BOOK REVIEWS

Revitalize: Biblical Keys To Helping Your Church Come Alive Again – Andrew Davis (2017)

arevitalAndrew M. Davis, Revitalize: Biblical Keys To Helping Your Church Come Alive Again Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2017, 223 pp. $9.51

Andrew Davis understands what it means to pastor a church in crisis. But Dr. Davis also understands the joy of pastoring a church which has been revitalized. So the author is uniquely qualified to write on such a subject. The name of the book is Revitalize: Biblical Keys to Helping Your Church Come Alive Again.

Davis helps readers understand the biblical rationale for a revitalized church: “Revitalization occurs,” writes Davis, “when God restores a once healthy church, helping it to change course from its recent decline toward spiritual disease and death.” But before outlining the biblical keys for this vital process of revitalization, the marks of a dying church are presented. They include,

• Low view of Scripture

• Man-centered rather than God-centered

• Lax shepherding of members and no church discipline

• Little evangelistic fruit resulting in dwindling numbers

• Disunity and bitter factions

• Disrespect for godly leaders, resulting in short pastorates

• Disorderly polity

• Clinging to traditions, stubbornly unwilling to change

• Selfish spending patterns

• Little zeal for corporate prayer

• Increasingly world doctrines and behaviors

Davis notes the supreme importance of Christ who must be at the center of the revitalization process: “The more church leaders delight in the infinite exaltation of Christ and his rights over his vineyard, the more humble they will be about their own roles.”

With this critical foundation in place, Dr. Davis proceeds to lay out the components of church revitalization. The following biblical keys are each explained in greater detail:

Be Holy

Rely on God, Not on Yourself

Rely on God’s Word, Not on Techniques

Saturate the Church in Prayer

Cast a Clear Vision

Be Humble Toward Opponents

Be Courageous

Be Patient

Be Discerning

Wage War Against Discouragement

Develop and Establish Men as Leaders

Become Supple on Worship

Embrace the Two Journeys of Disciple-Making

There is so much to commend in this excellent work.  A short review falls terribly short. Revitalize does not contain the typical pragmatic approach which is found in books of this sort. Rather, it is filled with God-centered advice that may be immediately applied in the local church context. Dr. Davis has gifted the church with a much-need gift. My prayer is that many pastors will be encouraged and moved to action as they apply this timely wisdom. May the church be revitalized as she prepares for the triumphant return of the Lord Jesus Christ.

BOOK REVIEWS

When Your Church Feels Stuck – Chris Sonksen (2017)

stuckChris Sonksen, When Your Church Feels Stuck: 7 Unavoidable Questions Every Leader Must Answer Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2017, 181 pp. $10.80

Many churches in America are sitting on the plateau – so Chris Sonksen’s book, When Your Church Feels Stuck is relevant and fills an important need. The author sets forth an important principle at the outset: God determines the talent but we determine the choices. That is, are we faithful with the resources that God has given us? Sonksen remarks, “The measure of success is based on your living up to your potential, doing the absolute best you can o with what you have been given, digging deeper into your heart and soul, and seeking to become the leader God intended you to be.”

Several questions are offered which assess attitudes:

  • Am I doing all I can to reach my God-given potential?
  • Do I seek out people to mentor me or do I let pride get in the way?
  • Am I open to change or stuck in tradition?
  • Has ministry become more of a career than a calling?
  • Do I hold on too tightly to past successes?
  • Have I gotten too comfortable with the way things are?
  • Is everyone else recognizing a problem except me?

The author presents different stages in the life of a church from the initial launch, to utopia, whirlwind, increase, merry-go-round, and slow death. Readers are encouraged to evaluate which stage their respective church is currently in.

Most of the book revolves around seven questions, which are outlined below:

  1. Mission: What do we do?
  2. Strategy: How do we get it done?
  3. Values: What are the guiding principles we live by?
  4. Metrics: How do we measure a win?
  5. Team Alignment: Do we have the right people in the right seats moving in the right direction?
  6. Culture: How do we change the culture of our church?
  7. Services: How do we match what we say is important and what we really do?

The author goes into more detail as each question frames a specific chapter. The seven questions are helpful diagnostic tools and should be carefully considered by pastors and church leaders.

While nothing harmful is presented in Sonksen’s work, I would prefer to see a more biblically faithful model. Such work is found, for instance, in Andrew Davis’s book, Revitalize: Biblical Keys to Helping Your Church Come Alive Again. The work under consideration may help jumpstart a struggling church. However, it fails to provide the robust biblical groundwork to help a church move forward in a Gospel-centered way. My fear is that a business model is slowly replacing the biblical model, which is presented in the pages of the New Testament.

My assessment of this work is mixed. Readers should proceed cautiously, refusing to throw the baby out with the bathwater. But they should also realize that there is no “magic bullet” for church growth or revitalization in the local church.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.