MOVE–THE THIRD PART

Part Three of Move is the overall summary on what the authors believe churches can do to “move” people from the first category of Exploring Christ to final mature category of  Christ Centered.  The section contains six chapters with the first one serving as an introduction to the concept of “Spiritual Vitality Index” which is modeled upon the medical professions “Body Mass Index.”  The SVI serves as a measurement tool to gauge the spiritual health of a congregation.  The higher the SVI number, the better.

This number is very important for the methodology of Move because the best practices are determined by examining the ministry strategy and methods of the best practices churches.  Best practices churches are determined by those with SVI’s in the top five percentile.  The next four chapters highlight these four top practices:

  1. Get People Moving–The first best practice highlights a discipleship agenda that focuses upon the processes of spiritual growth.  Instead of small groups with varying curriculum, best practices churches use models similar to or identical to Rick Warren’s famous baseball diamond with the 101, 201, 301, 401 structure.

    Rick Warren’s Famous Baseball Diamond
  2. Embed the Bible–Examples are given  about churches that are able to lead their congregations to more frequent encounters with the Scriptures.
  3. Create Ownership–Churches that are able to convince their congregations that they “Don’t go to church, they are the church” are able to move them into more community activity and evangelism.  The idea is not one of controlling the church but of turning everyday life into ministry opportunities.
  4. Pastor the Local Community–The authors reject the classic divide of “is it the gospel or social action” and say both!  Churches that have healthier spirituality are involved in a myriad of community projects and ministries.

Part Three ends with a challenge to leaders to have a Christ-centered heart.  By that the writers and researchers mean church leaders must not see church growth or more numbers as the goal, but individuals who are growing in their personal discipleship.  They suggest this should be pursued even if it means your church shrinks in numbers.  The goal is better disciples, not more disciples.  Although, the caveat they offer is that better disciples will, in the long term, produce more disciples.

Reading Part Three and the Appendices, two things struck me.  One, the writers use the word “Paradigm” a lot.  I think they should probably reduce that.  Each chapter suggests that what they are suggesting is a paradigm shift, i.e. “Embedding the Bible into everyday ministry is a paradigm shift for most churches.”  They do that with all of these.  I fail to see the paradigm shift.  Involvement in the community, the Bible, setting discipleship criteria and goals, and encouraging people to be active in their daily lives for ministry opportunities are hardly paradigm shifts.  My suggestion is that we should view it as a reinforcement of classical Christian ideas.

The second thing which struck me is from the Appendices, p. 274 where the authors indicate how Willow Creek responded.  Willow was not among the best practices churches and decided they needed to change.  What they changed was their famous Believer’s Service on Wednesday nights.  Back in the dark ages when I was in seminary we were taught all about Willow’s adoption of “seeker services on Sunday” and then a “believer’s service on Wednesday.”  After the Reveal report and the Move study they threw that out the window in favor of a “university” approach featuring the 101, 201, 301, 401 on Wednesdays.   This “move” essentially replaces small groups in the weekly life of the church.  I find these wholesale changes rather amazing.

Read reviews of the other sections:

Part One

Part Two

BOOK REVIEW: A LOVER’S QUARREL WITH THE EVANGELICAL CHURCH

Earlier this week I tweeted (yeah, I Twitter; @jamiedgreening) that I was reading the book A Lover’s Quarrel with the Evangelical Church by Warren Cole Smith.   Almost immediately a pastor friend of mine asked me to write a review of it when I was finished.

Smith’s premise can best be summarized from a brief sentence near the end of book.  He writes:

In fact, it is unfortunate that perhaps the most apt metaphor for the megachurch’s relationship to the body of Christ is that of the cancerous tumor; as it grows, it kills the body. (p. 216).

 

This one sentence encapsulates the gist of Smith’s complaint.  He has come to believe that megachurches and the people who lead them are doing great harm to the overall church in the United States.  I thought it would be impossible to find someone who was more cynical of the church-growth movement than I am, but I was wrong.  The deeper I got into the book I decided it should have been titled Why I Hate Megachurches.  Smith is a reporter, not a pastor or theologian and he goes at his work with the kind of fervor that an investigative journalist might go after a story about faulty car seats for infants or tainted milk in school cafeterias.  One gets the feeling that a certain glee at the “Aha, I got you,” came over his face as he put the book together. 

I have to admit I like his style.  He does not hold back names or direct accusations.  He goes after all the big named people:  Joel Osteen, Bill Hybels, and Rick Warren.  In fact, he accuses Rick Warren of downright lying and Billy Graham of heresy in salvation theology.  Smith even goes after dead people, devoting a large amount of print to attacks on Finney.  The best parts of his book are when he is outlying the theological weakness of most of Protestantism right now and how quickly we buy into faddish things.

The book is not for the squeamish.  Smith very capability surveys broad scopes of history, theology, and business.  In fact, the “Christian-industrial complex” is a favorite topic of his.  Perhaps his best chapter covers the Christian music industry and how it has taken something that is free, worship, and added a price tag to it.  I liked that chapter.

The thing about Warren Smith is that he is interesting.  Whether or not you agree with his premises or his complaints his writing is engaging.  Sometimes I agreed with him, and sometimes I wanted to immediately send him an email in refutation.  I particularly felt this way over his continued insistence that a Calvinist approach is the only real sustainable theological way of doing church.  I am a non-Calvinist yet I still agree with much of what he says.  Not all, but much.  However, he kept me engaged and that really is all I ask of writer.  It is so boring to just agree with everything.

The book was written in 2008, which means it is a little dated.  However, not much has changed in the Evangelical world since he wrote.  However, much of what he laments are already being addressed by myriad people.  For example, much of his sentiment is captured in Eugene Peterson’s recent memoir The Pastor.  Many of us have begun to get the feeling and sense that the way we’ve been doing church for the past 50 years has failed.  The system is broken.  We do not have more Christians than we used to have and the a majority of those following Christ today are not as theologically, biblically and morally sound as believers were in the past.  Smith’s tone and sensibility resonate with me.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to look critically at the state of Evangelicalism right now.