Creating Shared Resilience: The Role of the Church in a Hopeful Future

Written by David M. Boan and Josh Ayers Reviewed By Jackie Parks

In Creating Shared Resilience: The Role of the Church in a Hopeful Future, David Boan and Josh Ayers propose a model of engagement to help local churches play a role in building resilience in communities. Resilience has been a crucial area of study in recent years as global disasters have increased and the ability of communities to rebuild lies on the forefront of the minds of community developers. Boan and Ayers explain, “As disasters increase, resilience has taken on greater importance as a possible way to reduce harm to individuals and communities. If greater resilience means less harm and quicker, more effective recovery, then, clearly we should find ways to increase resilience” (p. 2). This book helps define resilience and gives data and measurement to prove why resilience is a crucial piece in community flourishing. It also provides a theological basis for engagement and resilience so that local faith communities can play a role in developing and increasing resilience.

In defining resilience, Boan and Ayers use the example of a rubber band, which is able to “‘absorb’ the stress from an external force without losing its integrity or changing its internal properties, [yet] it can return to its original condition without long-term harm” (p. 9). To put it another way, resilience is “the ability of a person, household, community or system to recover from shocks and stresses” (p. 9). Relief is often thought of only from the perspective of communities needing physical goods and services in order to recover from disasters. While those things are important, many times the ability of a community to recover is much more dependent on the emotional, spiritual, and psychological forces that are present. Because “faith … is central to resilience insofar as it shapes our worldview” (p. 14) in communities that have been studied, when a local church is healthy and functioning as God intends, they contribute to the building up of resilience through everyday experiences. This building up then plays a crucial role in communities being able to bounce back or return to flourishing after a crisis or traumatic experience. When the local faith community is healthy, their responding to crisis is not a “special case”; it is “the ongoing role of the church in the community” (p. 13).

In discussing resilience, it is important to understand its theological foundations and how these foundations lead to the integration of word and deed or, as Rene Padilla puts it, “the ecclesiology of integral mission” (p. 41). Boan and Ayers rely heavily on Padilla’s work to give a framework for understanding integral mission that is committed to (1) Christ as the Lord of everything, (2) discipleship as an incarnational lifestyle that participates in God’s mission, and (3) the utilizing of the gifts and ministries of the church to change society. A local faith community will have an impact on a community’s resilience, both for the positive or negative, depending on their understanding of integral mission. “Integral mission is a call to awareness that our lives are created socially and have social consequences … We have a choice as to whether that impact [on resilience] is negative or positive, but the impact in unavoidable” (p. 43). Boan and Ayers reflect theologically on the topics of advocacy, civic engagement, shalom, and creation care as ways that local churches should engage in the community in the pursuit of creating resilience.

After understanding what resilience is as well as its importance and theological underpinnings, Boan and Ayers put forth their model. They also suggest applications for how churches can begin (or continue) to contribute to resilience in their local communities. The author then gives a warning for possible negative actions on the part of local faith communities that can destroy resilience. Their model, called “Shared Resilience”, incorporates aspects of many other models discussed in the book. It is dependent on a local church’s commitment to four essential practices: seeking justice, building social capital, creating restoration, and practicing engagement. If practiced faithfully, these four practices strengthen both the church and local community resulting in increased resilience and holistic community movements.

On the flipside, there are four negative practices that break down the ability of a local church to contribute to community resilience: (1) increasing separation and barriers between people, (2) misuse of resources, (3) disavowing justice, and (4) confabulation or syncretism of theology with political, cultural or other schools of thought. Boan and Ayers conclude by providing “stories of shared resilience” that highlight the global impact of local faith communities as they live out the practices of shared resilience. They share the specific ways that communities have become more resilient (i.e., conflict resolution, care for women and children, refugee integration in societies).

As someone that regularly interacts with global church leaders, who is involved in my own local church and studying to one day participate in leading a local faith community, this book is encouraging, hopeful and challenging. It provides useful data that corroborates what we have believed to be true when a church has a healthy theology of engagement in a community and how that engagement leads to resilience and flourishing. While the content is constructive, the book’s structure and layout make it hard to follow. It sometimes lacks clear organization. However, if one can follow the progression of thought, it is well worth the effort. I believe it will give churches the tools to engage and participate in creating communities that are resilient and flourishing.

Jackie Parks

Jackie Parks
Mission One
Phoenix, Arizona, USA

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