Book Review: The Open Church

open churchI picked up this book because it had a chapter called ‘The Feast of Freedom’ and I’m currently focusing much of my reading around The Lord’s Supper. It’s the first time I’d read Moltmann since graduating from Nottingham in 1996; and that, if this book is anything to go, has been a mistake.

Published in 1978 as a result of a lecture tour in North America, this is a vibrant, compelling, dynamite book. Subtitled ‘Invitation to a messianic life-style’ it seems like a prophetic call for what we know as the missional church from one of the twentieth centuries heavyweight theologians.

I’ve no idea if Frost, Hirsch, Breen, Viola and the like have read Moltmann, but they should because here they get support from a big-hitter (does anyone know if they have?) Although Moltmann, it seems, is reacting against the stolidity of German denominational church life he still has much to say that hit homes today.

Calling for a community that embraces social action, releases lay leadership, builds upon genuine friendship and fellowship and uses the metaphor of feast and artist there is much here that resonates with anyone interested in ‘missional church.’ There are a few sections, such as his thinking on being ‘of the people’ that make you wonder where he’s going but then ‘boom’ he hits you with a wonderful turn of phrase, that challenges, provokes and inspires you.

His section on friendship was wonderful and powerfully challenging (am I just friends with people like me or am I like Jesus who became friends with people like me who was in no way like Jesus!). The discussion on ecumenical relations under the cross gave pause for thought and something to annoy and encourage all sides. And his call for a congregation from below was way ahead of its time and at the same time a challenge to many new churches; have our paid staff sometimes become a priesthood?

I’d been in a reading slump for a month or so and this kicked me into gear and I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it. If anyone can recommend a book where evangelicals engage with Moltmann’s theology I’d be grateful for the tip.

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6 Thoughts to “Book Review: The Open Church”

  1. Phil I am on sabbatical at the moment and have recently spent some time with Tim Chester who is one of the leaders of Crowded House in Sheffield and Director of the Porterbrook Seminary. Crowded House is one of the churches in UK which has pioneered the missional community approach as can be seen in his books (written with Steve Timmis) ‘Total Church’ and ‘Everyday Church’. Interestingly his Phd was on Eschatology and Mission focusing on the writings of Moltmann.

    1. Thanks Mick, I’ve read a few books by Chester and Timmis including Total Church and went to one of their Total Church conferences in Sheffield. I’ve just quizzed Matt Hosier on his thoughts after he had with Timmis in the SW. So would be interested in hearing your thoughts too.

  2. Adam Voke

    Hi Phil,
    Sounds like a book to read.
    In answer to your question……..yes, I believe they have. For example here is one example of Viola referencing him to gain support as he debates with Ben Witherington (see point 27)
    You might also find interesting the lists of 100 best read books and 100 more scholarly books by Frank Viola which gives an idea of his influencers
    Blessings to you all in Sweden!

    1. Thanks Adam, that’s interesting. Thanks for sharing the connections with me. Hope the Olympics mission in Medway goes brilliantly.

  3. Tim Chester suggests the following resources on Moltmann
    *Stephen Williams has a good evangelical engagement with Moltmann in a chapter which is available at

    * Richard Bauckham writes on Moltmann as an evangelical. He is clearly a fan (thought somewhat critical). His books on Moltmann are:
    The Theology of Jurgen Moltmann (a collection of essays) Moltmann: Messianic Theology in the Making (an early book on Moltmann’s early – and best – work) God will Be All In All: The Eschatology of Jurgen Moltmann
    Tim Chester’s book on Moltmann is called Mission and the Coming of God.

    1. Thanks Mick, I didn’t realise Tim Chester had a book on Moltmann. I’m becoming a Chester groupie I think and that’s the second recommendation I’ve had to Bauckham so that’s added to the ever growing list!

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