Living system ministry is an approach to Christian ministry in the Western world that recognizes the differences between cats, the world God created, and toasters—the world we create using our technology and our capacities, limited as they are.
The church is the body of Christ, a living system. Neighborhoods, cities, and cultures, too, are complex and interrelated living social systems. Why, then, would we try to do God’s work in a church or social system using tools and methods designed for non-living systems? We do it because our culture is very socially and technologically centralized. We have grown accustomed to thinking of our social contexts not as living systems, but as things we can easily measure and control.
Embracing both perspective and procedure, The Cat and Toaster is about doing better ministry by seeing a better picture of what exists in the total system. Like farmers—rather than technicians—we learn to be involved in and to be “in tune with” what causes fruitfulness. We never cause fruit to grow. God does! But as our work becomes better aligned with what God is already doing in his complex, living-system environment, there is an explosion of life. We have the opportunity to discover and use the fruit that remains.
Writing from his 45 years of experience as an urban ministry practitioner in Boston, Douglas Hall introduces us to a missions approach that recognizes the lead role of God’s larger, living social systems as powerful engines for doing far more in our world than we can even begin to imagine.
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Looking for more resources on urban ministry? Check out Reaching for the New Jerusalem: Reaching for the New Jerusalem A Biblical and Theological Framework for the City.
Douglas A. Hall is president of the Emmanuel Gospel Center in Boston (www.egc.org), where he has served with his wife, Judy Hall, since 1964. He also serves as adjunct professor of urban ministry with Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He is the author of What Christianity is Not: An Exercise in Negative Theology, Waiting for the Gospel: An Appeal to Dispirited Remnants of the Protestant Establishment, and Why Christian?.
Judy Hall is the wife of Douglas Hall. She has served with him in ministry for more than 40 years.
Steve Daman is director of communications at the Emmanuel Gospel Center in Boston.