Few of us give much thought to where we live and how we fit into the community we are a part of. In his new book Renovate, Leonce Crump looks closely at the importance of taking the time to get to know the people and place in which you live, prior to trying to minister and be an instrument of change in it. He speaks of the “ministry of presence,” which involves our embodying a theology of place and a clear sense of sentness. We as Christians must understand and embrace the reality that we are where we are because God sent us there. Where we are or choose to live is not about our convenience, comfort or safety. These are not primary. The primary is how we interact in our neighborhoods, how we understand and interact with the inner workings of the past, present and desired positive futures of our communities. We have to become part of the neighborhood, not just see the neighborhood as a project that we travel into to do ministry “saving work” and then quickly escape back to our safe homes. We are to travel into and dwell among the people, just as God chose to do with this world as he came to dwell among men.
Renovate is a good resource for the local church in helping it think through how to reach the community in which it dwells. The chapters on “A Theology of Place” and “The Sanity of Sentness” are worth immersing yourself in. I personally am in the process of finding a new home so this book was timely in helping me think through priorities in choosing a home. The only thing I didn’t like about this book was the way it ended, in the Epilogue. The Epilogue was a discussion of racial prejudices and injustices. Though I didn’t disagree with the content, I felt it ended the book with a racial tone that wasn’t in line with what I saw as the primary point of the book, which wasn’t simply racial reconciliation. It felt more like someone venting frustration and I think the thoughts would have been better suited as a foundation for a separate book. It took away from the rest of the book. Other than that, the book is a valuable read and will prove to have some helpful tips for pastors, church planters, and lay ministers alike.