Sometimes an author can say more in a novel than can be said in a nonfiction book. That was the case here.
The skeleton upon which the message of this book hangs is the story of Green Street Baptist Church and their pastor, Pete. Pete's been there five years, having taken over after the retirement of his very successful predecessor. Despite his tireless efforts, the church is now in decline. At a board meeting, Pete is asked to resign. He's shocked but has the sense to remember a conference he attended. He finds the old business card and gives an invitation to the man whose call it is to help dying churches.
On that skeleton of a plot is quite an informative book. I was amazed at the amount of information I learned about churches. As a church board member and ministry leader, I've read tons of books about church – but nothing like this one. I read about the life cycle of a church: Movement, Monument, Museum, Morgue. I found out that every day ten churches close their doors for the very last time. I saw an example of real revitalization of a church. I read about the characteristics of a thriving church: Attractional, Invitational, Missional. I learned how nostalgia is a powerful force that quenches the urge to dig new wells and is a threat to the vitality of the church. I read about the power of unleashing the force of sacred imagination. I saw the possibilities of ministry outside of the church building. I found out what happens when men lead the charge.
With some humor and a great deal of insight, Shupp has crafted a novel that taught me more about the vitality of church than most other books I've read. I highly recommend church pastors and board members read this book – yes, a novel. There are some thoughtful discussion questions provided and an additional section at the end that really explains the life cycle of a church.
The concepts in this book are essential to maintaining the vitality of church today. I highly recommend it.
Food for thought: “Being the church and going to church represent two radically different philosophies of ministry.”
My rating: 5/5 stars.
R. James Shupp is the CEO of BriarPatchConsulting.com whose mission is “Helping Churches Thrive.” For nearly three decades, he's pastored churches in Texas and Oklahoma. He currently serves as the founding pastor of the Movement Church in San Antonio.
Elk Lake Publishing, 336 pages.
I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through The Book Club Network for the purpose of an independent and honest review.