The New Conspirators: Creating the Future One Mustard Seed at a Time. Tom Sine. InterVarsity, 2008.
review by Krista Ehst, Perkasie
“It should be clear by now because of the turbulent times in which we live that ‘business as usual’ will no longer serve.” These words could easily have come in response to the recent economic crisis. The quote, however, is directed toward the “business” of the Christian church.
In Tom Sine’s recent book entitled The New Conspirators: Creating the Future One Mustard Seed at a Time, Sine ardently calls the church to more creatively, more effectively and more powerfully enter into God’s movement and mission in our current global context. In his mind, the “massive, long-trended decline” of the Western church points to the ineffectiveness and failings of many of our more traditional churches.
In our age of economic and cultural globalization, Sine believes far too many churches have bought into the values of a global market rather than grounding themselves in the subversive message of Jesus Christ. Church has become a Sunday-only affair, and many Christians now invest more energy in their individual homes, cars and careers than they do in serving the marginalized and oppressed. Sine asks us, if the Church is defined by global standards of economic security and success, then how will it be different or more relevant than any other secular organization?
Sine does see hope for the church. He has interacted with emerging leaders whom he calls “the new conspirators,” or streams within the church that have taken innovative and vibrant approaches to their faith and mission. Sine examines four different streams, which he categorizes as the emerging, missional, mosaic (multicultural) and monastic movements. Each is different and all strive to take discipleship seriously as they serve those on the margins and work for the inbreaking of God’s kingdom. Sine does not idealize these groups, and acknowledges their shortcomings, but throughout the book he upholds concrete examples of the creativity of these movements in order to inspire and encourage those of us who come from more traditional church backgrounds. Though some of his chapters feel heavy laden with examples, they are generally quite helpful in providing specific and practical models for readers to utilize.
Sine’s words may not be easy to read or hear. He asks difficult questions, wondering if the traditional church has gotten its ideas of eschatology and mission completely wrong. He challenges many Western Christians, pointing out the places where we have become swept up in an individualistic, materialistic and consumer-driven society. Yet the book is not solely focused on judgment or serving readers some kind of guilt-trip. Sine seeks to illuminate our realities and current status, and then to equip us to slowly change our lives and reorient them to the calling and mission of Jesus Christ. In his words, the book is “an invitation to become part of something “really, really small,” a quiet conspiracy that is destined to change our lives and God’s world.”
The New Conspirators is an important book for the contemporary church. Part of its value is that it effectively engages and speaks to those of all socioeconomic levels, age groupings and cultural backgrounds, and that it strives to both challenge and equip Christians of all walks of life. It is accessibly written and, with the discussion questions at the end of each chapter, it proves a great resource for Sunday School classes or small group discussions. He accurately describes the “turbulence” of our times, and helps to name the anxieties, fears and temptations many of us deal with on a daily basis. For all Christians who believe that God will subvert and transform our turbulent world, and who want to enter more fully into that transformative work, Tom Sine offers a wise voice of challenge, encouragement and hope.
Krista Ehst, from Bally, Pa., is a recent graduate of Goshen College. She is currently interning with the Anabaptist Network U.K., a Franconia Conference Partner in Mission.