Modern life is a constant struggle between competing priorities, and for Christians especially so on Sundays.
How can we juggle all the demands on our time and still make church a priority? Why is there sometimes such a disconnect between the Bible’s captivating vision for church and our experience of it?
In Unmissable Church, Antony Barraclough and Richard Sweatman combine meticulous research, practical advice and pastoral warmth. They explore the reasons why it’s sometimes difficult to make it to church and what we can do about it. The issues of broken relationships, conflicting priorities, health concerns and more are treated with empathy and encouragement.
Whether you are a leader looking to understand what’s keeping people away from church, a regular attender who wants to encourage others to gather more often, or someone who finds weekly attendance a challenge, this book will bring you greater clarity and perspective.
About the authors
Antony Barraclough studied Engineering at UNSW (University of NSW), Divinity at Moore College and has a Doctor of Ministry from Trinity International University (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) in Chicago. He has ministered in Anglican churches in Mosman, Petersham and is currently the Senior Minister of NorthLight Anglican Church (West Pymble & West Lindfield in Sydney, Australia). He is also member of several Sydney Anglican councils including MT&D (Ministry Training and Development) as well as being a teacher and coach with Moore College’s Center for Ministry Development. He is passionate about the health of local churches and ministry teams. He is married to Kate and has three adult children.
Richard Sweatman has been the maturity pastor at Hunter Bible Church and UniChurch in Newcastle, NSW, for over 10 years. He spends his time training and equipping leaders in small group ministry.
"I have been eagerly anticipating this book ever since I heard about the research of one of the authors into evangelical church attendance. I am thrilled to see it published. Somehow Barraclough and Sweatman have taken a potentially boring and guilt-inducing topic and turned it into an uplifting, real-life resource for pastors, individual Christians and (I strongly suggest) church small groups. Their challenge is clear and thoroughly biblical: What good reason could there be for a follower of Jesus to miss church? But the challenge comes from two experienced and gentle pastors, who deeply sympathize with the complexities facing Christians today. The result is a compelling case—and a practical path forward—for consistent church attendance. As our world emerges from a pandemic, this is a timely and important book. I highly recommend it!"
—John Dickson, Author and historian, host of Undeceptions podcast, Jean Kvamme Distinguished Professor of Biblical Evangelism, Wheaton College, IL
"This is an unmissable book to read for all Christians, but especially those who are prone to consider churchgoing as an optional extra in the Christian life. The authors of Unmissable Church have provided a rich resource of careful research, evidenced-based observations and insightful biblical theology to address the decline in church attendance that we are currently experiencing. While Covid has had its impact, nothing substitutes for the joy of meeting “face to face” (2 John 12). The authors have not fallen into the trap of making church a mere obligation; they champion the grace of God that transforms us and issues in the obedience of faith, as church on earth becomes a foretaste of the heavenly assembly that lies before us."
—Dr Glenn N Davies, Archbishop, Anglican Diocese of Sydney, 2013-2021
"This book is a very helpful reflection on an aspect of the Christian life that we don’t often think about: going to church. This is such a fundamentally Christian activity that we rarely think about how we do it. Barraclough and Sweatman encourage us to be more careful and intentional as we think about church, and they deal with many of the motives of our hearts that tempt us away from commitment. I’ve been a Christian for many years, but I still found myself rebuked and given a renewed enthusiasm to be more thoughtful as I attend church. The book is insightful, interesting, humorous and highly recommended!"
—Peter Orr, New Testament Lecturer, Moore Theological College, Sydney
"Unmissable Church is a fantastic book! It combines biblical teaching about church with stories of real people and an understanding of some of the real challenges in going to church, while also dealing with some of the excuses we might use to not go to church. This is a great book for every Christian to read, both pastors and church members—I especially love the practical tips for both pastors and church members as we think about church attendance. The reflection questions at the end of each chapter also help the reader to process what they’ve read, and would be great to use in discussion with a friend."
—Kelly Landrigan, Membership Pastor, St Paul’s Anglican, Carlingford and North Rocks, NSW
"In some ways this book is like holding a mirror up to ourselves as we consider where church fits in our weekly priorities. At times it’s uncomfortably challenging as the writers help us re-engage with the biblical reasons for being part of a local gathering of God’s people. Yet at the same time they acknowledge genuine and significant reasons that make it hard for people to come to church. Whatever reason you or someone you know is hesitant about church, or resistant to regular church attendance, this book seeks to provide clear and compassionate help."
—Kara Hartley, Archdeacon for Women, Anglican Diocese of Sydney
"Is it hard for you to be at church, and easier to skip it? If you want to go to church more regularly and would like help doing that, you have to read this book. It dives deep into the reasons we are tempted to forego church and how we can shift to see church as unmissable. Avoiding guilt and simplistic cliches, Barraclough and Sweatman go back to the Bible and Jesus, to tell a better and surprising story about church. One of the great strengths of the book is the way they pastorally apply great theology to the messy reality of life—what if, for example, you have anxiety or bipolar disorder? What if you feel guilty? What if the service is boring? How can you talk to people you don’t know? It is both hard and vital for Christians to keep meeting together. Here is the book that will help us do that better."
—Michael Kellahan, Executive Officer, GAFCON Australia
"I’ve been on staff at my church for more than ten years now, and this little book captures so many pastoral conversations I’ve had over that time. It’s biblically rich, practical and full of pastoral wisdom. I was helped by it in my own discipleship as a follower of Jesus as well as in my ministry of discipling others. It’s a must-read for us all to help us push back against the tide of individualism and remember that church truly ought to be unmissable if we see it as God does: the thing he holds up to a watching universe to reveal his wisdom and glory."
—Ray Copland, Membership Pastor, EV Church, Central Coast, NSW
"As a Christian, you cannot read this book without having a vested interest in what the authors have to say about church, because church involves you. As the authors point out, church is both God’s activity in gathering his people, and the activity of God’s people. Unmissable Church asks some uncomfortable questions about our attendance as it uncovers our thoughts and attitudes towards church and underlines the gospel reasons for why church is, indeed, unmissable."
—Michael Dicker, Principal, Youthworks College, Sydney
"We can all think of many alternatives in our contemporary world to plain old churchgoing. And yet, what more vital thing could there be for the people of God to do? Unmissable Church is a book that combines survey research, biblical wisdom and practical tips to help us unravel the complex business of why we do and don’t attend church. I very much appreciate how pastorally sensitive it is, especially with regard to mental health issues, but also towards the busyness of ordinary life in the modern world."
—Michael Jensen, Rector, St Mark’s Darling Point, Sydney
"In a culture awash with individualism, regular church attendance can feel like a demand too great. But Barraclough and Sweatman show us that consistent, in-person gathering isn’t simply an aspiration; it’s a necessity. They don’t guilt-trip us into gathering, but warmly apply gospel grace to bring down the barriers that keep us away. This is a book that I want to put into the hands of every church member."
—Adam Ch’ng, Senior Pastor, Cross & Crown, Melbourne
"When two church leaders write a book about church attendance, you would hardly expect them to say anything other than “More people should attend church more often”. But Barraclough and Sweatman have provided us with an explanation of why gathering is so vital for Christian discipleship. Their sociological study and observations provide important insights into the cultural milieu, but it is the application of their biblical study that is most compelling and helpful. Added to that, the helpful summaries and discussion questions throughout the book make it a useful book for groups to share. It is a challenging, timely and helpful work."
—Chris Edwards, Bishop of North Sydney, Anglican Diocese of Sydney
"This book is built on the foundation that church is good—actually, unmissable! Yet it recognizes the factors that can easily keep us away before providing a range of helpful suggestions to get us where we need to be. At first, I thought ‘unmissable church’ was just an aspiration, but I’ve realized it’s a reality. This book warmly and helpfully shows us why church really is unmissable. What’s more, it provides helpful suggestions to address the obstacles that can easily keep us away."
—Gary O’Brien, Director of Ministry Training and Development, Anglican Diocese of Sydney
"One blessing to come from Covid is that many Christian churches and leaders are recognizing the core need for discipleship across the church. This book provides a wonderful platform for this need for discipleship to be addressed and examines the blessing it is when disciples of Christ gather to be the church of Christ."
—Peter Mayrick, Executive Director, Partners in Ministry, Sydney
"This much-needed book is an honest search for the reasons people are not going to church. Through research surveys and their own experiences, Barraclough and Sweatman have probed our individualistic culture in relation to what God’s word tells us about meeting together in Christ. It is our prayer that many who read this book will be helped to consider carefully what they have discovered in this ‘unmissable’ book."
—Peter and Mary O’Brien, Parishioners of All Saints Anglican Church, Petersham, NSW
"Unmissable Church is the book that every minister, staff team, church council and church member needs to read. While the research results on church attendance are initially confronting, Unmissable Church uses this research as a springboard for the rest of the book. The authors develop a strong theological argument as to what church is and then address research-based reasons why people miss church. Throughout these chapters, they also outline biblically grounded and practical strategies to help people overcome these reasons. This is why the book is a must-read. Unmissable Church doesn’t just make assertions; it provides helpful, thought-provoking solutions in a pastoral way.
As a member of a church, I feel encouraged and rebuked by Unmissable Church and find myself eager to share it with others. As senior minister of a church, I plan to encourage all my church members to read this book and to spend time openly discussing it. My hope and prayer is that together we will heed the advice of Hebrews 10:25 and not neglect meeting together as we see the Day drawing near."
—Mal York, Senior Minister, St Andrew’s Anglican Church, Roseville, NSW
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