I recently finished reading Renovation of the Church: What Happens When A Seeker Church Discovers Spiritual Formation by Ken Carlson & Mike Lueken, with the staff at our church, and it was an outstanding read.
The book is about a church that is in the process of continual evolution coming out of the 90’s where many churches took on a similar model of ministry based on the strategies and values of Willow Creek. What I appreciated about the authors, is that they didn’t knock Willow Creek or any churches like them. In fact they hold Willow Creek and Bill Hybels in high regard. Instead the focus of the book is about how they have come to depend less on attractional models of ministry and are now pursuing the unique direction and vision God is specifically leading them in, focusing on spiritual formation (not unlike the focus at Willow Creek with their Reveal study).
The chapters of the book focus on subjects like: transition, kingdom of God, consumerism, spiritual formation, outreach, worship, and mistakes.
The authors do a great job of tracing how they are making the transition from being attractional and “seeker sensitive” to being more focused on seeing greater depth and making disciples of Jesus, and not just believers in Jesus. I appreciate the honesty of the authors and how forthright they are with all the mistakes they’ve made along the way.
Here are a few quotes that stood out to me:
- “…attracting people to church based on their consumer demands is in direct and irredeemable conflict with inviting people, in Jesus’ words, to lose their lives in order to find them” (p. 35).
- “Jesus issues a high call to all those who are his followers. We take up our cross and follow him. It is daily death. We keep in step with God’s Spirit. We engage in the challenging work of putting on the new self. We decrease so he can increase. We live in the name of Jesus. This is not a calling for the elite few. It is the normative way of apprenticeship to Jesus” (p. 106-107).
- “…our engagement cannot be the central thing about worship. The central thing – the content of our worship – is the story of God, not our sincerity” (p. 157).
The final quote that caught my attention was one from Henri Nouwen:
“For the future of Christian leadership it is of vital importance to reclaim the mystical aspect of theology so that every word spoken, every word of advice given, every strategy developed can come from a heart that knows God intimately…” (p. 166).
This is a great book that wrestles with vital questions for the Church gathered and for the individual follower of Jesus. I think this is a must read for those in vocational ministry, pastors, directors, support staff, and church boards. This book won’t give you a prescription or a new “model” for doing “church”, but it will make you ask some tough questions.