by Martha Grace Reese
Chalice Press, St. Louis, Mo., 2006.
Who says mainline churches can’t do evangelism? Former pastor Martha Grace began a Lilly grant study to prove some can and do. Several years later she has come to the conclusion that though they can they need conversion themselves, first. The purpose of the mainline evangelism project was to find churches that are doing effective evangelism. What she found was that only 150 out of 30,000 mainline churches were. That’s a demoralizing one half of one percent. Enough to dull the edge of anyone’s resolve, but Martha Grace was convinced that things could be different, and that there are actions that every church along the full spectrum of theology and styles could take to reverse the sad trend of the last four decades. This book will convince you that she is right! And will (more importantly) inspire you to act on what you have learned.
From the bad news statistics we move quickly to “three stories of victory” that show us how evangelism is being done in “real life,” in some mainline churches throughout North America. The inspiration these real churches provide help us to understand what new members want and need and how they are finding it in the transformation of their own lives by the gospel of Jesus Christ. What we find here is not more idealistic rhetoric but natural, proven ways and concrete examples of some of our churches that are really touching their communities with Christian hope and making a definite difference in their neighborhoods.
The last section of the book helps us work confidently and effectively with our congregations as they re-pattern themselves for ministry in the 21 st Century, praying their way through changes that can drive them forward with confidence instead of just trying to survive. Here is sound advice for pastors to lead out of example and stay long enough to see their congregations change.
Each chapter of this compelling book ends with “honest to God” discussion questions to be answered first personally, and then in small groups. Suggestions for concrete action also help us move from clear, biblical motivation to the world of real church and community.
There is enough fertile ground here for any pastor and her/his church leaders to plow for at least a year. And those who sow are bound to reap in this soul searching and hope-filled guide to mainline church life in the days ahead.
Don’t miss this one!