Brandon Hatmaker in Barefoot Church shares his church’s values and his experience in serving an urban community. Hatmaker stays in the radical middle between the “missional” and “attractional” constructs of church. He is not attempting to promote one or the other, but simultaneously both. He makes it clear that he views evangelism as distinct, though not separate from social action.
In his church, Hatmaker created a structural necessity of community service by expecting all of his church’s small groups to spend half of their time serving together. He claims that if small groups focus on community rather than mission they may get neither. However if a small group focuses on mission it will likely get both community and mission. This is the best insight of the book in my opinion.
Barefoot Church also is highly decentralized. Hatmaker regards community service that is organized primarily by church staff as non-sustainable. The more people mature in Christ the less they should need motivation and structure provided by someone else.
For Hatmaker, community service is much more than helping the needy or obeying the instructions of Christ. Service is a way to help the church get into the community so that the community doesn’t withdrawal from the church. Unbelievers are far more likely to join together with a church service project than a worship service.
I disagreed with Hatmaker in at least two ways:
One disagreement is with his statement that in order for a church to reach a community, it needs to be attractive to all of the community. While I get the desire to be sensitive to the whole community, it is rare that I church can be a good fit for every population segment. Trying to accommodate the needs of every audience will work as well as an FM radio station that plays every kind of music. Instead of being a good fit for everyone, it will be a good fit to no one.
Another statement that I disagreed with was Hatmaker’s recommendation to church leadership to highly regard the opinions of those outside of the church on how church funds should be used. While these opinions may have some value, I don’t think that a church should feel compelled to highly regard the opinion of unconnected people or opinions that are not biblically informed.
Hatmaker has boldly created an environment that emphasizes service in his context. While I believe he overemphasizes some of his points, Barefoot Church provides some helpful insights for any church leader.