First of all Paul Nixon is my coach for the new multi-site church that we are in process of doing through Holston Conference and 1st United Methodist Church Hillsville. Second, not because he is my coach but because every pastor needs to read this book, I highly recommend it. This book is full of ideas for those who are serving in churches that are not growing. The fact is there are some groups of people who do not want to grow and they never will. The doors of those churches will close when the last of the membership finally pass away and there is no longer anyone there to keep the doors open. For churches like that, they need what we call in the ministry world, “Hospice Care.” They are simply going to die for lack of desire to live beyond the current membership.
Here is a quote from the introduction:
“I refuse to lead a dying church. And I invite you to draw a line in the sand with me. I invite you to declare that, from this moment forward, you refuse to simply go through the motions and play church. You hereby refuse to help your church gracefully into the grave. You hereby refuse to channel your best ministry energy into community of justice endeavors that are detached form your congregations life and ministry. I invite you to join me in refusing, ever again, to lead a dying church.”
Here are some things that Paul says will have to happen to stop churches from dying.
- Less time in pastoral care of accumulated membership
- More time building bridges in the community
- Less time in pointless meetings
- More time developing the leaders that will be taking the church into the future
“We are called to choose life. But, as we can see, this choice leads to some other choices – first of all, about the we spend our time.”
Paul says, here is what I often see in our established churches.
- “Fortress – like buildings erected in another era by people that used to live in the neighborhood, but who either died or moved somewhere else – so that the building now functions as an alien and intimidating presence in the new neighborhood, typically locked up 165 hours a week.”
- “Ministries to the poor often offered at arms-length distance from the people served> We do not design such ministry as part of a larger strategy of relationship building that will draw the neighbors and us together in partnership and authentic spiritual community.”
Here are the chapter titles:
- Choosing life over death
- Choosing community over isolation
- Choosing fun over drudgery
- Choosing bold over mild
- Choosing frontier over fortress
- Choosing Now rather than Later
Outstanding book that again every pastor should read, especially the pastor who is serving in an established church started more than 3 years ago.