Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Book Review - There's Hope for Your Church

There's Hope for Your Church: First steps to restoring health and growth by Gary L. McIntosh is the author's fifth book specifically dealing with church growth and revitalization among the 20 books he has authored. Peppered with a significant amount of thoughtful advice for the pastor seeking to revitalize a congregation, there seems to be an underlying philosophy of pastoral ministry that not will not be amenable to all readers.

McIntosh clearly states his purpose is to provide pastors (usually a solo pastor of a struggling congregation) with a practical step-by-step approach to church revitalization that will give them confidence and direction. He quickly acknowledges the messy reality will happen in a logical (ie. step-by-step) fashion, but for purposes of structuring the book, he will walk through an organized process. The process set forth does indeed consider all the significant markers in the journey from a dying church to one that is renewing. Though there is nothing particularly new in McIntosh's perspective, it is thorough with real-to-life examples.

In his examples, McIntosh provides reality and practicality. While direct, he is generally gracious in the tone and attitude necessary for the pastor have be successful in the process. However, one specific quote clearly expressed the underlying philosophy of pastoral ministry that McIntosh and a growing number of church revitalization/church growth authors espouse: that the pastor is the "CEO" of the church.

In a discussion of raising up new leaders (as opposed to an "older/status quo coalition"), McIntosh says, "At the least, as the pastor, you should have veto power over who is selected for any board, committee, or church position" (p. 92). The rest of the paragraph shows the gracious, yet direct tone that is consistent in the book, yet this one sentence, hints to this reader of an underlying philosophy of ministry that is needs to be balanced with the NT church expectation of plurality of elders (church leaders). While recognizing there may be a denominational history from which this writer is most familiar, the pastor as CEO (ie veto power on committee membership) does not seem to be supported Scripturally, by most (if any) analysis of the early church leadership.

To clarify, I believe the pastor should have full authority in the daily operation of the church, making the necessary management as well as pastoral decisions (what to preach, who to visit, new members, etc). Yet McIntosh's statement is consistent with the rest of the book in a "lack of humility" or "sense of partnership" (those are the closest phrases I can find to describe it) between the elders elected/appointed in a congregation with whom the pastor/paid elder works.

I believe McIntosh does accomplish his purpose and provide a thoughtful, practical, helpful guide. Nonetheless, this one underlying philosophical assumption may make it difficult for some to read or practice if others do not share this approach to ministry.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group

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