Saturday, November 7, 2020

The Innovative Church by Scott Cormode

Cormode argues that the church is not doing a good job today. “The church as we know it is calibrated for a world that no longer exists.” (372/869) The way church is done is based on a model centuries old. “The world has changed, but the church has not.” (21/869) In the past, the church has had decades to adapt to cultural change. That strategy will no longer work, Cormode writes. The church must be innovative while still being grounded in the gospel.

How the church can be innovative has been the focus of Cormode's study for years. He has tested and refined ideas he provides in this book. He writes about the mental models we have of how church should be and how they can be changed. He advocates listening to people and their needs and listening to God in expectant silence. “This listening precedes all action.” (148/869) He advocates innovation within traditions. He says such innovation requires discernment. The best leaders let the people think for themselves and provide for them the tools needed, giving the work back to the people.

The good news is that Cormode has provided a great blueprint for churches to change and be effective in the current culture while maintaining an emphasis on the gospel and valuing traditions. The bad news is that this book is way too much. I would usually recommend a book like this to board members but I doubt many would read a book this complicated and long. There is just too much philosophy of change and too many examples in this book. (Did we really need to know all about the pitch for Finding Nemo?) (531/869) I would suggest a student of Cormode create a twenty page synopsis of this book that would be read and used by lay people. The material in this book is too important to be relegated to seminary classrooms.

I've been through church changes, some effective and some painfully disastrous. Cormode has nailed many important issues like addressing the pain and feelings of loss from change. Another important point is that leaders must have the authority to inspire change, not by position but by earning the love and trust of people in the congregation. Such valuable insights!

I highly recommend this book. It contains so many insights into how the church can be effective in an ever changing culture while maintaining the never changing gospel. Perhaps one person on the church board could wade through the book's material and present it more concisely to others. Cormode notes that “seminary education is calibrated for a world that no longer exists...” (640/869) Likewise, this book is calibrated for a reading public that no longer exists. The material in it is so important, it needs to be represented in a different way to have an impact on the current Christian culture.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Scott Cormode (PhD, Yale University) is an ordained Presbyterian minister and the Hugh De Pree Professor of Leadership Development at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA. He is also a senior fellow at the Max De Pree Center for Leadership and the Fuller Youth Institute. Cormode founded the Academy of Religious Leadership and the Journal of Religious Leadership.

Baker Academic, 304 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

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