Anatomy of a Revived Church by Thom S. Rainer–Book Review

Thom Rainer has once again hit the nail on the head in describing how some churches have reversed a downward spiral and regained health.  It boils down to this:  we must change or die.  Sometimes we humans know what we need to do to avoid death — give up smoking, eat healthier diets, exercise — yet we choose not to do those things.  Churches are no different.  Even when they know what they should do, they often choose not to.

The book is divided into seven chapters, each addressing one issue the church needs to deal with:

  1.   Accepting Responsibility — too often we seek a person or situation to blame.  However, we cannot blame the Pastor, the community, our location, the mega-church that opened nearby, or other factors for the church’s decline.  All members must accept their responsibility for the church’s failure to thrive.
  2.  Overcoming the Traps of Tradition — We cannot allow our personal preferences or long-standing traditions guide the church going forward.  If a program is not working, or has lost a vision, it is time to change or end it.
  3.  Expanding the Scorecard– Numbers are not everything, but churches can hold themselves accountable by reviewing certain “scores” such as attendance, new members, and financial giving.
  4.  Committing to Powerful Prayer — It is not necessary to have a large group, but Ranier insists that revival never comes without consistent prayer.
  5.  Dealing with Toxins — Toxic members are rare, and criticism is not always toxic.  However, a member who is consistently undermining the unity of the church must be approached and dealt with.
  6.  Seeking Silver Bullets No More– This is similar to the chapter on accepting responsibility.  There is no “magic” cure for a declining church.  Changing the music, replacing the Pastor or moving will not work.  Changing to an outward focus will.  It is a process that takes time.
  7.  Choosing Meaningful Membership — Rainer recommends a New Members program which emphasizes not just information, but involvement and assimilation.

VERDICT:  5 stars.  This book is well organized and easy to read.  It offers a number of useful suggestions to make your church healthier.

For other posts on books by Thom Ranier go to these posts:

Scrappy Church – Book Review

Scrappy Church by Thom Rainer–Book Review #2



Fanning the Flame #19 — Small Groups of Saints

Recently our Fanning the Flame team gathered to listen to a lecture on CD about Small Group Discipleship.  Here are some of my take-aways.

Many Christians have never experienced true Biblical fellowship;  they are not being discipled or discipling others;  they frankly are not interested in making disciples.  The commission within the Great Commission is “Make Disciples!”  so as saints of God, we need to take steps to make sure that is what we are about.

These are the elements of a Biblical Small Group Fellowship:

  • Worship
  • Evangelism
  • Loving
  • Learning

As you can see they form the acronym WELL.  A healthy small group will include these activities.

There is a strong biblical basis for small groups in both the Old and New Testaments.  The father-in-law of Moses advised him to form small groups in order to spread out the responsibilities of leadership (Exodus 18).  Jesus chose twelve men to disciple (Luke 6:12-13) and the early church met in small groups in the homes of Lydia, Priscilla and Aquila and others.

To be maximally successful, small groups must:

  • Be a church-wide ministry
  • Have strong pastoral and leadership support:  leaders must be in small groups
  • Have clearly defined faith goals — each group should have a kingdom project, something outside of the congregation they will do together
  • Establish relationships with non-believers
  • Have periodic entrance and exit times

Some of the blessings of small groups include:

  • Facilitation of  discipleship — they are relational, not just informational
  • Exponential expansion
  • Provides a core of trained leaders
  • Helps the Elders to fulfill their responsibilities to love and know the flock

Of course, there was more.  Our Small Group Task Force is already hard at work, and we are hoping this will become a focal point for our revitalization.  Facilitators are being selected and trained, and a “practice” small group, comprised of those people will start soon.

Keep praying for us as we continue on this journey to fan our embers into flames!