I hesitate to give this book two stars because I actually enjoyed reading it. The writers seem to genuinely care about the Church and following Christ, which made it a joy to read. I also enjoyed the statistics and clear research they put into this work.
The book will be great for mega-church leaders who whose churches are chock full of programs that don't flow together in a unified focus. They will be able to use this material to develop a clear vision, and orient everything in the Church around that vision. But therein lies my main issue with this book: it's based on a current Church model I believe to be faulty.
This book operates on the understanding that Churches are program-oriented, which is assumed to be a good thing. I would argue that we have segregated the Church by age and interests (youth group, singles etc.), whereas the Church of our Lord is to be a family who knows each other and brings groups of all ages and interests into meaningful, personal fellowship. Perhaps God never intended for Churches to be as big as we have made them? Families ought to be together, not splintered into interest groups, regardless of an aligned focus and vision. A godly family may have programs, but it's oriented around relationships between God and each other more than anything else. Church is meant to be a body and a family, not a programmed institution.
In the research a major aspect of what they consider a "vibrant and healthy" Church is one that is growing numerically. I would argue Biblically that sometimes the opposite may be true, that one should be concerned when people are flocking to a Church. At the cross Jesus had no followers who stayed with Him. Did He fail? Jesus seemed to be far more concerned with the quality of His followers than the number that followed Him.
There is also an under-girding of thought in this work that people who are more involved are more spiritually mature. It seems to say that if we are progressing people from one program to more, they will therefore be spiritually mature and growing. But that's just not true. Many times people who are involved in activities will be leading secret lives of selfishness, merely showing a religious face at Church. Using this book's criteria for maturity, the Pharisees would be the most spiritually mature people in Jesus' day.
My last critique of this book is that it ignores one simple fact of life: Life is messy. People have messed up lives, struggle with dark things, and spiritual maturity comes in many ways outside of Church programs, regardless of how focused and simple those programs may be. Most of my most spiritually challenging and meaningful times have been outside of assigned Church functions and programs.
Overall this book was a good read, but I believe based on faulty assumptions. I understand that they were trying to help current Church leaders get rid of clutter and focus on what matters. For that I commend this book. Ministry should be simple and focused.
- More people does not equal a better Church.
- Better programs don't necessarily stimulate spiritual maturity, and being more involved in those programs doesn't equate to spiritual growth.
- Disciples cannot be mass-produced in a Church factory. Spiritual growth exists in the context of genuine, transparent, and messy relationships.