October 1st a new direction for this blog began. Instead of trying to write a new entry 6 days a week, and then struggling to get it done and feeling guilty if I didn’t; I changed my schedule to writing 4 day (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday) a week. Monday are to be devotionals from the devotional reading that I do; Wednesdays are used for devotionals, book reviews, theological or doctrinal teaching, etc.; Fridays have reflections on what is going on in my life, and the things that I have learned; and, on Saturday we have our “Psalms for Saturday“.
This morning I want to talk about, and briefly review, a book that I have read in the lst week. The book is:
Thom S. Rainer Who Moved My Pulpit? “Leading Change in the Church” 2016, B & H Publishing, Nashville, TN, 143 pages
Last Thursday morning, November 9th, as I was scanning through Twitter, I noticed there was a coupon for a FREE book. Well, those sort of things always catch my attention but to get this book; you had to take the coupon to a Lifeway Christian Bookstore. I just happened to be headed in the direction of the nearest store, so I stopped by and picked up a free copy of Who Moved My Pulpit?.
Thom Rainer is a remarkable writer for any one that wants to understand how individual congregations (churches) function. It seems to me that he knows more about the politics of a local church, the life cycles of local churches, and other related local church topics; than anyone that I have ever read. He has written such books as I Am a Church Member, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, Simple Church, Transformed Church, and many other titles. This particular, short, volume is about leading change in the local church. Anyone that has been in ministry for any length of time has either been in trouble for changing something (that wasn’t supposed to be changed), or has known of another minister that has been. These changes could be from changing the order of services, changing the layout of the auditorium, the mission of that particular congregation, new carpet, all the way to more dramatic changes.
What Rainer does is this book is lay out a road map to navigate the change process; and the advice that he gives is very practical, and the examples that he uses are very real and to the point. The first chapter is introductory to why change can be difficult, and most every preacher will empathize with the story that is told in the chapter. The second chapter is titled, “Five Kinds of Unmovable Church Members”, and as you read that you will be attaching names to the descriptions that he gives — because you will have known them all.
The next eight chapters are the road map that Rainer suggests that anyone trying to make a change (of any kind) in a local church follow. The titles of the chapters will give you an idea of what he suggests, and may just prick your interest to the point of wanting to read the book. They are as follows:
Stop …and Pray
Confront and Communicate a Sense of Urgency
Build an Eager Coalition
Become a Voice and Vision for Hope
Deal with People Issues
Move from an Inward Focus to an Outward Focus
Pick Low-Hanging Fruit
Implement and Consolidate Change
With the book only being 143 pages long, these chapters are not long and are full of information that will be valuable to the local preacher.
This book is written with those preachers that serve as “pastors” of a local church, and are recognized as the leader of the congregation. Within the vast majority of churches of Christ, the preacher is not considered the pastor. It is our understanding that local churches are to function with a plurality of elders (or overseers, or shepherds) that serve as the “leaders” of the local church. I have noticed in the last few years, that there are those preachers in our fellowship that are beginning to call themselves “pastors”, but I am not one of them. I am not the pastor of the Prairie Grove church, and do not want to be. I am a minister, servant, of the Prairie Grove church, and I serve with our elders, as the minister of the Word, while they lead the congregation. I have been called “pastor” many times; and most of the time (not always) I will reply that I am not the pastor, that I am the preacher. The reason that I don’t do it every time, although I probably should, is that the most common reply is “same thing.” But it really isn’t.
Over the years, the most common problem that I have seen in local churches of Christ, is that the elders don’t (won’t) lead, or facilitate change — so the preachers does it. Honestly, most elders don’t have a problem with that, because it is one less thing that they have to do (and very few are full-time elders, and usually have busy lives with their jobs, family, etc.). The problems usually arise when the preacher does something that one of them (elders), or a vocal church member, does not like. Often that will lead to full-blown problems about who the boss really is, and will often lead to the preacher having to move (or worse moving, starting another church and dividing the one he left).
So, the question is — would I recommend this book? Absolutely! It has lots of valuable information, that needs to be shared. But, I would absolutely discourage any preacher (from the churches of Christ) to try and use the information in this book to manipulate his elders to get the changes that he wants. What I would recommend is that he get extra copies, and share them with his elders. They are the ones that need to recognize the need for change when it arises. They need to be the ones that have a dream for the future of their congregation. The elders need to recognize that they we can’t always keep doing what we are doing, because it is not working. They need to lead the congregation to a more outward focus. They need to know the road map of how to make that happen. As preachers, we can support them by our preaching of the Word, as they lead God’s people to be what God wants them to be.
On a scale of 10, I would give this about an 8. I hope that you have found this to be of interest. Look for more reviews in the coming weeks.