Growing God’s Church – A Book Review

The back of this book led me to believe that its purpose was to answer questions about how people are coming to church and to give an entire book full of practical advice on how to utilize this information.  However, the entire first half of the book felt more like a scolding to anyone who isn’t spending all of their time and effort trying to persuade people to follow Jesus.  The author, who came across to me as condescending and grumpy, made no mention of love, grace or kindness and also very little mention of evangelism within relationship.  I understand that love and kindness wasn’t the subject matter of the book but I have a hard time understanding how it can be omitted in a book about growing God’s church particularly since Jesus himself said “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)  I felt as though he was promoting the kind of evangelism that would stand on street corners and call anyone who won’t make a decision to follow Christ a mean name.  That’s probably a bit harsh.  I assume that the purpose of the first half of this book was to convince Christians that evangelism IS indeed our responsibility.  Which I wholeheartedly agree with.  He even has a few great quotables: “The priority of Jesus was to seek and save the lost.” (p48) and “Our mission is inseparably bound with the mission of Jesus Christ.” (p32)  However, I believe it is so very important to remind Christians that evangelism is most effective within relationship (which is proven by the data in the second half of the book).  I almost stopped reading halfway through because I felt so weary of being admonished.   I also felt that there was very little information provided in the first half of the book. It simply felt like an angry pastor on a soap box.  Again, harsh.  Sorry.

However, I did press on to finish the entire book and I’m glad I did.  The second half is all about the research – complete with graphs and everything.  I couldn’t figure out how the first half of the book connected with the second half because the research showed over and over again that the majority of people come to a relationship with Jesus through family or friends.  So obviously relationship was an important precursor to evangelism in almost all of the cases represented by the data although the first half of the book made it seem as though relationship wasn’t quite as important as preaching and persuading.  If the author had spent the entire book exploring the data, this would have been a much more helpful read.  I would have loved to hear more personal stories from the people interviewed about how they came to Christ.  I would also have loved to hear from pastors and churches who have successfully implemented some of the strategies suggested in the book.  Which brings me to the most valuable part of this book.  At the end of each of the chapters in the second half of the book, the author lists suggestions to put the data to use.  One of them was: “Help your people write out their own testimonies…When individuals are prepared to share their own story, it is amazing to see how God opens doors for them to do so.” (p101)  Such a great idea and there were plenty more just like it.  Almost all of my highlighting included these “Down-t0-Earth Ideas”.  As I read through the ideas near the end of the book, I found myself warming to the author.  I wish he had spent the majority of the book on these ideas.  Now THAT would have been worth the read.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through Baker Books Bloggers.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

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