- The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, by Hannah Whitall Smith (Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1952) 248 pp., paper $5.99
- Conversion in the New Testament, Paul and the Twelve, by Richard V. Peace (Grand Rapids: Erdmans, 1999) 397 pp. plus XV, paper $33.75
- The Tangible Kingdom, Creating Incarnational Community: The Posture and Practices of Ancient Church Now by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008) 195 pp, Hard $17.99
- Starlight and Time, Solving the Puzzle of Distant Starlight in a Young Universe, by D. Russell Humphreys (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 1994) 137 pp., paper $5.99
- God in Eclipse, God Has Not Always Been Silent, by John B. Metzger (Keller, TX: J House Publishing: 2013) pp. 227, paper $9.99
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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.