Ed Stetzer & Mike Dodson: Comeback Churches
I’ve just finished reading Ed Stetzer & Mike Dodson’s book: Comeback Churches. The sub-title is: How 300 churches turned around and yours can too. This book reminded me somewhat of Jim Collins’ book: From Good to Great, although the method they used in doing their research is totally different. The two authors made use of questionnaires which was sent to churches. The criteria which was used to determine whether a church is a comeback church are:
- The church experienced five years of plateau and/or decline since 1995 (worship attendance grew less than 10% in a five-year period)
- That decline or plateau was followed by a significant growth over the past two to five years which included:
2.1 A membership to baptism (conversion) ratio of 35:1 or lower each year and
2.2 At least a 10 percent increase in attendance each year
I am fully aware that one cannot necessarily determine a church’s spiritual status by looking at attendance. Our own church attendance in Swaziland is fairly low, for various reasons, mainly because we are “competing” against traditional churches where cultural traditions tend to take a higher priority than Biblical truths. But this research was done in the USA where increasingly, as in most first world countries, church members tend to leave the church. Comeback churches are those churches that are doing something to win people back into the church (and obviously to Christ), not by harvesting from other churches but by reaching people who are not traditionally church members (any more).
A few encouraging things I read in this book is that comeback churches are not restricted to churches with a certain type of worship, nor are they restricted to a certain type of pastor or pastors of a certain age. God can use any type of pastor and any type of church to reach people and the church can start growing.
The three factors that were dominant in the more than 300 churches that effectively turned around, were:
- Renewed belief in Jesus Christ and the mission of the church
- Renewed attitude for servanthood
- More strategic prayer effort
The two other factors that followed in line were:
- Setting goals
- Valuing Relationships and Reconciliation
Going into more detail, the authors said that comeback churches were characterised by:
- Growing deeply in love with Jesus
- Growing deeply in love with the community
- Growing deeply in love with the lost
- Comeback leaders turned their churches outward
- Comeback churches led people to care more about their communities than their own preferences
Looking at churches today, the focus seems to fall increasingly on larger buildings, more “wow” things, bigger and better bands, better video material, better sound systems. And although all of these things can play a role in the bigger picture, it does seem to me that we need to return to basics if we want the church to have an influence in the world.
- Love Jesus
- Love the community
- Love the lost
Compare this with the attitude that we often find amongst Christians:
- Love Jesus
- Tolerate the community
- Condemn the lost
This is a book that any church leader can benefit from, if they are serious in leading their churches to become the type of church that God intended it to be.
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