some good, some not so good
I received a free copy of this book from the Waterbrook Multnomah Blogging for Books review program.
Three stars pretty much sums up my take on Morris' book. There're things in it that seemed good, and others that I thought were kinda sketchy.
First, to look at some of the good things. The fact that Morris puts so much emphasis on feeding the sheep puts him far ahead of some other megachurch pastors I've listened to who hop up in their I-chairs, rant about "the jackass in the church" who wants to go deeper, tells them that Jesus tells them to shut up, and overall takes on the attitude that if you're already a believer in Christ than "We need your seat!!" for the ones who aren't. Morris' attitude in this regards is much to be appreciated.
Along that same line, his ideas about training the people out there in the congregation to be more than mere spectators seems to be good, as well as his ideas about delegating church responsbilities to other people who may be able to focus on it better, as well as allowing the pastor to focus on his calling of teaching and preaching.
One of the things that was iffy to me has to do with him being in the charismatic camp, and maybe even in the NAR. This comes through in his emphasis on "hearing the voice of the Spirit", apparently usually the inner voice that charismatic types like to talk about a lot, as well as more blatant statement about his church having Apostolic Elders. He doesn't go into these things much, I think he mentions doing so in another of his books, so I'll not make much of it here either, just mention it and my reactions to it.
Morris finds many of his principles for church leadership and growth from the business world. I'm kinda iffy about this. It may not be wrong in itself, but the goals of a church and a business are very different. To put it rather simply, a business has products or services it's trying to sell, while a church has a message to proclaim that must be believed. There are things a business may do to attract customers that would be wrong for a chruch to do to make converts
Morris emphasises the idea that "God's blessing brings spiritual health, and spiritual health brings God's blessings", or to use what he says was the original title for this book, "healthy things grow". But we may well ask, is this so? We can easily think of unhealthy things that grow (cancer, debt), and we can think of things that grow in an unhealthy way or extent (a person who becomes obese). Morris points to the parable of the seeds and soils to illustrate this, showing how the seed that fell in the good soil grew. But it did not grow and grow and grow until it reached the heavens like Jack's beanstalk, but rather it grew until it yielded seeds, then those seeds could be gathered, and some used for food and others used to grow more grain.
Perhaps Morris has a point when he says that healthy things grow, but maybe we could also say that something growing may be seen in a few different ways, as in the thing itself growing and also reproducing itself so that it may cause growth in that way, too. A human being reaches maturity and stops growing, but this when he or she may marry, start a family, and in that way the family grows, if that illustration helps.
But he takes this idea to extremes, I think. "The number-one way to spot a false shepherd is a pattern of scattering sheep Their churches get smaller, or a least stay the same size year after year". (chapter 13). "According to the Barna Group, roughly 60 percent of the Protestant churches in the United States have fewer than 100 members and a full 98 percent have fewer than 1000. In other words, small churches are the rule, not the exception. At the same time, we have become an increasingly urban nation...I mention these numbers because they reveal something about the failure of our churches to effectively reach out in our communities...Nevertheless, I believe there is a reason the average church size in this increasingly urbanized nation is well below two hundred: the vast majority of pastors and congregations are still operating under that old, flawed paradigm of the pastor's role." (chapter 18).
I ask you, if you can, to read those excerpts in context, because to me it really does seem that he saying that unless you have a very large church in the context of your community, than your church has been a failure. I've no wish to misunderstand him, but if my understanding is true, how can such an attitude be accepted?
Plus, what about churches in other places, other countries where they are subject to persecution, even of a severe sort? What can all these words about growth mean to a pastor who's members are losing jobs and being disowned by their families because of their faith, or to he himself when he is being throw into prison for preaching the Gospel of Christ?
In the end, while this book may have some good things to say to a pastor, there are other things that simply seem off to me. I wouldn't necessarily tell someone to avoid it like the plague, but I wouldn't encourage it as a must-have resource, either.