- Our Hymn Writers and Their Hymns, by Faith Cook (Darlington, England: Evangelical Press: 2005), 400 pp., paper $10.99
- Recovering the Reformed Confession, Our Theology Piety and Practice, by R. Scott Clark (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P & R Publishing, 2008), 362 pp. paper $25.00
- Vertical Church, What Every Heart Longs for, What Every Church Can Be, by James MacDonald (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2012), 320 pp., Hard, $22.99
- Reading the Christian Spiritual Classics, a Guide for Evangelicals, Ed. by Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press 2013), 325 pp. paper $17.99
- The New Calvinism Considered by Jeremy Walker (Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 2013) 126 pp., paper $7.99
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Twelve Keys to an Effective Church by Kennon L. CallahanThis is one of those books that is being touted today as a resource on growing a church, in fact, it is little more than a secular business approach on how to market the church. Written in 1983 this volume is no longer on the cutting edge, but its methodologies can be easily discerned in many churches today that are involved in the church growth movement.
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.