Christ the Organiser: Community Organising for Discipleship and Mission – A review

Rev Ayo Audu reviews this book by the Church of England's National Officer for Local Ecumenism, Rev Tim Norwood.

As a Christian and a practicing Community Organiser, I warmly welcome Norwood’s book, Christ the Organiser: Community Organising for Discipleship and Mission. It is a timely contribution which will go some way in addressing the dearth of entry level books engaging with the nexus between the craft of Community Organising and the church.

It opens with an acknowledgement of Community Organising’s (CO) potential to enrich the church in its discipleship, congregational growth, evangelism and leadership. However, it struggled to engage with these at depth or with sufficient rigour. This is understandable given the relatively short space available. Scope, perhaps, should the author choose to expand it into a longer volume.

I was keen to see how well it spoke to the debate as to how well the language of CO maps across into Church-speak. Admittedly there is good engagement with the CO concepts of self-interest and power around which he admits that “Christians can be nervous”. Indeed, his clever structuring of each chapter (bar the fourth) as a reflection on a gospel passage allowed him to explore the alignment of Christ’s practice and Community Organising. This he largely succeeds in doing except for the third chapter where this linkage is a bit tenuous.

Structurally, the book offers 7 short chapters each ending with a set of questions which would be useful for stimulating discussion should one choose to use it as a small group resource. It closes with some final thoughts and a handy primer for having one-to-ones, including a plug for small talk which is likely to divide most organisers.

Firmly set as it is within the UK context, the book has an edge in terms of local applicability over Gecan’s Effective Organising which was rooted in the US. However, there appears to be a missed opportunity to transcend the Church of England milieu, particularly with the parables in Chapter 4; this is striking given the author is an enthusiast for ecumenism.

Overall, it is a well-written book which largely lives up to its billing.

Christ the Organiser: Community Organising for Discipleship and Mission 2024 (also available as an e-book)

Ayo Audu is a Church of England vicar, who seeks to apply Community Organising methodology to church growth, discipleship and mission. He previously served alongside the author when the latter was Area Dean of Milton Keynes.