring with a handful (12 ish)…. pretty sure you won't see them sitting around discussing preparation for Sunday, how to make the sunday show better, what font to use for the next series promotions… just a guess…

    And it's interesting to think about the fact that there's not so much preparation time needed to GO as Jesus did with the disciples because in place of Jesus doing the preparing and teaching it will be the Spirit doing it… and He can work in a lot more places at the same time than jesus was able to in His flesh….which is why we *should* be doing..or are able to do so much more….

    but the first step to get there? The only answer I have right now is the thing to *not* do is to blast everybody away with my conviction and passion about the vision for how church could be…. wanting to change them… but instead try to just take steps in being the change I want to see…..

    just rambling….

  2. 6-2-2009

    Randi Jo,

    (This is not a disagreement with what you said, just a continuation of this discussion – because I’m still thinking through it as well.)

    You talked about those who had the right “balance” between community and going. I understand what you’re talking about, but I tried to stay away from the term balance. Why? Because balance seems to infer opposites – like a teeter-totter.

    But, the way my thinking is changing, I’m beginning to see that community and going are not opposites. I don’t understand exactly how this works, but I’m trusting God to help me.

    Again, I’m not disagreeing with you, and I’d love to hear your further thoughts on what I said.


  3. 6-2-2009

    yes I think you're right. they are not opposites and being great in one doesn't automatically make you not great in another.

    "balance" is an annoying word anyway…and I use it too often – I'm pretty sure we're not supposed to be "balanced" as we think we are.

    I wonder if one is supposed to come before the other? Did Jesus prepare all to go by being in community…. so the whole time they were in community – He discussed the bigger ultimate vision/goal. They weren't just in community with Him to learn to love and to learn about God…. but also to partake in the reconciliation with God & others and then be able to show others they too could partake in the kingdom.

    So maybe it's a lot more to do with being in community and enjoying that full reconciliation and extended family and commitement to each other but intentionally spurring each other on into what the bigger goal is. I've seen some churches do these with 'groups' and it's lke they require groups to 'split up' because 'we have a goal of duplication in 18 months so we can only meet for 18 months'….. and Id on't think that's the mindset….. instead it's a, wow we are part of something way bigger and people need to know what we have experienced. We are partaking in the kingdom of God and so many are not. Let's thank God for the people He has brought us to to be our "homebase" but let that homebase fuel us to be encouraged & motivated to share with others what GOd has done.

    the community wasn't the end goal… the goal is reconciliation with Him and being in such close union with Him through all the tools he's given us – the Holy Spirit, the word, community — that He is living through us in such a way that we are continuing Jesus' work on earth.

    I'm not sure it's a clear "step" but I'm pretty sure that true community and reconciliation with others will naturally come before God uses us to proclaim — because before His Spirit works through us in the world — it will work through our hearts and we will have an overflow of love for others that draws us into community… then as we mature – His Spirit takes our eyes even farther 'out' from ourselves into the world……

    IDK just rambling 🙂

  4. 6-2-2009

    I came across another review of the rabbit and the elephant on a blog I frequent. wasn’t very complementary. i am curious what your thoughts are when you get finished with the book.

  5. 6-2-2009

    Randi Jo,

    Thanks again for the interaction! I still have a lot to learn. Thank God for his grace!


    I replied to that review. I think I’m reading a different book to him, or that he actually has a different problem with this book than he’s presenting.


  6. 7-8-2009

    I reviewed this book for Tyndale you can go to my blog to read it:

  7. 7-9-2009


    Thanks for the link to your review!



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