Small Town Jesus is problematic. Its premise is that Christian society regards small towns with disdain and irrelevance, which Griggs seeks to challenge. Interestingly, he never states his definition of a small town other than a place which lacks cinemas, coffee shops and restaurants. This comes across as patronising and implies class prejudice.
Griggs claims this disdain is not only an American problem, but a British problem too. He states that Britain sees London as the hub of evangelism — an idea not prevalent in most evangelical circles. More worryingly, Griggs seems to judge successful evangelism in terms of statistics only, with small regard for whether the evangelism is biblical or not.
This book is also contradictory: Griggs rightly explains that Christ ‘did the same teaching and miracles’ (p.48) in both small towns and big cities, placing equal importance on both locations. However, Griggs then proposes a different approach and stresses different strategies for different locations.
He discusses how to do ‘small town ministry’ by encouraging Christians to take up local hobbies, support local businesses and engage in small talk. Although these are good things for Christians to do, our faith should be in gospel preaching and the work of the Holy Spirit.
Griggs’ book seems to focus on strategies more than preaching and the Holy Spirit. I would not regard the activities Griggs encourages as ministry or evangelism, unless the gospel is directly discussed. Moreover, emphasising these activities can be excusatory, avoiding mention of the gospel altogether.
The unfortunate message this book appears to endorse is that if we make enough friends and visit enough coffee shops, the gospel will reach local people. This is a skewed approach to evangelism and is a far cry from the apostles at Pentecost, who proclaimed the need to repent to all who would listen (Acts 2:14-41). Surely, the apostles’ reliance on Spirit-empowered preaching rather than human strategies should be the example for the church today — regardless of town size.
To summarise, Small Town Jesus is a flawed book which equates friendships with evangelism and makes little of the need for biblical preaching and the Holy Spirit’s presence in every town and city to truly save sinners.