20/08/2013

Grow where you are Planted (by Daniel Steigerwald)

I’d never heard of Daniel Steigerwald - who edited and organised this book - or indeed any of the other writers who contribute. I downloaded it a few months ago when it was on offer, free for my Kindle, and started reading it about six weeks ago. The idea is to look at the hallmarks of a maturing church community in the post-modern world; this is done in various ways, looking at different aspects of church life in a range of situations and cultures.

The subtitle is ‘Collected stories on the hallmarks of maturing church’ - and that’s essentially what it is. It begins by being - I felt - a little too prescriptive about what church leaders should expect to see if their congregation is not to drift. But this is explained in a reasonable enough way, with anecdotes and Biblical wisdom, as an important way of helping believers grow both as individuals and as a body.

Each chapter then looks at one of the broad aspects of maturing church which are outlined at the beginning, so as to give a flavour of what is meant. Examples are: being rooted and connected for growth, cultivating missional hearts, living in communal generosity, discipleship as sacramental living. There are several more. They all seem to be a good idea, in general terms, and something which most thinking bodies of believers would probably strive towards, and I’m always leery of anything ‘measurable’.

Still, each chapter contained some interesting insights and anecdotes which brought the principles alive, even though, after reading, I didn’t always distinguish the supposed different hallmarks. I learned about a wide variety of Christian communities, from small groups meeting in homes to explore a vision through to long-standing larger church bodies. There was little about the structure of the weekly services, much about principles of leadership and guidance.

At times I found it a bit over-wordy and general, and could not read more than a few pages at a time without having to pause to think. However, I’m not the target audience: I’m neither a church planter nor a leader, and have no aspirations towards either. I could see that there were some good ideas in the book, and that it would be good for church leaders to ponder and discuss some of the ideas expounded.

There was one excellent section towards the end suggesting that taking ownership of a project trumps accountability. It was very clearly explained, putting into words something I had been thinking about but had never managed to express. It’s general enough to relate to almost any theme, and something I shall certainly consider in future discussions.

So, while it’s a bit heavy-going in place and perhaps not relevant for most ordinary believers, its’ worth perusing if you have a bit of time and want to think about church planting and leadership - particularly if it goes on special offer again!

This book is now available in both print and Kindle form, in both the UK and US - but no longer free.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, August 20th 2013

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