Slow Church joins a host of movements inspired by the Slow Food revolt begun in the 1980s, a global coalition that resists the industrializing of all aspects of food. Not all churches have been seduced by what Smith and Pattison call “Franchise faith” or “McDonaldization.” Still, the authors say, at least some fast-food, consumer-culture values””an obsession with efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control””have unwittingly crept into many houses of worship.
Smith and Pattison contrast the dominant “attractional” church model with the “incarnational” model, described by missiologists Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, who founded the Forge Mission Training Network 15 years ago. Up to 95 percent of Western churches, they estimate, function essentially as mission outposts luring unbelievers to their doors through imported, prepackaged programs and services. They tend toward top-down leadership structures and dualistic thinking about the church and the world. Because the church is often far from its commuting congregants, it can feel not only disembodied but also displaced, even “placeless.” This model sees people as “in or out,” belonging or not.
A Slow Church, in contrast, attempts to be “incarnational,” focusing less on attracting outsiders and more on the quality of its common life. The authors’ congregations work at “cultivating together the resurrection life of Christ,” not through a Sunday “consumerist experience,” but by the daily discipline of “deeply and selflessly loving our brothers and sisters, our neighbors, and even our enemies.”