RETHINKING THE SUCESSFUL CHURCH: Finding Serenity In God’s Sovereignty
by Samuel D Rima -District Executive Minister of the Columbia Baptist Conference. Also an adjunct faculty at a number of schools.
(c) 2002 Pub. Baker Books pp192 price 20.95
Ch.1. Magachurch Mania. Our Obsession With Ministry Success
The obsession of a megachurch is a phenomenon of the last two decades. Church growth is accepted as an indicator of pastoral success. This concept is encouraged in seminaries and denominational headquarters. The megachurch syndrome is a good thing. The obsession (mania) is not a good thing. There are casualties . Traditionalists resist the mega focus. They have concerns about great width but no depth. Planning big can result in financial overextention. Abnormal focus on church growth will lead to a "manic ministry life".p.20. Church growth needs to be a process not a product of ministry. The focus needs to be on God’s sovereity.
note: Each chapter closes with Suggestions for Selfreflection.
Ch.2. Recipes For Success. Just Follow The Formula.
Favorite recipes are favorite because they work. There may be recipes for ministry success but they don’t always work. There is no formula for instant church growth. Some of the current formulas for church growth are discussed. First century church growth was not by formulas. Paul used different methods but always relied on the Holy Spirit for results. God is the source of genuine church growth.
Ch.3. Personal Ministry Success versus God’s Sovereignty. An Uneasy Paradox
The author relates a personal experience of ‘failure’ in ministry. "During the last thirty years it seems success has become something that must be quantified to be real," p.49. The church and it’s leaders are not exempt from this kind of thinking. This kind of success will collide with God’s sovereignty. To know and accept that God is in control will bring serenity. The desire for success and significance comes from God and it needs to be under his control.
Ch. 4. Success Sickness. When we Insist on Ministry Success.
The story of Bill Tyne is told as an example of costly success. There is a price to pay for success at all costs, personally and corporately. This price may be in the form of financial bondage, corporate depression, congregational decline, congregational division, and even congregational death. The results of personal success sickness are discussed. It makes sense to sacrifice personal success for the corporate good.
Ch. 5. Letting Go of the Need to Succeed. Trusting God to Do What Is Best.
Our culture places great value in self trust. Trusting God goes against the grain of that value. Great planning (and plotting) may be a sign of lack of trust. Even a strong sense of destiny may jeopardize trust. We tend to "connect the dots and fill in the blanks". p.100. A recognized sovereign plan of God for a person’s life may produce fears and uncertainties initially. There will always be a huge need for faith. Fears will be present. For many trust is a leap into the unknown. With it, however, comes serenity.
Ch. 6. Our Stimulus to Trust. The Sovereignty of God. "Trust must be purified in the crucible of trial" Brennan Manning. God is sovereign and that needs to factor into all our plans. Scripture has many examples of people whom God used in ways that they had not personally planned. eg. Abraham, Joeseph, Esther.
Ch. 7. God’s Loving Sovereignty. The Source Of Our Serenity. "To be serene is to be unaffected by disturbance." p.146. Our serenity is seriously impacted by what threatens us. eg.lack of success. To understand God’s love is to experience serenity.
Ch. 8. Redefining Ministry Success in Light of God’s Loving Sovereignty. From Quantitative Result to Qualitative Experience.
The following questions, (pp. 173-177) may be helpful in redefining success ministry. What is the current state of my relationship with God? Am I truly enjoying my ministry? How am I treating people? How am I handling the suffering that is part of ministry?
When God tells us where , when, and how to fish we better respond. He is the Master of the sea.
The author has raised some interesting considerations that come out of his own experience. He has pointed out some basic challenges of the church growth concept. I had hoped he would move more definitely from the church growth concept to the church health focus. Healthy churches grow naturally. The focus on serenity coming as a result of God’s sovereignty is very valid.