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Monday, October 20, 2008

Book Review: It


Craig Groeschel is the pastor of LifeChurch.tv (yes that is it's name) that has thousands of people in multiple places and has made a name for itself with its use of technology and live streaming of worship and preaches to its multiple campuses. His latest book is one on leadership, It: How Churches and Leaders can get IT and keep IT published by Zondervan.

This book irritated and inspired me in almost equal measure. Groeschel is funny and communicates well and he's on to something. Some churches and some leaders do have it. Some think Mark Driscoll has it. Others think he definitely doesn't. But there is an it that we're discussing, it's that X-factor in Church life and leadership. Leaders want to have it and they want their churches to have it. But nailing it down isn't easy. And yes all through the book the word it is in italics and yes it gets a bit much.

At one point Groeschel writes, "The best explanation I can give you is this: it is what God does through a rare combination of these qualities found in his people: Passion for his presence; a deep craving to reach the lost; sincere integrity; spirit filled faith; down to earth humility and brokenness." (p31)

I thought 'yes - this is a book I want to read' so I was disappointed to discover that he doesn't write about those things, they are almost (but not entirely) absent from the rest of the book. Instead we get chapters on vision, focus, having fun with your team, being innovative, trying and failing until you succeed, and then mission and openness with other churches. (The last two chapters were especially good).

This isn't to say that what he writes on any of those things isn't helpful, interesting or potentially useful but it doesn't help me discover brokenness or passion or humility. So, this book did make me think about all of those things and I'm always looking for fresh leadership help (God, knows I need it) but it just didn't seem to satisfy.

I described the experience to a friend as asking for pasta and sauce and just getting sauce. The stories are great, the anecdotes punchy, the points poignant but somehow it lacked what was needed to provide sustenance. Not enough Bible, not enough on what he said makes it.

Then there were a few irritating cultural comments which can hardly be helped, he wasn't writing for the UK. Here's the one example that bugged me the most - scattered in the book are profiles of successful megachurch pastors in the US including the heart rending story of Perry Noble and NewSpring Church in Anderson, South Carolina a community with nearly 48% classified as unchurched. Oh how my heart breaks! Unless I'm very much mistaken that makes 52% are classified as churched. Here in North Shrewsbury the breakdown is more like 2% churched 98% unchurched. If 52% were churched I'd be leading a mega church because that would mean there were 10,000 Christians instead of about 250 spread across 6 churches. I don't know if you can tell, but that bugged me because there is a MASSIVE difference between the US and UK when it comes to faith.

Anyway overall it is worth a read if you're in leadership because it will make you think about the dynamics and culture of your church and your team, and I'm impressed by the way they place a value on serving other churches (if you want free resources from them go here) and their commitment to mission and more but this book could have been more. But this could have been a full meal of a book instead of a light snack.

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