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Just as a physically healthy person might not actually be fit enough to run a 5k, so churches can appear healthy—with no obvious issues, maintaining a healthy size—and yet not exhibit fitness. A fit church is one that is not satisfied with merely coasting along with no problems. A fit church is actively making disciples, maturing in faith, developing strong leaders, reaching out to the community, and more.
Building the Body offers pastors and church leaders twelve characteristics of fit churches and shows them how they can move their church through five levels of fitness, from beginner all the way to elite. It also includes comparison charts at the end of each chapter so readers can clearly see where their church currently falls and a "Complete the Progress Chart" at the end of the book so that they can see what their goals should be for the future.
Number of Pages: 224
Vendor: Baker Books
Publication Date: 2018
|Dimensions: 8.50 X 5.50 (inches)|
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Phil Stevenson (DMin, Talbot School of Theology) serves as the district superintendent of The Pacific-Southwest District of the Wesleyan Church. A visiting professor at six universities and seminaries, he has an extensive background in coaching denominational leaders, pastors, and church planters on evangelism and church growth. He is the author of six books and lives in California.
pastor2519West Point, UTAge: 55-65Gender: male5 Stars Out Of 5from healthy to fit: your body AND your churchJanuary 13, 2018pastor2519West Point, UTAge: 55-65Gender: maleQuality: 0Value: 0Meets Expectations: 0We live in a culture that says it values health. We all want to be healthy, but there is a sizable portion of the population that isnt interested in doing the things that it takes to get and stay fit. It seems like its just a lot easier to visit the doctor, see how our choices have affected our health, and head to the pharmacy for the latest in a long list of prescriptions. Yes it would healthier to quit smoking, change the diet, cut back on the drinking, get more sleep, and go to the gym. But who has the time, energy, interest to do all that? (as a side not, after I started reading this book, even though its not about our physical health and fitness, I went and signed up at a Fitness place opening near my house.) That means convicting. I pay them money, and they didnt even give me a tee-shirt (or a speedo, because Im mostly interested in the pool). Ask me in 6 months how its working out.
I started reading this book and posted this on social media: Wow! And Im only on page 27. XXX I think you might like this book. XXX you might get some ideas too. And no I didnt recommend to my friends because of any health issues they may or may not have. You see theyre both interested in the main topic of Building the Body: 12 Characteristics of a Fit Church by Gary McIntosh and Phil Stevenson (Baker Books, 2018).And that topic is not just the health, but the fitness of the local church.
Since as a society and culture were obsessed with fitness, the authors use a physical fitness model to talk about the church. (They attribute their model to the American College of Sports Medicine.) Fitness has 5 components: cardiovascular endurance, muscle strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and body composition. They break each of these categories in sub-categories to define the 12 characteristics. Things like outreach, effective evangelism, strategies for making disciples, vision, worship, stewardship, and several other key elements.
And to further the sports analogy, the physical fitness part, they turn to one of Americas favorite fitness activities (no, not watching football on the TV-chips in one hand, beer in the other). They talk about runners, and break them into 5 categories. 1) Beginner: no experience, philosophical-they like the idea of running, but havent really engaged in the activity. 2) Novice: some background in running, can perhaps run up to 3 milesactively learning. 3) Intermediate: making progress in both running time and pace, and demonstrate knowledge of running well. 4) Advanced: familiar with necessary training, they push themselves and look for others to challenge them. They also share their expertise. The final category, 5) is the Elite runner. They compete at higher levels. Olympic class athletes.
So what does this have to do with church growth, one of Dr. McIntosh area of expertise? He applies it to the church. Gary and Phil put churches into this 5 categories, and provide helpful ways to evaluate where your church is. And they offer a disclaimer: rejoice where you are doing the right stuff, and identify areas for improvementthen push your church to the next level. After all we all want to make a difference for the Kingdom, and just as in physical fitness, being healthy is good, but being truly fit is better!
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my review
bookwomanjoanOak Harbor, WAAge: Over 65Gender: Female3 Stars Out Of 5Facts and figures emphasisJanuary 8, 2018bookwomanjoanOak Harbor, WAAge: Over 65Gender: FemaleQuality: 3Value: 4Meets Expectations: 2I like the authors' emphasis on a fit church as opposed to a healthy church. They draw the parallel to a healthy human, with low blood pressure and cholesterol levels, who is unfit and can't do physical activity. They identify five fitness levels of churches: beginner, novice, intermediate, advanced, and elite. Fit churches must be strong, able to endure, be flexible, and eat right (from the Word). Being a fit church requires being intentional and having discipline.
The authors go through the twelve characteristics of a fit church, including a Plan of Action for each fitness level of churches. They also include guidelines for developing ministry, such as effective evangelism. They give many church success stories and some enlightening stories of churches not being successful.
I liked some of their insights. For example, some churches assume, in error, that having building in the community makes them present in the community. (Loc 671/3396) They also note that some churches learn to function well with their dysfunctions, their dysfunctions becoming the norm. (Loc 244/3396)
I did not like the emphasis on the paid staff. Paid staff is to be the financial priority in the church's budget. (Loc 1108/3396) The pastor is described as the SEO (spiritual executive officer) of the church. He is responsible for hearing from God and setting the vision for the church. (Loc 2025/3396) Lay people, I guess, are not invited to be part of the discerning process. I think that emphasis sends the wrong message to lay people who often minister several times a week in addition to their 9 to 5 job. This especially hurts when the pastor's salary and benefits are far above the average income of the lay people. Lay people are quick to conclude that they are not important. The authors had previously written, "Becoming a fit church is directly proportional to the degree the people of God are active in ministry." (Loc 879/3396) Pastors and their visions come and go. It is ultimately the lay people who keep the church moving toward fitness.
Another area of the book puzzled me. When the authors write about worship, they include lots of characteristics and strategies. They recommend development by a team, evaluation, planning, paying attention to things like pace and flow, being culturally relevant, being Christ exalting, and more. The authors never mention intentionally seeking what pleases God in worship nor praying to God to ask the Spirit to lead the worship planning process.
The authors have left the importance of prayer to the last quarter of the book. I would rather have had prayer emphasized at the beginning of the book, as an initial foundation, not near the end. But then, this book is pretty much a facts and figures kind of book. For example, the authors describe the baseline of the health of a church as the number of salvations, baptisms, and funds invested in disciple-making initiatives. (Loc 1920/3396)
For a book on the church to be really effective, I think it needs to be meaningful in all nations and cultures. It seems like this book concentrates on American churches. A fit Chinese underground church probably would not consider hiring a sound technician as part of their worship ministry, let alone even have a building that required sound. A pastor in Africa probably would not be able to plan out his sermons a year in advance nor think about hiring a paid worship staff person.
I did realize a couple of truths in reading this book. I found out that being a fit church takes a great deal of intentionality and work. It is not going to happen by accident. Just the development of lay ministry, including mentoring and encouraging, would be a full time volunteer job. I also understand that my discomfort with some churches has been because they were not fit.
I do recommend this book to lay people and paid church staff to get a good idea of what a fit church is like. There is a great deal of informative material in this book. Potential readers need to realize, however, that "fit church leaders" (Loc 1117/3396) may be few in number and not a reasonable expectation for your church. It may be up to you as a lay person to initiate the movement of your church to fitness. This book will give you a good start on that journey. I would recommend that you read this book along with another one that emphasizes the spiritual nature of a healthy or fit church.
This is a critical review from a lay person who has been active in churches for fifty years, on church boards, director of adult education, teaching adults classes (often twice a week), all while working full time at the small Christian bookstore I owned. My criticism of the emphasis on paid staff arises from the year our church was without pastoral staff. I was on the church board during that year, chair of the deacons. We had more people involved in ministry that year than I had ever seen. People stepped up and volunteered to preach, to lead worship, to lead ministries. People later told us they had never seen the church function so smoothly. It can be done if the lay people are well informed and included in every aspect of decision making, including seeking God for vision and direction.
I received a complimentary egally of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.