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Book Reviews

In a constantly changing culture, it is helpful to be able to keep up on the latest and most helpful insights about ministry. One of the ways ChristWay tries to assist busy pastors and church leaders is by providing reviews of recent ministry-related books. These book reviews are for your enjoyment and profit, compliments of ChristWay Ministries. We hope they will be helpful and that you will be able to minister to others through these resources.

 

Transformational Church
by Ed Stetzer & Thom S. Rainer

Congregations have long measured success by bodies, budgets, and buildings - a certain record of attendance, the offering plate, and square footage. But the scorecard should not stop there. When it does,

the deeper emphasis on accountability, discipleship, and spiritual maturity is lost. Ignoring these details, we see fewer lives transformed, Christian influence wane, and churches thin out - a situation that is all too Trandformational Churchfamiliar across North America today, along with the circle of churches we fellowship with.

It is time to rework the scorecard to fit the end game, and what the Lord is really going to be measuring at the Bema - the judgment seat of Christ.

 

Based on the most comprehensive study of its kind, including a survey of over 7,000 churches and hundreds of on-site interviews with pastors, Transformational Church takes us to the thriving congregations where truly changing lives is the norm.

Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer clearly confirm the importance of disciple-making through active biblical engagement and prayerful dependence on God alongside of ever-increasing, intentional participation in mission and ministry activities.

Stetzer and Rainer stated, "Transformational Churches make disciples whose lives are being transformed by the gospel, so that the culture around them is ultimately transformed. Transformational churches are deeply committed to the essential foundations of discipleship: worship, community, and mission. They practice and make disciples through vibrant leadership, prayerful dependence, and relational intentionality - in their context with a missionary mindset. Simply put, Transformational Churches know, understand, and are deeply in love with their cities, communities, and people."

The book is the results of the research of the Transformational Churches found among the 7,000 churches studied, formatted in a "Transformational Loop" or a new scorecard for other churches to replicate. The new scorecard is composed of three categories with seven elements. Each element stands on its own as an idea but is dependent on the other elements in order to take effect in the church.

This book will make a major contribution to your understanding of the principles that transform people to look like Christ, congregations to act like the body of Christ, and communities to reflect the kingdom of God.

 

Dr. Milo Thompson

 

 


 

Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing
by C.J. Mahaney

This book has a powerful and much needed message for expanding and adjusting the focus of pastors andLiving the Cross Centered Life their people to a more biblical perspective in the passionate pursuit of Christ Jesus. This will only be gained with daily contemplation of the Savior and the cross, as well as a growing intimate knowledge of the Word of God.

C.J. Mahaney will give you a fresh look at the wonders of our Lord and His cross. You will be drawn closer to Jesus through reading this book.

The great nineteenth century Scottish pastor, Horatius Bonar once wrote, "If we would be holy, we must get to the cross and dwell there." Someone has said that there is a "difference between snacking on the benefits of the cross, versus surveying the wonders of the cross. It's the difference between living as consumers, versus loving as the consumed...the difference between having a theology of grace, versus running boldly to the throne of grace." Pastor Mahaney explores and illustrates these distinctives as one who has lived out what he has discovered at the foot of the cross and is sharing them with the reader.

The cross and its meaning aren't something we will ever fully understand. However, the Christian life cannot be lived deeply apart from a deeper understanding of the wonders and provisions of the cross. To understand little of the cross is to live superficially and carnally. David Prior stated, "We never move on from the cross, only into a more profound understanding of the cross."

The apostle Paul stated his perspective and focus of the cross in his life in these words, "But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Gal. 6:14)." The core of Paul's preaching was "we preach Christ crucified (the cross)...to those who are called, both the Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:23-24)."

The cross must not be an appendage to our life and ministry but a central focus. This book is must reading for help in bringing this to reality.

Dr. Milo Thompson



Seeker Small Groups
by Garry Poole

Right now, there are people in your life who are lost, disillusioned, and far away from God. What if you were to extend your hand of friendship to a few of them? What if you took the risk to organize and lead a small group where these seeking friends could raise their questions and objections about Seeker Small GroupsChristianity? What if you offered them a safe place to discuss spiritual issues and discover biblical truths? Imagine what might happen. They just might find what they're looking for. They just might find Jesus - the only hope of the world!

Over my years of ministry I have experienced by far more people being saved through small group evangelistic Bible studies than any other means. In one year with an evangelistic small group I led there were 13 whole families who were saved and baptized in our church, all of whom were Italians coming from a Roman Catholic background. It is absolutely exhilarating to review what the Lord has done in using this means of evangelism in my ministry. The interesting thing is that it does not seem to lose its effectiveness and fruitfulness over the decades, though there are significant changes in culture and other matters going on.

A seeker small group is a community of non-Christians who gather regularly with no more than one or two Christians to explore spiritual matters. Meeting at a variety of locations such as homes, offices, or restaurants, the Christians organize and facilitate the discussions based on the seekers' spiritual questions and issues. These group leaders can be effective with or without the gift of evangelism, with or without formal apologetics training, and with or without much small group experience.

Seeker Small Groups is an outstanding book laying out a blueprint in a simple and effective way all that is necessary in carrying on small groups where unbelievers can experience life-changing discussions. You will discover in this book the nuts and bolts for launching and conducting seeker small groups, as well as the vision and values that drive them. Garry Poole passes on the practical wisdom he has gained from more than twenty-five years of experience leading small groups in an evangelistic setting. In this book Garry weaves inspiring, real life stories with practical guidelines for everything you will need to know in effectively and fruitfully utilizing this evangelistic tool.

You will find in this book how to launch an evangelistic small group, how to attract people to be part of the group, how to lead these folks in discussions, and how to reach them for Christ. Everything you will want or need to engage in this evangelistic ministry.

Lee Strobel says of the book Seeker Small Groups, "One of the most powerful and effective tools in evangelism - A groundbreaking, step-by-step approach ANYONE can follow."

I can't say enough to encourage you to get this book. This book is right up in the top with a handful of very important books, among the many books I have reviewed for you. Get this book if you are serious about reaching the lost for Christ!

Dr. Milo Thompson

 


 

Ignite
by Nelson Searcy with Jennifer Dykes Henson

 

Ignite sets forth in its chapters helpful information in shaping the DNA of the local church with a strong emphasis upon evangelism. The thirteen chapters of the book will show you how you can create a consistent culture ofIgnite evangelism in your church, one where you see new people coming to faith in Jesus week after week. In addition, you will gain understanding in how to raise the evangelistic temperature of your church and keep it boiling hot, along with mobilizing your people to influence their unchurched friends for Jesus Christ and His church.

Another important area the book covers relates to the creating of an awareness of your church in the community so that when God's Spirit prompts someone to attend church, your church comes to mind. A further topic area is written on planning ways to increase the number of first-time unchurched guests who attend your church. This book also assists by sharing information in how the local church can prepare to receive new believers, and partner with God in seeing more people than ever come to faith in Jesus.

An exciting aspect of the book is outlining a step-by-step, biblically grounded, proven plan for creating church growth by utilizing a series of Big Days to mobilize the church for evangelism, and break through the debilitating growth barriers that are holding your church back. The author demonstrates how God has in the Scriptures used big days to further His great cause of building His church.

This book brings the unique frontline perspective of a pastor who is in the trenches week after week, figuring out how to effectively reach people with the gospel in our day and cultures. This material is worth more than the purchase price of the book. Let me encourage you to read this book.

Dr. Milo Thompson

 


 

The Multiplying Church
by Bob Roberts Jr. (favorable forewords by
Alan Hirsch and Ed Stetzer)

The Multiplying Church returns to an early-church model of multiplication, the most successful period in churchThe Multiplying Church growth, where a single church sent laypeople out to start other communities of believers. Each new church in turn gave birth to other churches.

This book is written by a man who has done it. As the founding pastor of NorthWood Church outside of Fort Worth, Texas, starting with no one and growing it to 2,500 members, while at the same time planting 100 (and counting) churches with the DNA of the NorthWood Church.

The Multiplying Church is a guide for pastors and lay leaders involved in, or wanting to learn about the church multiplication groundswell among some churches in North America. It shows how multiplying churches should be a natural, regular function of every church to reach the 70 percent of Americans without a meaningful church relationship.

Read any research report on the state of the church and you'll find the same results; Christianity in America is on the decline. While evangelism is exploding globally as never before, here in the West it has generally been slowly but relentlessly fading. Magachurches, emergent churches, house churches...none of our attempts to remake, reinvent, or reconstruct the church has made a difference. What can?

Bob Roberts focuses on "church mothering" by imparting the DNA for multiplication in all churches, no matter their size. In the book he covers topics like (1) why churches are multiplying in the East but not in the West, (2) keys to church multiplication, (3) the missing link - pregnant mother churches, (4) Antioch vs. Jerusalem: which got it right?, (5) what kind of churches should we start?, (6) what is the end game of church planting?, (7) how big does a church have to be to start multiplying churches?, and (8) church planting movements or Jesus movements?

Individual churches of various sizes and the multi-site movement are capturing many of these biblical principles. Let me encourage you, no matter your size church and ministry, to read this book. It will benefit you and your ministry.

Dr. Milo Thompson



Breaking the Discipleship Code

by David Putman (foreward by Ed Stetzer)

David Putman and Ed Stetzer's popular church leadership book Breaking the Missional Code first helped pastorsBreaking the Discipleship Code and ministry staffs in guiding their collective congregations toward becoming missionaries to their communities. But the need remains for this concept to be further defined at the individual level.

Breaking the Discipleship Code, written by Putman with a foreword from Stetzer, keeps knocking down walls to arrive at a greater understanding of what it means for one person to be a missional follower of Jesus in relation to every aspect of our changing world. Balancing cultural relevance with biblical faithfulness, the book invites ordinary believers, whether on Wall street or in Waffle House, next door or across the ocean, to begin having an extraordinary spiritual impact on others in their unique daily context.

Putman's view of the church is being the missionary and not just a sender of missionaries to some other part of the world. The only way to have a missional church is to have missional people in it. In this engaging volume, David Putman gives wonderful insight into not just describing what missional people look like but how they get that way. The missional church will stand or fall on its capacity to make missional disciples.

Aubrey Malphurs states, "If you don't want to be challenged to view discipleship in a new and different way, then you had better not read this book. I confess that as I read it I began to re-evaluate my personal walk with Christ. David Putman challenges us not to be who we want to be but to be who Christ wants us to be outside as well as within the body of Christ."

This book will challenge you to rethink the way you do discipleship and to accomplish the task more effectively. We desperately need missional followers of Jesus who are great commission believers. Growing churches have figured this out.

This is a book every pastor should read to rekindle the flame of evangelism in his own life, along with passing it or extra copies along to the leaders, seasoned believers, and new converts of the congregation. The result of growing numbers of salvation decisions is an exciting prospect and could be significant.

Dr. Milo Thompson



The Unexpected Adventure

by Lee Strobel & Mark Mittelberg

Are you missing one of the most exhilarating and fulfilling dimensions of the Christian life? Here's an energetic andThe Unexpected Adventure engaging guide to everyday steps you can take to influence others for Christ. Suddenly, what once seemed scary or daunting becomes an exciting and doable adventure that will energize your own faith while you make an eternal difference in the lives of others.

Bestselling authors Lee Strobel and Mark Mittelberg tell dramatic and often humorous stories (42 real-life stories) from their own lives that will inspire you with fresh compassion for your spiritually confused friends. Then they draw out creative and practical application steps that anyone can readily take, capping each reading with a relevant Scripture selection - all of which will make you eager to embark on your own spiritual encounters.

Whether you're a new believer or seasoned Christian, you'll find new vision and sage advice for living a high-impact Christian life. The Unexpected Adventure paints a winsome picture of personal evangelism that's so compelling, so desirable, and so irresistible that you will find it difficult to put the book down and simply must share in the excitement.

This is a book every pastor should read to rekindle the flame of evangelism in his own life, along with passing it or extra copies along to the leaders, seasoned believers, and new converts of the congregation. The result of growing numbers of salvation decisions is an exciting prospect and could be significant.

Dr. Milo Thompson



Sticky Church

by Larry Osborne

 

Does it matter how many people are coming through the front door if the back door is wide open?

 

There are plenty of ways to get people to come to church. Keeping them there is another matter. Most churchesS Church relate that they quite regularly have visitors attending, but they remain plateaued or declining year after year, indicative of an open back door. Many of our churches seem more like Teflon than Velcro. So what will it take to make your church sticky?

 

Most every church either focuses on the front door or on the back door, rarely on both. Front door churches focus on high-powered programs, slick marketing, cultural savvy, and relational intimacy. But often churches become so overly focused on reaching people that they've forgotten the importance of keeping people. Stickier churches are generally healthier churches. They not only draw in spiritual window-shoppers and lead them to Christ; they also grow them up to maturity.

 

In Sticky Church, Larry Osborne shares proven strategies for closing the back door and keeping it shut, including a unique approach to sermon-based small groups. By using these groups to dig deeper into the weekend message, Osborne's multisite congregation has grown from a small group of people to one of the larger churches in the country (in excess of 7,000) - all without any marketing, but rather with word-of-mouth.

 

StickyChurch tells the inspiring story of North Coast Church's phenomenal word-of-mouth growth and offers practical tips for launching your own sermon-based small group ministry. In the book the author gives his reasoning why sermon-based small group ministry is in his opinion superior in outcomes to other forms of small groups.

 

StickyChurch is an ideal book for church leaders who want to start or retool their small group ministry - and Velcro their congregation to the Bible and each other. This book includes samples of sermon notes, study questions, and leadership training materials.

 

There is a tremendous amount of help in this book for developing an attractive and fruitful small group ministry in any size church. Osborne discusses the questions many ask about small groups, such as, how do you get started, making small groups effective, gaining a high percentage of an 80% attendance year after year, entry points and escape routes, why dividing groups is a dumb idea, finding and developing leaders, training leaders, and so, so much more.

 

You get the point. This is a must read book.

Dr. Milo Thompson



Sticky Teams

by Larry Osborne

 

Serving as a church leader can be a tough assignment. Whatever your role, odds are you've known your share of Sticky Teamsthe frustration, conflict, and disillusionment that come with silly turf battles, personality clashes, conflicting vision, and marathon meetings.

 

With practical and accessible wisdom for any church size, Larry Osborne shows how you can create sticky teams on all three levels of staff, board, and congregation. It is possible to develop unity, with all your teams back on the same page again. Whatever your situation - from start-up, to midsized, to megachurch - Osborne has been there. This book will fit you and your situation.

 

Sticky Teams unlocks the secret to building effective leadership at every level, while exposing the hidden roadblocks, organizational structures, and goofy thinking that sabotage even the best-intentioned teams. Then, with time-tested and proven strategies, he shows what it takes to get (and keep) a board, staff, and congregation on the same page, sticking together as a unified, healthy, and dynamic ministry team.

 

This book is very interesting to read and loaded with good stuff. Every leader needs to read this book. This is without doubt one of the most practical and helpful books I have read on the subject of leadership. Larry's thoughts borne out of careful thinking and experience are insightful, thoroughly practical, and highly transferable to your unique leadership context.

 

Be sure to get this book, read it, and share it with your leaders!


Dr. Milo Thompson



Master Leaders
by George Barna

The authors early in the book define leadership as motivating, Master Leadersmobilizing, resourcing, and directing people to pursue a shared vision that produces positive transformation. All thirty of the master leaders involved in this book, individuals who have practiced this definition, were actually interviewed personally and gave permission to use their most valuable resource - their wisdom about leadership. The book is then constructed in the form of an imaginary leadership conference where they were all involved. They deal with some of the toughest questions and challenges leaders face.

Among the hard-won insights they reveal: how they achieved their own goals, what they learned from their failures, and the 16 essential leadership keys that you need to know - like how to discover the qualities that make a successful leader, develop a high-functioning team, resolve conflicts, and strengthen and equip others.

Do not fail to peruse their provocative conversations on subjects including:

  • Defining what makes someone a leader
  • Knowing how to identify, communicate, and get commitment to vision
  • ouchstones for leading effectively; what to look for and how to measure performance
  • Earning and maintaining people's trust
  • Developing character traits that honor God, serve people, and empower self
  • Establishing and retaining the moral authority to lead
  • Knowing how power is derived and how to use it appropriately

This is an indispensable resource for anyone in leadership who desires to lead wisely and well. The treasures and gems in this book come from those who have done leadership wisely and well. Be sure to pick up a copy and enhance your leadership by raising it to a whole new level of competence.

 

Dr. Milo Thompson

 



The Reason for God
by Timothy Keller

The Reason for God

This is a great read if you are serious about communicatingThe Reason for God with the church and the world we live in and minister in today. Any student of the Scriptures and the society of our day will acknowledge the movement of peoples toward religious confusion and skepticism. How do we best communicate effectively with these struggling believers and this lost world about us?

They are asking such tough questions as:

Why does God allow suffering in the world?
How could a loving God send people to Hell?
Why isn't Christianity more inclusive?
Hasn't science disproven Christianity?
Isn't it impossible to take the Bible literally?
How can there be one true religion?
Why have so many wars been fought in the name of God?

In the New York Times bestselling The Reason for God, the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, Timothy Keller, addresses the frequent doubts that skeptics, and even ardent believers, have about religion. Using Scripture, literature, philosophy, real-life conversations, and potent reasoning, Keller explains how the belief in a Christian God is, in fact, a sound and rational one. To true believers he offers a solid platform on which to stand their ground against the backlash to religion created by the Age of Skepticism. And to skeptics, atheists, and agnostics, he provides a challenging argument for pursuing the reason for God.

Rick Warren stated, "This is the book I give to all my friends who are serious spiritual seekers or skeptics." The New York Timeshas written, "Unlike most suburban megachurches, much of Redeemer is remarkably traditional. What is not traditional is Dr. Keller's skill in speaking the language of his urbane audience...It is easy to understand his appeal." The Library Journal stated, "Convincing...Refreshing...An excellent conversation-starter, this book presents a valid, well-written, and well-researched argument."

This book is not just for urban pastors like Keller, with their leaders and laypeople, but for those in any setting, in that every location has its believers struggling with confusion and its skeptics. The mood and perspective of skepticism in our day is pervasive and impactful. This book should be worked into your reading schedule, and it will benefit your ministry fruitfulness significantly.


Dr. Milo Thompson



Viral Churches

by Ed Stetzer & Warren Bird

There is benefit in this book for every pastor and church, not just those individuals who we commonly think of as engaged inViral Churches planting a church. Recent years have seen a clear increase in church planting enthusiasm across the country and around the globe. That is biblical and a good thing. In fact there are many parts of the world where the church is outperforming in church planting what is happening in the stateside church.

The teaching of the New Testament on disciplemaking is structured around the concept of multiplication, practiced when we take the things that a more mature believer has entrusted to a more immature believer, and then this more immature believer as he or she grows in turn selects someone who is faithful but immature to disciple, who then in turn will disciple someone who is faithful but immature, and so forth (2 Tim. 2:2). The multiplication concept is expressed when two becomes four, four becomes eight, and eight becomes sixteen, sixteen becomes thirty-two, etc. When this same concept is practiced in planting churches, every pastor and church will become engaged in a church plant that is viral and becomes a movement. What an impact and difference maker in the cause of Christ.

Every church and pastor needs to be interested in and become a participant in a viral church planting movement, just like they do in disciplemaking. It is the biblical way of partnering with Christ Jesus in building his church.

As church leaders look for ways to start multiple new congregations that in turn reproduce virally, they need credible information, healthy examples, and reliable guidance. Based on a national, cross-denominational study commissioned by Leadership Network,Viral Churches outlines the best practices in church multiplication movements and reveals the common threads among them.

Each chapter highlights a different point on such issues as keeping the focus on evangelism; recruiting, assessing, and deploying planters; increasing the survivability of new churches; using a multisite strategy effectively; funding; overcoming obstacles; facing challenges ahead; and many more.

The Appendix lists churches and networks that are practicing this concept, along with an annotated bibliography for church multiplication. This is an excellent resource.

Throughout the book the core belief is that "Church planting is good. A vision for a church multiplication movement is better."

Read this book to stir your heart, which in turn will dictate implementation of some difference making biblical principles in Christ's great cause of building His church.


Dr. Milo Thompson



Missional Renaissance
by Reggie McNeal

When Reggie McNeal's best-selling book The Present Future was published, it quickly became one of the definitive works onMissional Renaissance the "missional church movement." McNeal helped to define the widespread movement among churches that wanted to become more oriented toward the culture and community around them. In that book, McNeal asked the tough questions that churches needed to wrestle with to begin to think about who they are and what they are doing.

In Missional Renaissance, the much-anticipated follow-up to his groundbreaking book, Reggie McNeal shows the three significant shifts in the church leaders' thinking and behavior that will allow their congregations to chart a course toward becoming truly a missional congregation.

To embrace the missional model, church leaders and members must shift:

* From an internal to an external focus, ending the church as exclusive social club model
* From running programs and ministries to developing people as its core activity
* From church-based leadership to community-engaged leadership

The book is filled with in-depth discussions of what it means to become a missional congregation and important information on how to make the transition. With an understanding of the nature of the missional church and the practical suggestions outlined in this book, church leaders and members will be equipped to move into what McNeal sees as the most viable future of Christianity and the church.

Missional Renaissance offers a clear path for any leader or congregation that wants to breathe new life into the church and to become revitalized as true followers of Jesus.

If you are a pastor or church leader ready to get down to the raw specifics of turning a Christendom club or primarily just the practice of religion into a missional community, you will love this book.



Dr. Milo Thompson



The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church

by Reggie McNeal

Many of the old beliefs held by church leaders and congregations read as if they are self-evident, irrefutable truths - If you build the perfect church they will come...Growing your church automatically makes a difference in theThe Present Future community...Developing better church members will mean better evangelism...Time has failed to produce the evidence of these claims.

We are witnessing the emergence of a new world. The church of Jesus is moving into the postmodern world. Its expression is going to be more different than most people realize or may want to imagine. The scale of the shift will rank along with the epochal transitions of ancient church to medieval, from medieval to modern.

This phenomenon has been noted by many who tag the emerging culture as post-Christian...or postmodern. The point is, the world is profoundly different than it was at the middle of the last century, and everybody knows it. Even the church culture. But knowing it and acting on it are two very different things. So far the North American church largely has responded with heavy infusions of denial, believing the culture will come to its senses and come back around to the church.

In this provocative book, author, consultant, and church leadership developer Reggie McNeal provides an overall strategy to help church leaders move forward in an entirely different and much more effective and fruitful way. In The Present Future, McNeal identifies the six most important realities and tough questions that church leaders must address including: (1) The collapse of the Church Culture (recapturing the spirit of biblical Christianity); (2) The Shift from Church Growth to the wider vision of Kingdom Growth; (3) A New Reformation - Releasing God's People (developing disciples instead of church members); (4) The Return to a Focus on Spiritual Formation (rather than church programs); (5) The Shift from Planning to Preparation (for the challenges of an uncertain world); (6) The Rise of Apostolic Leadership.

McNeal contends that by changing the questions church leaders ask themselves about their congregations and their plans, they can frame the core issues and approach the future with new eyes, new purpose, and new ideas.

Written for congregational leaders, pastors, and staff leaders, The Present Future captures the urgency of a future that is literally now upon us, in a thoughtful, vigorous way. It is filled with examples of leaders and churches who are emerging into a new identity and purpose, and rediscovering the focus of their mission within new spiritual dimensions.

This is a compelling book that nails the problems, and offers helpful and proven suggestions. If you sense the church needs to rediscover its God-given mission today and how to achieve that mission with much fruit, get this book for some great help.

Dr. Milo Thompson



The Prodigal God
by Timothy Keller

Taking his trademark intellectual approach to understanding Christianity, Timothy Keller uncovers the essential message of Jesus and His gospel as encompassed inside a most familiarThe Prodigal God parable of the Scriptures. This parable being the father and his two sons found in Luke chapter 15.

Keller stated, "I have seen more people encouraged, enlightened, and helped by this passage, when I explained the true meaning of it, than by any other text." This short book, The Prodigal God, is meant to lay out the essentials of the Christian message of the gospel. Within this parable Jesus reveals God's prodigal grace toward both the irreligious and the moralistic. This book will challenge both the devout and the skeptics to see Christianity in a whole new way.

Commonly this story is referred to as the "Parable of the Prodigal Son," when the text itself begins with the words "a man had two sons." The narrative is as much about the elder brother as the younger, and as much about the father as the sons. The parable might be better called "A Father and His Two Lost Sons." Without question, we all deal with the profligate in the network of the local church contacts and the moralistic often within our congregations, both of whom need to come to know the true gospel which to know aright is life eternal.

The word "prodigal" does not mean "wayward" but according to the dictionary means "recklessly spendthrift," to spend until you have nothing left. The term prodigal is therefore as appropriate for describing the father in the story as his younger son. God's reckless grace demonstrated in the provision of His only begotten Son is our greatest hope, a life-changing experience.

I am recommending this book to help sharpen the clarity of the gospel in a day when this doctrinal area has become quite fuzzy for many. For example, many moralists or legalists within most congregations may think they are all right, and they may not be. With the insights Keller brings out of the parable, you will never quite look at the Luke 15 account or the people within your congregation or its network in the same way again.

This is a needed and good read.

 
Dr. Milo Thompson


 

Leading Congregational Change

by Jim Herington, Mike Bonem, and James H. Furr.

"If you keep doing what you've been doing, you'll keep getting what you've been getting. Can you live with that?" Stay in the moment and ponder this penetrating, vital, and challenging question.

I regularly hear the characterization of so much apathy in theLeading Congregational Change average congregation. Among other acknowledged causes, do you suppose it is possible that many of these folks have lost their enthusiasm or are bored with the lack of challenge from the same old things and routines that produce the same lack of fruit? Bound by tradition we often resist the very change our congregations need to thrive. Word is getting around that there is a growing number of churches who have ventured into appropriate change with the commensurate outcome of renewed excitement and much fruit.

For pastors and church leaders who answer no to the opening challenging question in this review, that they cannot live with little or no fruit, the book Leading Congregational Change provides practical, refreshing, and highly effective tools and processes for generating deep spiritual and missional transformation.

The authors, having led hundreds of congregations through change, present a powerful, sequential process for moving a church toward renewal. They reveal how to deal with resistance from key members who do not understand why change is needed, show how to develop a "vision community" - a diverse group within the church who can collaboratively discern and help to implement God's vision for their congregation - and identify the specific leadership disciplines required to successfully shepherd change. Based on a proven model, this book empowers church leaders to help plateaued or declining congregations grow and become reenergized and vibrant again.

There is also a companion Leading Congregational Change Workbook which offers assessment questions, planning worksheets, activities, and case examples for each stage of the process.

Do not let the opening question escape your thought life and contemplation - "If you keep doing what you've been doing, you'll keep getting what you've been getting. Can you live with that?" If you develop the response of no, then this book can help.
 
Dr. Milo Thompson


Deep Church

by Jim Belcher

Deep ChurchC. S. Lewis described the body of believers committed to mere Christianity as "deep church." This is the source for the book's title. This book is a significant addition to the growing field of missional church thinking.

Traditionalism has maintained an almost exclusive focus on doctrinal integrity, while the emergent movement has elevated the importance of cultural relevance, creativity, and connectedness, with instances of the loss of some doctrinal integrity. Is it possible to have the best of both worlds?

Pioneering church planter Jim Belcher has been both an insider and outsider to the emergent church movement. Now he brings the best insight of all sides to forge a possible third way.
With appreciative critique, Jim explores the traditional practice of church, the proposals of emerging church leaders, and provides constructive models of what this alternate, deep church looks like - a missional church committed to both tradition and culture, valuing innovation in worship, arts, and community but also doctrinal integrity.

Tim Keller wrote, "Jim Belcher shows that we don't have to choose between orthodox evangelical doctrine on the one hand, and cultural engagement, creativity and commitment to social justice on the other. This is an important book." Ed Stetzer wrote, "Jim Belcher points a way that ties orthodox theological moorings with creative thinking and missional engagement, providing a helpful guide to thinking about church."

Whether you agree with all of Jim's findings or not, you will find this book to be stimulating, a major contributor to the contemplation and discussion of how to do church today. The book is laid out in a format that considers the major issues between traditionalism and the emergent movement.

Hopefully we all realize the desperate need for a missional perspective (Matt. 28:18-20), while pruning all the impediments to the most fruitful harvest (John 15:1-16:4). It requires the commitment to building a dynamic church Christ's way. There is no other way to bring the most glory to our Lord (John 15:8).
 
 

Dr. Milo Thompson
 

The Multi-Site Church Revolution
by Geoff Surratt, Greg Ligon, and Warren Bird

Fueled by a desire to reach people for Christ, a revolution is underway. Churches are growing beyond themulti-site church revolution limitations of a single service in one building. Expanding the traditional model, they are embracing the concept of one church with more than one site; multiple congregations sharing a common vision, budget, leadership, and board.

Drawing from the examples of churches nationwide, The Multi-Site Church Revolution shows what healthy multi-site churches look like and what motivates congregations to make the change. Discover how your church can cast a vision for change, ensure a successful DNA transfer (vision and core values) to its new site, develop new leaders, fund new sites, adapt to structure and staffing change, and use technology to support your worship services.

The Multi-Site Church Revolution offers guidance, insights, and specific action steps as well as appendixes with practical leadership resources and self-diagnostic tools. You'll identify the reasons churches succeed and how they overcome common snags.

Max Lucado says concerning this book, "The authors have done their homework. They have firsthand knowledge of the successes and failures of this movement, having been networking with and facilitating dialogue among churches across the country for years."

Learn to think like a bigger church that is reaching a growing number of the unchurched in your community. To continually think small with thoughts like "we are just a small church" is a vision killer. There are suburban and rural churches involving themselves in some form of the multi-site church experience. There is a checklist in the book that will help guide the leadership of the church to a conclusion as to whether this concept may be for your ministry.

It would seem that there is a correlation of the multi-site church concept with the church of Jerusalem spoken of in the book of Acts (as well as in other cities in the New Testament). The Jerusalem Church met primarily as house churches in different areas, with perhaps some periodic large gatherings, but all the time as the Church of Jerusalem. They maintained an outward focus, spreading into new areas where the need was great for a dynamic growing church, continually experiencing an increasingly larger number of unchurched people coming to Christ and being discipled.

Do not form a positive or negative opinion about the multi-site church movement until you have read this book to understand the pertinent issues, tested solutions, and real examples of multi-site strategies. It is a comprehensive and excellent read, with the potential of gaining necessary knowledge and great benefit for ministry fruitfulness.

Dr. Milo Thompson


 

Outgrowing the Ingrown Church

by C. John Miller
 

This is a book for pacesetters - church leaders who desire to help their churches break free of the things that turn them in on themselves and keep them from being outward-looking and outward-moving communities of Jesus Christ.

Outgrowing the Ingrown ChurchThe ingrown church is a common phenomenon. Sadly, it is the "norm" for present-day evangelical and Protestant churches. But ingrownness is a pathology. It can destroy the vital spiritual health of a church. It must, therefore, be combated with the norms of Scripture. And that is why this book was written.

Outgrowing the Ingrown Church is an enlightening and inspiring mix of biblical principle, objective analysis, and personal experience. It traces the author's own growing awareness of the problem of ingrownness in his calling as a pastor, seminary professor (Westminster Theological Seminary), and evangelist/missionary. In his own discovery of the power and presence of God he discovered the tendency of the church to turn inward, living by its own power and resources.

This is a book written to help change churches by changing the individuals within the church. It offers the unparalleled challenge to be evaluated, revitalized, and then used by God for the growth and fruitfulness of ministry. Each chapter is followed by "Action Steps" and a "Reading Shelf" with suggested books that can expand on the content of the chapter.

Over time every church will succumb to the tendency to turn inward unless there is eternal vigilance and concerted effort to keep that particular local church turned outward. The pastor must shoulder the brunt of this responsibility. The local church is vulnerable to turning inward from the impetus of such as being embroiled in the midst of major problems in the congregation, or the immaturity and carnality of its members. But even such seemingly innocuous influences as the launch of an exciting new program to care for the members, or the undertaking of a significant building program (especially if the congregation is going to do much of the work) can turn a church inward. Satan is subtle and it requires the pastors vigilance.

Regularly pastors are heard to say, "My people are blinded to or lethargic to evangelistically reaching out to our community and bringing people to Christ Jesus." This book can help remedy such a situation.
 
 
 
 

Dr. Milo Thompson
 

It: How Churches and Leaders Can Get it and Keep it
by Craig Groeschel


This book is a fascinating read. It communicates in an understandable and challenging way biblical truths that I have read about and pondered in the Scriptures, and a concept that I have experienced in real-life ministry atIt book cover various points. The Scriptures with repetition refer to the experience of God's hand being upon an individual or ministry so that they experience that which is beyond them, that which only God can do in a very powerful and fruitful way. This was also exhibited in the life of Moses who prayed, "Please, show me Your glory (Ex. 33:19)." Most likely asking for a greater degree of a manifestation of God's glory in his life and ministry than ever before, and God did it (Ex. 34).

During the early days of Craig Groeshel's ministry, his congregation met in a borrowed two-car garage, with ratty furnishings and secondhand audiovisual equipment that frequently went haywire during services. But people were still drawn there, saved, and matured. Why? They sensed a powerful, life-changing force Groeshel came to call "it."

"It"is not limited to the select few. Every growing church or church looking to grow is looking for this illusive "it." When a church has "it," everyone can tell. And when a church doesn't...everyone can tell. The same is true of leaders and individual believers. "It" is always unique. "It" is always powerful. "It" is always life-changing. "It" is hard to find but it's impossible to miss.

What is "it," and how can you and your ministry get -- and keep -- "it?" A gift from God, "it" is often bestowed upon those who have seven contributing ingredients focused in the book. However, warns Groeschel, "it" can be lost when leaders lack a vision or fail to constantly communicate it, or when they don't focus on a limited set of goals, or sin enters into the life and ministry experience. The book profiles various leaders and their ministries who have both experienced "it" and lost "it," real-life stories that are helpful and enlightening.

Bill Hybels refers to this book as a "leadership gem." Andy Stanley says, "This is a great book with extraordinarily helpful content. I'm getting "it" for our entire leadership team.

The language is a little course or crude in a few places, however, don't let that keep you from purchasing, exploring, and assimilating the very helpful content of this book. In addition, you can purchase a video series of the book that can be used with discussion groups.

Can you imagine what would happen for the Lord if every leader and church began to experience "it?" Don't let this gem slip by you!
 
Dr. Milo Thompson
 
 

Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church
by Nelson Searcy

What happens during the first seven minutes for a visitor at your church? Great question!Fusion book

Next Sunday, and certainly over this Christmas season, God will prompt hundreds, if not thousands, of people to visit collectively for the first time the churches who are receiving this newsletter. The Sunday after that, He will do it again. God is consistently blessing His Church with regular guests. Are we doing all we can to accept and honor His blessing?

Built on Nelson Searcy's practice in the church he pastors in New York City and that which he teaches in seminars to over 20,000 pastors, Fusion offers you a step-by-step, biblically grounded, tested and proven plan for establishing a relationship with newcomers that starts with the first seven minutes of their visit and ultimately prompts them to become fully developing members of your congregation. This innovative, practical guide is full of how-to information, testimonials from newcomers-turned-members and from participating church leaders, examples of assimilation materials, and check points to make sure you stay on track. Just the examples of the materials used in the process are worth the price of the book.

Here is help for setting newcomers on the path toward true life transformation and spiritual maturity. This is the best book I have read on assimilation of newcomers in the local church. I want to get this in your hands before you experience the many guests who will be coming to your church during this Christmas season. Too many churches are struggling with a stream of visitors, but they don't stick with them or continue. There is help in this book which is must reading.

Dr. Milo Thompson


Breakout Churches: Discover How to Make the Leap
by Thom S. Rainer

Break Out Churches

Breakout Churches
- can your church become one? This is the story of thirteen churches and the leaders who moved them from stagnancy to growth and from mediocrity to greatness. Drawing on one of the most comprehensive studies ever on the church, this book reveals the process of becoming a "breakout" church and the factors that lead to this spiritual metamorphosis.

Thom Rainer states, "Eighty percent of the approximately 400,000 churches in the United States are either declining or at a plateau." Is there hope for the American church? Breakout Churches offers a resounding "yes!" and offers specific examples and principles to help you and your church become more effective. It is exciting and rewarding to move from the status quo to unprecedented fruitfulness in a local church.

Of the thousands of churches examined in the study, thirteen met the criteria for a "breakout church." All of them experienced both a period of struggle and a time of sustained breakout growth under the same pastor's leadership. Transitioning from mediocrity to excellence over several years, they grew to have an impact on the entire community. Using a statistical approach, this book identifies key patterns and characteristics common to churches that experienced turnarounds, and their pastors.

There is helpful content dealing with topics such as the "chrysalis factor" (Rainer phrase) that generates transformation; eight keys to Acts 6/7 leadership; the ABC wakeup call that begins the process of turning a church around; how to find the right people and develop the right infrastructure; the VIP factor of visionary churches; the importance of nurturing a culture of excellence; embracing innovation in creative and productive ways; creating momentum instead of allowing erosion; and so much more.

Are you weary of the status quo, and long for significant growth. Breakout Churches can help!

Dr. Milo Thompson
 
 
 
 

 
 

The Power of Vision: Discover and Apply God's Plan for Your Life and Ministry
by George Barna

In this new updated edition of a previously written helpful book, George Barna defines vision as the "clear mental image of a preferable future imparted by God to His chosen servants based upon an accurate understanding of God, self and circumstances." There is lots of good stuff in that definition. You need to read the book to help in digesting it all.

In The Power of vision, Barna offers practical, proven tools for capturing, castingThe Power of Vision and implementing God's vision for your ministry. Pointing to the examples of visionaries both ancient and modern, he uncovers patterns and principles that will help you understand, communicate and accomplish the unique vision God has in store for your life and church. In the process, you will gain insight into your own giftedness and motivations, get perspective on your ministry's history and condition, and draw closer to the God who has chosen you to catch His vision.

Traveling among hundreds of churches I have discovered that one of the most impacting matters is that of vision or the lack thereof. I have been in churches where the pastor privately stated to me that he had no vision for the church, and had to admit that he wasn't sure how to develop vision. Then I have been in churches that are thriving with much growth and fruitfulness where the pastor was dreaming and casting a big vision, commensurate with their potential. Obviously there are those in between these two ends of the continuum. In any event I have concluded that much work needs to occur in the matter of visioneering if we are to realize all the potential the Lord has for us in our churches.

This book should be in every pastor's library and well-read.

Dr. Milo Thompson


The Power of Team Leadership
by George Barna

Most leadership in today's churches comes from "solo practitioners" - individuals who bear the burden of providing all the direction a ministry requires. Inevitably,Power of Team Leadership this results not only in burned-out leaders but also in underutilized people in the congregation who merely attend and observe rather than becoming actively engaged in ministry, growing in discipleship, and freeing "professional" staff to focus on pastoral priorities.

"We have developed an unreasonable notion of what a leader should do. Who could possibly meet such a range of disparate expectations? Leadership works best when it is provided by teams of gifted leaders serving together in pursuit of a clear and compelling vision." - George Barna

In The Power of Team Leadership, noted researcher George Barna demonstrates the incredible difference lay-team leadership can make in a church's ministry. Based on Barna's latest national studies, the book sets forth clearly what churches need to know in order to recruit, train, and deploy lay-leadership teams for maximum effectiveness in the kingdom of God.

Thriving local churches have developed the skill of deploying teams of leadership, no matter the size of the church. This book will assist you in the process of transitioning to a team-led ministry, for both the main team and each ministry within the church. There will be chapters dealing with such matters as necessary leadership aptitudes; recruiting people who have the calling, the character, and the competencies to lead effectively; "best practices" of successful teams (i.e., not cookie cutter, but complementary, good chemistry, etc.); the captain or the team's point person; land mines in team territory; and much more.

There is so much good stuff in this book. Be sure to read it, and let your life and ministry benefit from the experience.

 
Dr. Milo Thompson
 
 

Lost and Found: The Younger Unchurched and the Churches That Reach Them
by Ed Stetzer, Richie Stanley, and Jason Hayes

Who are the young unchurched, and how can they be reached with the good news of Jesus Christ? In a poll result highlighted by CNN Headline News and USA Today, nearly half of nonchurchgoers between the ages of twenty and twenty-nine agreed with the statement, "Christians get on my nerves." Now researchers behind the larger study Lost and foundhave published a book entitled Lost and Found, a blend of dynamic hard data and modern day application that tells the real story of an unchurched generation that is actually quite spiritual and yet circumspect, open to Jesus but not the church.

In this book you will find often-surprising results from the copious research that strikes another nerve and breaks some long established assumptions about how to effectively engage the lost. Missiologist Ed Stetzer and his associates first offer a detailed investigation of the four younger unchurched types, with a better understanding of their unique experiences. They next clarify the importance each type places on community, depth of content, social responsibility, and making cross-generational connections in relation to spiritual matters.

Most valuably, Lost and Found has found many churches that have learned to reach unchurched young adults by paying close attention to those key markers vetted by the research. Their exciting stories will make it clear how your church can bring searching souls from this culture to authentic faith in Christ.

Those who are lost can indeed be found. Come take a closer look.

Dr. Milo Thompson


unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity...and Why It Matters
by David Kinnaman & Gabe Lyons

The New Testament writer Paul told the first-century Christians; "You yourselves are our letter…known and read by everybody (2 Cor. 3:2)." When a person "reads" your life, what does it say or communicate? What does your faithunChristian look like to outsiders? Paul advised the believers in the early church, and subsequently to us, to "live wisely among those who are not Christians" and to "let your conversation (speech) be gracious and effective (Col. 4:5-6)." Your life is an open book. Is it Christian or unChristian to the reader?

Christians are supposed to represent Christ faithfully to the world. But according to the latest report card, something has gone terribly wrong. Using descriptions like "hypocritical," "insensitive," and "judgmental," young Americans share an impression of Christians in general that's nothing short of unChristian.

Groundbreaking research into the perceptions of sixteen-to-twenty-nine-year-olds reveals that Christians have taken several giant steps backward in one of their most important assignments. The surprising details of the study, commissioned by Fermi Project and conducted by The Barna Group, are presented with uncompromising honesty in unChristian.

Find out why these negative perceptions exist, learn how to reverse them in a Christlike manner, and discover practical examples of how Christians can positively contribute to the cause of Christ in this day and age.

unChristian also includes forward-looking insights from several Christian leaders, adding their assessment of the problems and their thoughts about how Christians should respond.

I fear that in many cases we may have developed blind spots as to how we are perceived. Let's be brutally honest and take a hard look at ourselves and our church, even soliciting and considering how we look through the eyes of others. Then do what is necessary so as to more accurately communicate Christ Jesus to the world of the unchurched. This book is an eye opener, very helpful in the challenging responsibility of evangelism and discipleship.

Dr. Milo Thompson
 
 

Turn Your Church Inside Out: Building a Community for Others
by Walt Kallestad

This book invites you on a journey toward congregational transformation. Filled with inspiration and practical guidance, this book will engage you in the creative reshaping of your church - no matter its size - into a vibrant community of followers of Jesus who have turned outward with a missional effort to reach the outsiders or unchurched. There are sections covering worship to funding, preaching to programming, prayer to staffing, giving Turn Your Church Inside Outyou the tools to build a "church for others" right where you are.

There is a compelling need among our churches to turn from the inside out. We are often so absorbed with ministering to the saints and maintaining the status quo. Too often we have circled our wagons, created little enclaves of piety and worship, built walls around our community of faith, and invited people in only if they are willing to become like us. We have created churches "for us."

Courageous leadership is needed to build a compelling, contagious community for others, modeled after the others orientation of our Lord Jesus. He continuously and repeatedly stated these kinds of statements reflective of His perspective of ministry, "Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth (Mark 1:38)." Again, He stated, "Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest (John 4:35)!"

It would be appropriate to erect signs around your church stating for all to see - "Under Construction, Building a Community for Others." Turn Your Church Inside Out is a manual with very helpful material that would aid this God-given undertaking.

Dr. Milo Thompson


Take the Risk: Learning to Identify, Choose, and Live With Acceptable Risk
by Ben Carson (MD)

In our risk avoidance culture, we place a high premium on safety. We insure our vacations. We check crash tests on cars. We extend the warranties on our appliances. But by insulating ourselves from the unknown - the risks ofTake the Risk life - we miss the great adventure of living our lives to their full potential.

Ben Carson spent his childhood as an at-risk child on the streets of Detroit, and today he takes daily risks in performing complex surgeries on the brain and the spinal cord, like separating conjoined twins. Now, offering inspiring personal examples, Dr. Carson invites us to embrace risk in our own lives. From a man whose life dramatically portrays the connection between great risks and greater successes, here are insights that will help you dispel your fear of risk so you can dream big, aim high, move with confidence, and reap rewards you've never imagined.

Tony Dungy, the retired head coach of the Indianapolis Colts says, "Dr. Ben Carson has conquered many risky situations in his lifetime both personally and professionally. In Take the Risk, he explains how he looks at life and why God put us here on earth. Reading this book will cause you to examine your approach to living and challenge you to use the gifts God has given you to help others."

Local church leaders face the matter of taking risk on a regular basis. There are those timid souls who resist risk, and fail to achieve much for the Lord. There are those foolish risk takers who experience failure on a regular basis. Then there are those who are able to measure risk with wisdom, and with acceptable risk achieve great potential for the Lord. In this book Dr. Carson shares his procedural steps of measuring acceptable risk that has allowed him to reach awesome potential personally and professionally.

In these days of facing the challenges of courageously leading a local church into growth and fruitfulness, every leader should read this book - Take the Risk.

Dr. Milo Thompson


Essential Church?
by Thom Rainer & Sam Rainer

Why do so many young adults leave the church, and what will it take to bring them back? This important question about eighteen to twenty-two year olds is examined and duly answered in Essential Church? There are some Essential Churchcrossovers and in some ways a follow-up to Thom Rainer's #1 national bestseller Simple Church. This book is based on research conducted with his son and coauthor Sam Rainer of one thousand so-called church dropouts.

"I did not see church as essential to my life." Those words from a typical church dropout reflect the reality that most congregations in America are doing little to become essential to the lives of their members. Indeed, most young adults see church today as just another take-it-or-leave-it option - no more important than work, leisure activities, or simply just hanging out.

Reasons given by these young men and women have less to do with "losing their religion" and are more about the desire for an authentic spiritual community that isn't made stale by just maintaining the status quo. Equipped with clear data on church dropouts and compelling case studies of churches that have conquered the issue, the Rainers unpack incisive solutions that will make your worship community an essential part of these young people's lives again.

Now is the time to get it right, to become an essential church. This book can help.

Dr. Milo Thompson
 
 

Reaching People Under 40 While Keeping People Over 60: Being Church for All Generations
by Edward H. Hammett with James R. Pierce

Bill Easum says it well in the Forward of the book where he said in part, "Because of the revolution in American culture over the past fifty years, how to reach people under forty years of age and not lose people over sixty will beREACHING PEOPLE UNDER 40 the primary challenge for established churches in the U.S. How to reach these two extremely different cultural groups in the same church is the challenge Hammett addresses in this book.

America is no longer considered a "churched" culture, in which much of life revolves around the church. Fewer people are being baptized, married, and buried by a church. In some parts of the country, for the first time in our history, civil marriages outnumber church weddings. New parents are far less likely to bring their babies to church to be baptized just to please their parents. As a result, the public's knowledge of Christianity has significantly waned, many are now cynical toward organized religion, and we no longer live in a "one size fits all" culture.

The cultural revolution has been so effective that established churches are now faced with two cultural groups of people - those born in the old, disappearing world of the churched culture and those born in the new emerging nonchurched world. In order for established churches to survive, much less thrive, they must learn how to reach and disciple people from the "unchurched" culture without tearing apart the church.

Few established churches are winning this challenge. Some simply aren't willing to entertain any level of change. Others are so frightened by the cultural changes that all they can do is retreat behind their walls. Still others are too comfortable with what they have, so they consider congregational death more desirable than disruption of their comfort.

Hammett and Pierce's work offers hope to established churches. They describe a win-win strategy for reaching both groups while keeping the established church…."

Every section of the book is filled with excellent coaching material, concrete and practical church examples. The book probes the everyday issues facing churches that are fixated on the past yet desire to reach into the future, but don't know exactly how. This book needs to be on the desk of every pastor.

It should be understood that any book we propose as must reading for you, does not mean that we endorse everything in that book or about its author, but rather we feel there are sufficient great concepts and insights in the book to warrant your careful and prayerful study, along with a possible incorporation into your life and ministry.

Dr. Milo Thompson
 
 

Knowing God
by J.I. Packer

Knowing God is a contemporary classic that appears predominately on the lists of the most influential books read by pastors and others in vocational ministry. Many busy and impacting leaders involved in national and international Knowing Godministries consider this book of such value, they read it often, even some state they read it annually. If you have not read this book for awhile, read it again for its biblical understanding of God, and its focus on the potential relationship of the believer with God. If you have never read this book, it is a must read for you.

It addresses the matter of not just knowing about God, but knowing God personally and intimately. Even more important than all the involvement and ministry you do with your family and church is the matter of knowing God. No person will in the eyes of eternity be truly successful, if he or she does not first of all personally and intimately know God, a relationship He longs for. Knowing God is the highest priority of life!

Is your knowing God also important beyond you bringing glory to Him, and your own perfections? It will also enhance and enrich your ministries in His behalf with more God-centered enlightenment, and with greater lasting eternal fruit. It is sobering to think that those involved in your family and in your church ministry will not generally come to know God any more intimately than you do.

Dr. Packer has the rare ability to deal with profound and basic spiritual truths in a practical and highly readable manner. This volume treats knowing God theologically and relevantly, sharing the wonder, the glory, and the joy of knowing God.

"For years I have been asked to list the 'top twenty' Christian books I have read. Knowing God has been on that list since the mid-1970s. This volume is Packer at his very best." Chuck Swindoll

Dr. Milo Thompson


Practicing Greatness: 7 Disciplines of Extraordinary Spiritual Leaders

by Reggie McNeal

Often spiritual leaders (i.e., pastors, deacons, and others in the local church) do not aspire to greatness for fear of coming across as prideful or being worldly. Yet greatness in spiritual leadership is in reality achieving the complete potential the Lord has made you personally to be, not in comparison to others but to God, His design and will forPracticing Greatness you in the uniqueness of your God-given person and ministry situation. The Lord's work today desperately needs leaders who have moved beyond satisfaction with just getting by or even being good, but to reach the fullness of greatness that more significantly blesses others and to the greatest degree glorifies God.

How do good spiritual leaders become great leaders? Great spiritual leaders are committed consciously and intentionally to seven spiritual disciplines, habits of heart and mind that shape both their character and ministry competencies. As addressed in the book, these disciplines are self-awareness, self-management, self-development, mission, decision-making, belonging, and aloneness.

Being the leader God meant for you to be is not accidental or a gift, it is self-determined, cultivated, and earned, with His help. The Lord intends for you to plot a course that will make it happen. You are free to choose to practice greatness.

Someone once said, "If you are without discipline, you are without power." In this revitalizing book, Reggie McNeal has tapped into a power source for all leaders - the disciplines of life. We owe greatness to God and His works. Reggie, in this clear and compelling book, challenges us to this greatness standard, and gives leaders aspiring to be all they can be some practical "how-to's."

This is a great read, with some powerful and very helpful insights that will benefit every reader/leader. It will help you shape your leadership so as to have the greatest impact for the Lord in His work, for time and eternity (i.e., the Bema Seat).

 

Dr. Milo Thompson
 

Building a Church of Small Groups: A Place Where Nobody Stands Alone
by Bill Donahue and Russ Robinson

There is a distinction to be made between a church with small groups and a church of small groups. The church with small groups has small groups as one of their programs. The church of small groups puts so much importance Building a Church of Small Groupson small groups that they define the core organizational strategy of the church. Many, perhaps most, of the growing dynamic churches have become churches of small groups.

Our hearts were made for deep, authentic relationships. For community. And like nothing else, small groups provide the kind of life-giving community that builds and empowers the body of Christ and impacts the world.

What do the small groups in your church look like? To facilitate comparison think of three types - truth-focused groups (focused on imparting information), life-focused groups (focused on sharing daily life), and transformation-focused groups (focused on bringing truth and life together). The goal must be transformation groups, whether the group is for disciple-making, community/fellowship, service, evangelism, or support.

This book explores the theological, sociological, and organizational underpinnings of small groups, and their contribution to healthy, dynamic, growing churches. It also moves you from vision of such groups to practice. There is special help with the identifying, recruiting, training, and supporting of group leadership. And very importantly, it helps you deal with the critical process of change as your church develops its small group ministry.

I cannot encourage you too strongly to explore and incorporate small groups into the core organizational strategy of your church. It would seem that the biblical record in Acts of the church in Jerusalem paints the picture of periodic large meetings, along with the prominent assembling of the church in small transformational groups in the homes where truth and life are brought together. This book is a must read. Bill Donahue has also written other very helpful books on various aspects of the topic of small groups.

Dr. Milo Thompson

 

 
Change Your Church for Good: The Art of Sacred Cow Tipping
by Brad Powell

The church is the hope of the world, and the church's future is in the hands of its leaders. The great challenge of our day is for churches and their leaders to turn from plateau and decline to growth and fruitfulness. To reach this goal there needs to be the transitioning of each church without compromise of the Scriptures. Regardless of the size,Change Your Church For Good age, location, or style of the church, all leaders know that transitioning a church is one of the greatest challenges to be faced today.
In Change Your Church for Good, Pastor Brad Powell rekindles hope for the future. He provides essential tools to transition a stagnant body of believers and infuse it with love, outreach, cultural relevance, and a renewed relationship with God. He draws on first-hand experience with the church at NorthRidge, where he has served as Senior Pastor since 1990. Brad relates the trials and ultimately the triumph of restoring life and joy to a church that was dying.

NorthRidge Church is currently in Plymouth, Michigan, having previously been Temple Baptist Church in Detroit. Temple had been a church with a past history of great fruitfulness (thousands saved and attendance nearing 4,500), but over the years the church increasingly became broken, a dying and declining church that ultimately lost 75% of their attenders and 90% of their membership. The average age had risen to 57 years of age.

If you are a leader of any size church in any location seeking a blueprint for transition and change to a dynamic and fruitful church, Brad and NorthRidge are a living example that can serve as a springboard for your church. Though once irrelevant and dying, this church of nearly 13,000 is now reaching thousands of people for Christ and providing the hope of renewal to churches around the world. You in your setting may not become this large, but you can learn much that will help your ministry experience growth and fruit commensurate with its potential.

We must seize the challenge to getting the church working right, without compromise. To accomplish that, we will need to develop the art of sacred cow tipping. Plan to get this book and allow you and your church to benefit from reading it.
It should be understood that any book we propose as must reading for you, does not mean that we endorse everything in that book or about its author, but rather we feel there are sufficient great concepts and insights in the book to warrant your careful and prayerful study, along with a possible incorporation into your life and ministry.
 
 

Dr. Milo Thompson

The Connecting Church: Beyond Small Groups to Authentic Community
by Randy Frazee

The development of meaningful relationships, where every member carries a significant sense of belonging, is central to what it means to be the church. So why do many Christians feel disappointed and disillusioned with their efforts to experience authentic community in their local church and its ministries? Despite the best efforts of The Connecting Churchpastors, many small group programs and leaders, and faithful laypersons, church too often is a place of loneliness rather than connection. The loneliness is fed by our culture’s penchant for individualism, isolationism, and consumerism, which frankly, to a significant degree, believers have bought into.

First-century Christians knew what it meant to live in vital community with one another, relating with a depth and commitment that made the body of Christ a perfect metaphor for the church. What would it take to reclaim that kind of love, joy, support, and dynamic spiritual growth?

Randy Frazee has laid out a local church plan that builds New Testament church community. Dallas Willard said, “This is by far the best corporate plan for spiritual formation and growth that I know of in a contemporary setting.” Whether you buy into the whole plan or partially, it has some awesome concepts that will be very helpful in assisting you to build true comm-unity, as well as a practice of evangelism that is very interesting. It will work in any size church or location of church.It will be challenging to develop biblical community. To run cross-culturally with what we are used to and have grown up with to achieve biblical outcomes in relationships, neighbor-hood, and interdependence is stretching. However, the Lord desires and will enable the development of community. When authentic community is achieved it is very fulfilling and fruitful.

This is a must read! As an added bonus, this book has a Christian Life Profile, a practical tool to measure a person’s spiritual development in thirty specific areas that is worth the price of the book.

Dr. Milo Thompson



Who Stole My Church?: What to Do When the Church You Love Tries to Enter the 21st Century
by Gordon MacDonald

The flyleaf expresses it well, which I paraphrase. Gordon MacDonald has seen churches drop their long-standing programs and traditions - choir-led worship, beautiful pipe organs, communion tables, formal dress, and midweek prayer services - seemingly at times on a whim, in an effort to mobilize younger members and attract outsiders. HeWho Stole My Church has also seen the bitterness and heartbreak that sometimes chokes older members who have spent their lives building that very community, dedicating hours of service and significant amounts of money in tithes. These "builders and boomers" feel that their churches have been hijacked from underneath them, that someone has come in and stolen what they've worked so hard to create. Loyal and long-standing members can feel pushed aside by the new demands of evangelism in the twenty-first century.

While he understands the frustrations that come with change, MacDonald believes that finding a way to move gracefully into the twenty-first century is necessary for churches to survive. "Any church that has not turned its face toward the younger generation will simply cease to exist," he says. "We're not talking decades - we're talking just a few years."

As a result, MacDonald has written himself into a fictional church in a New England town. This fellowship is at a tipping point. Many of the founders are facing a decision to either accept the changes occurring in their church or leave and find something more traditional. Following these men and women on their journey will help you understand your own church and your role in it in new and enlightening ways by discovering how to meet the needs of all believers without abandoning the dreams and desires of any. Our goal must not be to lose one generation (older) while trying to gain another (younger).

This is an absolute must read, one of the best.

Dr. Milo Thompson



Communicating for a Change: Seven Keys to Irresistible Communication
by Andy Stanley and Lane Jones


The goal of Andy Stanley in preaching and teaching is to take one simple truth and lodge it in the heart of the listener, wanting them to know that one thing and know what to do with it. The desired result is communicating for a change.

Communicating for a ChangeThis book is packed with helpful processes and hints on the art of building and delivering sermons or talks. He will help you analyze your preaching and then guide you to develop skills that will result in communicating for a change. It comes from one of the great communicators of our day.

Much preaching and teaching is anemic and ineffective, without any real life change. Most of us in our better moments would candidly admit we need to upgrade our communication skills, but often we are not sure what to do or how to do it. Just being yourself is not an excuse for poor communication habits. Become the best communicator your can be. This book is must reading in helping you to become a better communicator, whether you have been involved in this highest of endeavors (communicating effectively God's message to needy people) for a short or long period of time.

 

As you read the book, remember we generally come from a perspective that expository preaching is the most God-honoring and effective means of communicating the Scriptures. Andy does not touch on this, but his book will help you to do expository preaching better and result in real substantive change.

 


Dr. Milo Thompson

 

 

 



Visioneering: God's Blueprint for Developing and Maintaining Vision
by Andy Stanley

This is a book about the engineering of a vision. It is the process one follows to receive, develop, implement, and maintain vision for life and ministry. Vision is a clear mental picture that the Lord has given of what could be fueledVisioneering by the conviction that it should be.

Honoring God involves discovering his picture or vision of what our lives and ministries could and should be. Glorifying God involves discovering what we could and should accomplish. Without a clear vision, odds are you will come to the end of a ministry or your life and wonder. Wonder what you could have done - what you should have done. And like so many, you may wonder if your life really mattered at all. Are you and have you accomplished all you could and should have accomplished in your life and ministries?

God has never made two of anything alike. God's vision for you does not include pressing you into someone else's mold. Andy's book will lay out the whole process from preparing for the vision to the completion of it. This is the best I have read.

Dr. Bruce Wilkinson, former President of Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, says, "Visioneering is the best book on vision I've seen. It will put you on track toward discovering God's purpose for your life. In my course, "The Vision of the Leader," I quote from Andy's book more than any other. Visioneering should be on the bookshelf of every pastor, business leader, and parent in America today. I heartily endorse it!"

Dr. Milo Thompson
 



Effectiveness by the Numbers: Counting What Counts in the Church
by William R. Hoyt

Has the leadership in your church had an in-depth conversation as to whether you are counting the things that really matter? Some churches do not count, while some count sporadically and others inaccurately. Most churches count Effectivenessincome and attendance, but do they really matter as recorded and reported? This book is a must read to help you think through this strategic matter.

What did Jesus count, or what was counted in the early church? William Hoyt explores the answers to these questions and builds a strong biblical case for counting what counts, with the counting of conversions at the top of the list, even as the church in Acts. He has a thought provoking and very helpful graphic on evangelism as usual versus in-their-neighborhood evangelism. The author follows up with counting in the areas of assimilation and retention, small groups, leadership development, tithing, and many more topics, each of which impacts ministry effectiveness. Counting what counts strengthens accountability and grows fruitfulness.
The rise of today's missional church begs for a new scorecard. Accurately counting the right things can profoundly impact your ministry effectiveness. Counting what counts enables a church to fulfill its mission - making mature followers of Jesus Christ. Numbers and counting help us value what God values, which is the making of new disciples.

This is a must reading book. It will assist you with insights about what healthy and vibrant churches look like. A CD-Rom comes with the book with spreadsheet templates for calculating the measures discussed in the book.

Dr. Milo Thompson

 


Creating Community: Five Keys to Building a Small Group Culture
by Andy Stanley & Bill Willits

Andy Stanley led North Point Community Church to intentionally develop a small group mentality and ministry where life change happens within the context of intentional relationships. Today they have multiple thousands involved in their small groups throughout the week away from the church campus. After a lifetime of experience in the Sunday School, listen to Andy talk about why there is more to real biblical community than what he had experienced in oneCreating Community of the best Sunday Schools.

George Gallop has said, "Americans are among the loneliest people in the world." This to a large degree is no less true of believers. We are a culture craving meaningful relationships. This book is a must-read for church leaders seeking to provide a solution to the "crowded loneliness" of the American church culture.

Where in your church do you find authentic, deep, and meaningful community among the believers, which includes real accountability, belonging, and caring? Community should incorporate and develop identification, assimilation, relational intimacy, discipling, gift and abilities analysis, ministry skill development, and greater accountability.

There must be gatherings apart from the main worship services where real community can be built with intentionality. The very nature of the main service precludes deep community.

The Sunday School has been a dominant expression of small groups for many years, commonly called ABF's today. In addition to the Sunday School, there are many other forms of small groups which can be developed, such as discipling or growth, training (i.e., leadership), recovery, support, evangelism, ministry, and so forth.

Whether developing your Sunday School to experience greater community that results in deeper application of scripture and life-change, or bringing about other small groups with this purpose, this book is a must read. It is loaded with practical help.

It should be understood that any book we propose as must reading for you, does not mean that we endorse everything in that book or about its author, but rather we feel there are sufficient great concepts and insights in the book to warrant your careful and prayerful study, along with a possible incorporation into your life and ministry.

Dr. Milo Thompson

 

 

 

The Church of Irresistible Influence
by Robert Lewis & Rob Wilkins

Last month in reviewing the book Ministries of Mercy by Timothy Keller we explored a biblical apologetic for ministries of mercy. God gave us the model and mandate, with examples across the pages of the Scriptures. TheThe Church of Irresistable Influence Church of Irresistible Influence fleshes out with practical experience and programs how individual believers and the local church can accomplish this.

With compelling metaphors, Jesus described the church and its impact on the world. And indeed, filled with the Holy Spirit, the early church demonstrated a spiritual energy and depth that bridged into the surrounding culture and communities with great fruitfulness. Don't let your church settle for less, like becoming an isolated Christian sub-culture. Using bridges as a metaphor for "irresistible influence" - Robert Lewis shows how your church can build bridges to help reach your community.

In this engaging and uplifting book, Lewis tells the stories and shares the experiences and lessons of Fellowship Bible Church to show:

  • What it will take to reconnect your church with your community
  • The how-to's of "incarnational bridge building"
  • True stories of love and mercy in action
  • Requirements of the church in the 21st century

"Here is evidence that a church can be more than an island of righteousness in a sea of paganism."
- Dr. Erwin Lutzer, senior pastor, The Moody Church

"Finally, we get a clear picture of what the church of the twenty-first century should look like."
- Thom S. Rainer, President of Lifeway Christian Resources, and president,
The Rainer Group Church Consulting

It should be understood that any book we propose as must reading for you, does not mean that we endorse everything in that book or about its author, but rather we feel there are sufficient great concepts and insights in the book to warrant your careful and prayerful study, along with a possible incorporation into your life and ministry.

Dr. Milo Thompson