07 July 2010

whole church

Mel Lawrenz, Whole Church: Leading from Fragmentation to Engagement (San Francisco: Josey-Bass, 2009).

I am not accustomed to reading books on church leadership and church growth, as so many of them simply reduce the conversation to models intended to be replicated, overused analogy, and bumper-sticker-depth practical theology. As of now, I can say that I have made it through my third (#3!) complete reading of a church leadership book. And that statement alone is a stretch because the first one was more of a book about Jesus than it was about leadership, and the second was Swindoll's study of Nehemiah. So, in a sense, this is my first (#1) straight-up-church-leadership book. Woot. Woot.

Why this book? Why now? Simple. I attended a conference this past week and it was given to me for free. Even moreso, I flipped through a few pages and saw that the theme of moving from fragmentation to engagement, and realized how relevant this book was to me and the church at which I work. Truly, this leadership book must be an encounter of divine proportions. And, truth be told, I enjoyed the read - perhaps because of the conference at Elmbrook Church which introduced me to the congregation which Mel Lawrenz has been a part of for these past many years.

Churches of all sorts struggle with the issue of unity within the body, perhaps the most targeted area of our enemy. This book rests upon biblical truth and ministerial experience, and Mel is a good choice to have written it. His challenge is directed at church leadership, being sensitive to both the spiritual heritage of the faith and the modern relevance of the message. His opening lines, "I have never met a pastor or other church leader who said that he or she wanted to foster a partial or broken church. Churches are meant to be whole."

And yet the reality of fragmented church pervades the Christian experience in our day and age, for there is often more passionate pursuit of power and control than there is of Spirit.

This is a very practical-oriented and engaging book, which will appeal to a wide range of readers. With a wide range of examples, drawing from years of pastoral experience, the author is able to connect the need for whole churches to every conceivable situation of fragmentation our culture is facing. Yet, this does not cast a dark shadow over the message. Mel continues to be optimistic in the power of God's Spirit to bring about genuine change and lead to engagement.

Four areas of engagement form the centerpiece of the book: Engage with God, Engage with God's People, Engage with Your Community, Engage with the World. These areas of emphasis become foundational for the approach which the author advocates. At the end of each chapter are 25 suggestions for practical implication of the presented theories. Working through preparation to ongoing management, these steps help get the creative juices working for those involved in ministry leadership.

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