The authors report that eighty-five percent of churches in the U.S. have fewer than 200 members. There are some growing churches, some stable churches, and many dying churches. This book helps us understand why.
George and Bird have updated the book that originally came out in 1993. The principles of church growth included are ones they have seen work for decades. Those core ideas remain the same.
I like the book. I like the idea of a team approach, training leaders, empowering them, trusting the Holy Spirit to enable lay people to do the work of ministry. I like the emphasis on the necessity of prayer. I like their reminding us of the need for small groups or cells. I like that the authors say church growth is more a matter of the heart than a certain technique.
It came as no surprise that the attitude of the pastor is the major determining factor for growth. The days of the pastor doing all the care should be long over. There should be a change of paradigm in church leadership. But it may be terrifying for a pastor to relinquish the ministry most pastors traditionally do themselves. Change first has to happen in ministers, the authors argue. They set the stage for permitting growth or hindering it. Ministry coaching, developing a team of care giving individuals is key.
The authors have done a great job presenting a book containing many practical ideas. Church leaders can evaluate their church structure, vision and leadership style. They receive instruction on evaluating motives, developing a vision for growth, and training lay ministry leaders and workers. Questions for further thought have been included at the end of each chapter so this book could be used for study by a church board or other leadership group.
I recommend this book to those who truly believe there is a potential spiritual harvest in store for their church. You'll find out what is hindering growth. You'll also find out how to implement the heart attitudes and behaviors necessary to break growth barriers. Ministers, you'll need to step aside and let lay people be used of God but the spiritual rewards will be worth it.
You can download an excerpt here.
My rating: 5/5 stars.
Carl F. George is an experienced pastor, church growth consultant, and author of previous books on church life. He is former director of the Charles E. Fuller Institute of Evangelism and Church Growth and former president of the American Society for Church Growth. He and his wife live near Greenville, South Carolina.
Warren Bird is research director for Leadership Network. He is an ordained minister and teaches at Alliance Theological Seminary. He is the author or coauthor of twenty eight books. He and his wife live in a suburb of New York City.
Baker Books, 256 pages.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.