Book: Small, Strong Congregations (Creating Strengths and Health for Your Congregation) by Kennon L. Callahan

Many books suggest that the future of the Christian movement rests with the success of mega-congregations. These authors also conclude that small congregations are doomed.

But author Kennon L. Callahan, a noted church consultant, moves ahead of such thinking and envisions a very different future.

In this book, Callahan confirms that the twenty-first century will be the age of consciously small, strong congregations that are dedicated to advancing God’s mission.

Callahan suggests that small congregations should assess themselves by eight distinctive qualities afforded by their size:

  1. Mission and service
  2. Compassion and shepherding
  3. Community and belonging
  4. Self-reliance and self-sufficiency
  5. Worship and hope
  6. Leaders and team
  7. Just enough space and facilities
  8. Giving and generosity

Callahan doesn’t try to convince the small church leader to adopt a mega-church mentality. Rather, he challenges them to look within their respective communities and tap into the power and the resources that already reside there.

And, Callahan does challenge the small church to live a life of service to the community rather than retreat into a life of survival. Some are preoccupied with a lot of land, a powerful preacher, more members, and a beautiful building, but they are preoccupied with “us” and the church growth model rather than the mission of growth.

Small, Strong Congregations have a passion for mission not a mansion, and they focus on the family more than facility. It is about mission not membership.

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Book: Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome by R. Kent Hughes

How does one measure success in ministry? 8 out of 10 pastors will statistically never lead a church of more than 150 members, and every year thousands of God’s servants leave the ministry convinced they are failures. What are we to do? Years ago, in the midst of a crisis of faith, Kent Hughes almost became one of them.

This book describes their journey and their liberation from the “success syndrome” – the misguided belief that success in ministry means increased numbers. According to all the formulas, the church Ken Hughes planted should have been wildly successful. And in today’s world it is easy to be seduced by the secular thinking that places a number on everything.

Kent and Barbara first determined that the basic problem was their definition of “success”. After looking at the life of Moses in Numbers 20 where God told Moses to speak to the rock in order to give the people fresh drinking water instead we find Moses struck the rock twice. By all outward appearance Moses appeared to be successful as the people got the water that they wanted through a miracle, however God didn’t view the event same way as man did as God was looking for obedience to His word.

The authors of this book encourage readers that true success in ministry lies not in numbers but in several key areas: faithfulness, serving, loving, believing, prayer, holiness, and a Christlike attitude. Their thoughts will encourage readers who grapple with feelings of failure and lead them to a deeper, fuller understanding of success in Christian ministry.

Here is one resolution I would encourage you to consider making: regular prayer and encouragement for your pastor. Here is the conclusion of Kent and Barbara Hughes’s book, Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome, and thought it would be worth reprinting here:

Every pastor knows that the strength of the ministry rests on prayer, and that it is those faithful souls who pray regularly for him and the church who bring God’s special blessing upon the ministry. This fact invites a marvelous “what if” scenario. What if not just a few but the entire leadership and congregation prayed in detail every day for the pastor and their church? What would happen to his heart, to his preaching, to worship, to evangelism, to missions? Can there be any doubt that the minister and his people would know greater enablement than ever before in their lives?

Prayer is where the congregation must begin in this whole matter of encouragement. Will you make a personal commitment to encourage your pastor by daily prayer for him and his work? If so, we leave you with this suggestive outline, from which you can draw your own prayer list.

Pray that he will be a true success: that he will be faithful, true to God’s Word and hardworking; that he will be a servant, following the example of our foot-washing Lord; that he will love God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength; that he will truly believe what he believes about Christ; that he will lead a holy life, and not succumb to the sensuality of our culture; that he will lead a life of deep prayer, following Jesus’ example; that he will have a positive attitude free from jealousy.

Pray for his ministry–for his preaching, for time to prepare, for understanding the Word, for application, for the power of the Holy Spirit in delivery, for Sunday’s services, for his leadership, for immediate problems he is facing.

Pray for his marriage–for time for each other, for communication, for a deepening love, for fidelity.

Pray for his children by name. Perhaps you might ask the pastor or his wife how they would like you to pray for their children.

Consider printing this out, placing it in your Bible, and putting this prayer into practice.

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Book: The Upside Down Church by Greg Laurie

Looking for ways to light a fresh fire under a church whose flame is burning low?

In the book, The Upside Down Church, Pastor Greg Laurie uses the biblical guidance found in the book of Acts to show what the New Testament church really looked like, and what we find is that we have come a long way from them.

The Upside Down Church is a must-read for pastors and church lay leaders to help them grasp the principles of biblical church growth. This book will help you rediscover the first century church priorities of fellowship, evangelism, worship, and discipleship.

By in large the early church and much of the Calvary Chapel movement has used growth methods that are upside down when compared to today’s church grown models (such as The Purpose Driven model for example). The approach many churches have taken is from the business world instead of following God’s Word.

Pastor Greg Laurie demonstrates in this book how the mission of Harvest Fellowship (the church he pastors at) has simply been to live out the Great Commission and be the church that honors God.

This book helps readers to learn about God’s original plan for His Church, discover God’s plan to save the world, understand how twelve men turned the world upside down, recognize the power of prayer, and concluded that God can use you too.

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Book: Adopted for Life (The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches) by Russell Moore

Are you living like an orphan or an adopted child of God? The gospel of Jesus Christ doesn’t simply reconcile us vertically to God but also reconciles us horizontally to one another. In this book Russell Moore invites you into a conversation about adoption between both God and us, and with us and children who are in need of a family. I believe more firmly now than before that adoption forms a “real” family and that our adoption in Christ means the church is a family made up of all adopted sons and daughters of God.

As Christians we should care about the things that God cares about which is people. And if Christians did not adopt, do foster-care, help single parents, or care of orphans then we would be hypocrites to be only known as being pro-life. We should be caring for human life at all stages and care for individuals as Christ would.

The mission to share the love of Jesus includes caring for those around us. Too often we think of missionaries as those off in a far away country serving the Lord, but each of us are missionaries too and even more so if we are looking out for children around us from other countries. Once you read this book you’ll never view adoption the same again and that’s why I highly recommend and encourage you to learn more through reading this book.

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