This book is filled with tough advice.
One of the toughest concepts for me is that the pastor should make all the mission decisions of the church. The authors contend that congregational decision-making is not biblical. They insist God called out and led his prophets, and they made the decisions; they didn’t put things to a vote. While the authors acknowledge some pastors have run amok, they say that is no reason to encumber a pastor from running with the vision God has given him. They suggest an accountability board, but the board’s membership should be composed of pastors from outside the church.
Decisions they say the pastor should make alone include hiring and firing all staff. They also recommend that, after a year or two with a church, each staff member should bring in enough new members each year to pay for his salary or else be fired. That was a hard pill for me to swallow.
No doubt, the principles outlined in this book have worked for the authors. In Cornelius’s case, he has grown a church from a group of five into a congregation that has more than 6,000 in attendance each weekend. He’s doing something right. But either my vision isn’t focused intently enough to do these things, or there is more than one way to get things done.
The overarching concepts of the book, however, are indisputable: There must be vision, or a church will never be what God wants it to be. And the church must be single-minded in its desire to win a lost and dying world.
One of the best chapters discusses using different forms of media to get the church moving past various numerical barriers.
Overall, it’s not a book whose concepts I could embrace entirely, but it compels the examination of one’s own ideas for achieving the Great Commission. The success of the authors in growing churches and the value of looking at things from a different perspective make this book worth picking up.
George Henson, staff writer
Jeffery Sheler, who worked 15 years as religion editor of U.S. News & World Report, writes about American evangelicals with the respectful understanding of an insider and the objective perspective of an outsider. In fact, he is both.
“I was saved as a teenager in 1963 at a fundamentalist Baptist church in Grand Rapids, Mich.,” Sheler writes. As a young adult, he joined a less-combative but no-less-conservative Church of the Nazarene congregation. In more recent years, he and his wife have found their spiritual home in a mainline Presbyterian church.
Even though he no longer identifies himself as an evangelical, Sheler continues to have an affinity for the people who first introduced him to faith in Christ and who nurtured his family when his children were young. And as a result, he feels compelled to dispel some of the stereotypical views about evangelicals.
While Sheler’s book includes interviews with big-name evangelicals of various stripes, he focuses primarily on the everyday people who worship and serve in evangelical churches. One particularly moving chapter describes how he accompanied a mission group from a Wesleyan church in Tuscaloosa, Ala., to build homes for people in a Guatemalan village. Another recounts his return to the Michigan church where he professed faith in Christ and was baptized.
Sheler offers valuable insights into the distinctive characteristics of evangelicals. Contrary to popular opinion, evangelicals do not march in lockstep politically, but Sheler insists they share certain core beliefs that motivate them—the authority of the Bible, the need for a personal relationship with God through Jesus and the importance of spreading the gospel.
Ken Camp, managing editor