This ebook is not an attempt to offer hope, help, or even advice on what denominations need to do. However, it is a book about a significant turn-around of a middle-level administration of justice in one Protestant denomination and it does offer hope that other like administrations might be able to experience a better and more effective existence. Everyone's experience is unique and therefore cannot be replicated. However, the implementation of foundational all-encompassing principles, the development of new strategies, and the performance of specific tactics that are successful in one situation does offer hope to others that their modeling of the principles, adapting the strategies, and creating specific tactics to fit their context can bring change.
to Hit the Bullseye by
look at things that are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask
George Bernard Shaw
There are approximately 400,000 churches in the United
States and the vast majority of them belong to denominations.
Some are healthy, vibrant, and growing.
Most are tired, struggling, not growing, and don’t know what to do.
Plenty of critics and cynics take surveys, analyze data,
and write books about what is wrong with the churches of America.
As if following the theology of
Chicken Little they are convinced that the sky is falling and there is little we
can do except seek cover. Proposals for renewal often are offered by theorists
who tell practitioners what to do but have never actually done it themselves.
What if there was a way to help declining churches to grow?
What if we could teach pastors how to lead their congregations to
spiritual renewal? What if thousands of churches changed from maintenance to
mission? What if a movement began
with 200 churches that grew to 200,000 churches?
What if millions of unchurched people came into lasting relationships
with Jesus Christ and the church? What
if the denominations of America with all of their people, property, and
potential became the epicenter of this spiritual earthquake that became known as
the Great Awakening of the 21st Century?
Maybe all this sounds too good to be true.
Well, it has already begun. Centered
in the earthquake zone of northern California, the American Baptist Churches of
the West have demonstrated that a plateaued and declining region of mainline
congregations can become a model of healthy and growing congregations.
They have overcome the usual excuses that “our churches are too
small,” “we have too many older people and congregations,” and “property
here is too expensive.” They
followed a powerful formula of biblical strategies, courageous leadership, and
much hard work. What is most
amazing is that the turnaround took less than five years.
Here is the dream. Denominational
leaders, executive ministers, bishops, district superintendents, regional
directors, seminary teachers, pastors, and lay leaders will discover what God
has done in northern California and say, “Why not here?”
“With a few creative adaptations we can do the same thing in our
denomination and in our churches.”
They will start small and multiply.
They will risk their traditions, finances, staff, and jobs.
They will respond to misunderstanding with teaching and take criticism
with grace. Then there will be one
successful church transformation—new vision, new faith, new people, and new
excitement. One will become ten and
ten will become one hundred. Church
by church, region by region, denomination by denomination—a true reformation
will bring a great new era to the people and churches of our generation. It can be done. It
has been done. This is a dream of
the way things can be. Be among
those who say, “Why not? Let’s