- The Rebirth of Latin American Christianity by Todd Hartch (Oxford University Press: 2014)264 pp., $19.99
- Simply Good News, Why the Gospel Is News and What Makes It Good by N. T. Wright (New York: Harper Collins, 2015) 189 pp, Hard $24.99
- Biblical Apologetics, Advancing and Defending the Gospel of Christ, by Clifford B. McManis (Xlibris Corporation, 2012) 634pp. paper $23.99
- Church Unique, How Mission Leaders Cast Vision, Capture Culture, and Create Movement by Will Mancini (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008) 271 pp. plus XXVII, hard $16.99
- The Sacred Text, Biblical Authority in Nineteenth-Century America by Ronald F. Satta (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2007) 116 pp. + XV, paper $18.00
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Twelve Keys to an Effective Church by Kennon L. Callahan
That is not to say that Callahan has no advice worth heeding. The church growth experts often have decent insights and practical suggestions. It is wise (and not unbiblical) to suggest that a church should have nice, clean, attractive facilities, after all, man looks on the outside, it is only God who sees the heart. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with planning ahead and setting goals. The problem comes when we buy wholesale into the marketing mentality and ignore the true church growth book, the Bible. Actually the book of Acts would be far more profitably studied by pastors than books like these.
The best part of this volume is found in the introduction where the author recommends that a church not focus on its weaknesses and failures but upon its strengths. Rather than becoming preoccupied with trying to do what those "other churches" are doing, we should focus on what we are doing well, improving and expanding from there. This is advice well worth pondering. But the book breaks down on page one when the author lays his foundation for the church with these words, "The local congregation [that is effective] has focused its missional outreach on a particular human hurt and hope." In other words, effective churches are the ones who focus on people and their hurts and needs. The adage often used of church growth proponents is, "Find a need and meet it, find a hurt and heal it." The tragedy is that the church then becomes man-centered (giving people what they want, or think they want) rather than God-centered. The God-centered church concentrates on what God wants, and in turn, gives people what God says they need. The difference may be subtle to some, but it is vital.