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Book Review: “Who Stole My Church” by Gordon McDonald

Gordon has done an excellent job in this fictional book of telling a very true story. The story is about a church made up of people from youth to senior adults come around the table and work through some of the common “CHANGE” in the church. Change is something that few people like but it is something that is necessary in the world in which we live, this world and the way we do everything is in constant change.

In the book there are several topics that are discussed, such as worship style, music choice, and changing the name of a well established church. The story is about how a diverse group of people come around the table and discuss change. In the discussion people discover they have changed through the years and don’t even realize it, they discover that in order for the church to reach the people they love, things have to change. They discover some new ways to do some older things. They discover how to love each other through their differences.

And then the story includes those who leave angry, never to come back to the church. It is sad when you lose anyone from the church but sometimes regardless of how hard you try, some will leave.

This is a very well written book and I think it should be REQUIRED reading for any church going through change. If it is music, worship style, starting a new church, or changing the name of an established church, this is a great tool. I will include a few of the notes I have highlighted for you here.

“Our church has been stolen out from under us. It’s been hijacked.” His solution to the problem? To leave and search for another church that “appreciated” the older and better church ways his generation was familiar and comfortable with.

“Here and there, however, are marvelous people who seem to understand that a church is not meant to be a club organized for the convenience of insiders but a cooperative where people combine together to grow spiritually, to worship the triune God, and to prepare themselves for Christian living and service in the larger world.”

“There is one primary issue that I am concerned with in this book: How do people face change when it threatens their com-fort zone?”

“We got satisfaction out of saying that churches were like a football game: twenty-two players on the field in need of rest and fifty thousand people in the stands badly in need of exercise.”

“Do most people have any awareness of how they can either build or tear down another’s spirit by the way they say things? This is why leaders long for thicker skin. As a friend said, “Pastors have feelings too.”

“What you’re seeing in this Scripture is Jesus preparing the disciples for the fact that the early church is going to be a reinvented movement whose purpose will be to reach out to the larger world with a freshened message about God’s love and salvation.”

“Interesting,” Lillian said. “I never thought of any of the things going on in Acts as necessarily different. But you’re saying that everything changed.” “Everything! The message, the people preaching it, and the way they organized to make it happen. And then if you read on in the story, you see them having to change their ways over and over again. For example, when the first Christians faced serious persecution from the temple leaders, many of them were scattered across the countryside and—guess what? The church started spreading because, wherever they went, they talked about Jesus. And the result was that Gentiles began to hear this new gospel and were drawn to it.”

“So here’s the bottom line of all of this. Down through two thousand years, you have only one unchanging thing in the church: the gospel of Jesus that calls people to forgiveness of sins and to participation in a community of people who want to serve each other and go forward to make a statement about God’s love in their worlds. But the ways in which people organize themselves to actualize this one unchanging thing is changing all the time. Almost nothing can stay the same for long if you want to connect with people and introduce them to Jesus Christ.”

“I’m beginning to realize that I want the church to be a place of safety and comfort. But Jesus was saying to those disciples that serving him would be a call to danger and discomfort. Somewhere along the line I forgot that.”

“Too many of us opt for the status quo in almost every part of life and faith. We go with the familiar and we resist the new.”

“Perhaps,” I said, “you’re just like me and a lot of other people. We resist change in the church because it seems like the only safe place left in this world where a ‘yesterday’ still exists when things seemed simpler and more manageable.”

“Somewhere in the early nineties, Drucker wrote about great changes in history: Every few hundred years in Western history there occurs a sharp transformation. We cross . . . a ‘divide.’ Within a few short decades, society rearranges itself—its worldview, its basic values, its social and political structures, its arts, its key institutions. Fifty years later, there is a new world. And the people born cannot even imagine the world in which their grandparents lived and into which their parents were born.”

“Quite a few pastors who are much better leaders than I am have been writ-ten off because they dared to talk about these things. Status quo thinking that is grounded in yesterday is rather difficult to change. Much easier to get rid of the messenger than face the fact that the way we’re doing things is not working any-more.”

“Let me restate it. The difference is this. We’re in a new era where people want less of your carefully scripted evangelism sales presentation and more personal demonstrations of your genuineness, your authenticity. They want to see evidence that what you believe has legs—that it does something. They’re not impressed with suits and ties, with empty ceremony repeated over and over, and with people who talk big but don’t deliver on their promises. Rather, they’re drawn to untrained voices in music, torn jeans, passionate emotions, and real stories. Fail there, and you lose them. Show your heart and you win them.”

“Here’s a key word: belonging. The new church has to throw open its doors and go out into the community and engage people in their worlds, and when possible, throw open its doors and invite people in to share experiences that are hospitable and welcoming. In every transaction, the people of Christ have to create an environment of belonging.”

“So you’re saying that if our church is going to be evangelistic, it’s going to have to change?” “You got it. If it doesn’t know how to connect with unchurched people and create an environment of genuine belonging where people can really develop trust relationships, kiss evangelism good-bye.”

“Unfortunately, in the church, we have a more difficult time dealing truthfully with programs. We don’t spend enough time asking, ‘Why are we doing this?’ and ‘What is the intended outcome when we do that?’ So we often keep programs going long after they have stopped being effective, just because we’re comfortable with them and we’re reluctant to try new things.”

“And if leaders are not alert, people become more interested in running the institution than in getting the results defined by the need and the vision. Institutions tend to take on a life of their own, and if you’re talking about a church, it’s not unusual to see something that appears to be very busy but does little to bring people to God and help them grow and serve in Christian ways.”

 

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April 8, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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