Stanley goes into great detail about how the church has failed in that it has traditionally created programs, services, and culture for the sole purpose of ministering, entertaining, and motivating church people. Sermons are preached and programs are designed to try and convince church people to keep coming to church and to give. Stanley points out rightly that most churches never get concerned about their condition until budget isn't being met. But is this what the church exists for? It can't be can it? It's like constructing a condo and once all the units are filled, the owner fills satisfied and complete as long as the rent comes in. Isn't that what most churches have become? We're happy if the church is close to full, bills are paid, and strife is minimal. Be honest! That's where the church is. And everyday, those satisfied church goers work, eat, and walk by hundreds of people dying and going to hell. They can't witness because their only thought is how to convince that one family to come back to church for the 8th time. They can't see the lost people because they're too upset because their child or grandchild was supposedly mistreated. Or worse, they end up like the Pharisee thanking God that they don't do what those rank sinners do when they get noticed. Does it bother anyone else that more churches are closing than opening? Does it bother anyone else that on average, churches only see a few saved each year? And we're not talking about the few even staying and being discipled. Stanley points all of this out and shows the fallacy and the inaccuracy of the modern day church with the teachings of Christ. Church has become a place where religious people practice their holiness together to different degrees of expression. And as excited as we can get in a church service, the Bible only mentions Heaven getting in an uproar about events on the earth in the church when a soul gets saved. How often does Heaven get excited about your church?
Stanley sought out to create a church for the lost, the broken, the hurting, the blinded, the skeptic, and the uninterested and several years later, he's ministering to over 20,000 people. His whole vision was to create a church where lost people wanted to attend and Christians wanted to serve in. He talks about his 5 catalysts that he has found evident in spiritual formation and how they are intertwined in the North Point church. He speaks about his small group model and the relationships and discipleship that it builds. He speaks about all the nuts and bolts of ministry including planning the weekend services, hiring and placing staff, prioritizing kids ministries, presenting the Gospel message, and learning to communicate the vision. It wasn't available five and a half years ago when I started our church over, but I could have sure used it.
This book spoke to the inner places of my heart in terms of vision and philosophy of ministry. I would recommend every pastor and leader get the book and read it. He says some really challenging things that even I struggle to completely agree with, but that's the point. In his words, it creates a tension that leads to interest. Stanley challenges pastors and leaders to make the church what the church is supposed to be. Our future depends on it. Our kids are depending on us to do it. We must be willing to protect the message all the while being willing to change the methods.
Get the book. You won't regret it.