I have just received my next book from the Book Review Blogger program. I will be reading and reviewing Free Book, by Brian Tome. The main idea and thrust of this book is about freedom in Christ. Here is a sample from the cover:
“The Bible says that ‘where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.’ Not fear. Not guilt. Not morality. Not even religion. Freedom. The fact that this may sound new, odd, or even heretical to you is why you need this message. Imagine living free from the burdens of your past mistakes and others’ expectations. Imagine waking up excited and full of hope. You can have the sort of joy you thought only kids could have. The day of freedom is here.”
The second part of this book describes the leader of the church that reaches the unchurched. A great deal of attention is given to to the leader and to the subject of leadership. Although the pastor is referred to often, the principles can be transferred to anyone in a leadership position. This is especially true of the chapter that covers what makes the leader tick. The following is a six-point profile that is painted of the unchurched-reaching leader. First, the leader had tenure. The average tenure of a pastor in America (all denominations), according to Rainer, is 3.8 years. The average tenure of an unchurched-reaching pastor is 11.8 years. As I see it, tenure is vitally important. It is with tneure that that a leader earns the confidence of the people and then the right to take then where he believes God is leading. Second, formal education was present. The majority of these leaders were seminary trained. Third, passion marked the life of the leader. Passionate was the word used to describe their attitude toward the church. Fourth, reading was imporant. These leaders were avid readers and were always seeking to learn something new. Fifth, preaching was fundamental. Sixth, these leaders were overwhelmingly conservative in their theology.
Leaders are not perfect. I don’t know anyone who is. In one of the chapters, Rainer included research that both surprised me and encouraged me. He listed the top twelve strengths and weaknesses of the unchurched-reaching leaders. These strengths and weaknesses are the result of questions asked of the leaders themselves. I want to share the top six in each category.
Strengths of the Unchurched-Reaching Leader
1. Ability to Cast Vision
2. Sense of Humor
3. Work Ethic
5. Leadership by Example
Weaknesses of the Unchurched-Reaching Leaders
1. Pastoral Ministry
2. Lack of Patience
3. Dealing with Staff
4. Dealing with Criticism
5. Always Task-Driven
6. Too Little Time in Prayer
In conclusion, I want to repeat what I said at the beginning. If you enjoy research, you will enjoy the format of this book. If you are not a research person, you may find yourself bogged down in percentages, numbers, and graphs. That being said, I highly recommend this book. Anyone who is involved in the work of the church, as it relates to connecting unchurched people to the body of Christ, will benefit from this book. In my opinion, the benefit of this book is insight. It is tremendously helpful to know how the unchurched think and what has kept them from the church. It is with this knowledge that we as leaders and laymen can better build the bridges the unchurched need.
Chapter 6 is a straight forward and a no-nonsense chapter. A good reminder. This chapter deals with the issue of doctrine and the importance of it in the mind of the unchurched. A false assumption is put to rest by the research conducted in the writing of this book. The false assumption is that you have to water down and compromise on sound biblical truth in order to reach an unchurched person. The point I found most interesting was the unchurched were looking for absolutes. The doctrine of the church provided absolutes in a culture where very few exist. The unchurched also looked to the church to actually believe and live out the doctrine they say is important. As a church, we must keep a focus on the importance of living before the world what we say with our mouths to be important. The unchurched are counting on it.
Once the individual comes to the church, what will cause them to stay? Chapter 5 answers this question. Rainer lists six issues that were key for keeping members and increasing the return of guests.
1. Doctrine Clarified
2. High Expectations
3. An “Entry Point” Class
4. Small Groups and Sunday School
5. Clarity of Purpose
6. Ministry Involvement
Chapter 3 handles an issue that I have always felt to be the most important to an individual connecting to the church. I am glad to see the research supports it. I read recently where it was stated that a person who is new (or returning) to the church needed to establish at least seven meaningful relationships. These relationships help to connect them to the body of Christ. Rainer gives us five conclusions as it relates to relationships.
1. Relationships are very important.
2. Rarely do relationships alone explain the best way to reach the unchurched.
3. God sometimes works to reach the unchurched without using any relationships.
4. Family relationships are the msot important.
5. The wife is the most important relationships in reaching the unchuched.
I am embarking on something new to me. I am going to write my first book review. Understand, this is not a critique. Who am I to critique another author when I have not authored. One of my favorite authors is Thom Rainer, President of Lifeway Christian Resources. He writes with such passion about the church, the unchurched, and the pursuit of Christ that his books, to me, are addicting. He even has a way of making books based on research and numbers challenge you in your Christian walk, especially if you are a leader.
Dr. Rainer’s latest book, “Simple Life” makes use of the teachings of his bestseller “Simple Church”. In his new book, he guides the reader to pursue balance betwee four critical area of life: God, time, relationships, and money. If this book is anywhere near as good as “Simple Church”, it will be well worth the time spent in reading.
The book has 305 pages, containing sixteen chapters which are housed in four main sections. My intent is read each section an then come back here and review that section. I will then give an overall review at the end. In the event there is a particular chapter that is beneficial to the reader here, I will review that chapter alone. At times, there will be other posts scattered in between the book reviews. If you are a reader of this blog, help me with accountability. I am looking forward to this read and even more to shring my thoughts with you.
I love to read. Here is a list of the titles that I am reading at the current time.
A Hill On Which To Die, Paul Pressler
The Unchurched Next Door, Thom Rainer
The Six Core Values of Sunday School, Allan Taylor
Landmines in the Path of the Believer, Charles Stanley
Lost in Transmission, Nicholas Perrin
10 Choices, James MacDonald