Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “I select the most helpful book reviews from my students and publish them here. These snippets of some of the best ideas and tools from the book will hopefully inspire you to read it. But at the very least these reviews can help you glean a few of the important tools/principles.”
Book: The Interventionist, Author: Lyle Schaller (1997) reviewed by John (Jack) Pladdys, 4/14/15.
What section of the book (pages and/or chapter) impacted you the most and why?
It is almost impossible to find one section of this book that impacted me the most. Schaller’s book reads like a manual for church consulting. I feel as though I have taken an entire 16-week course just by reading this book! However, if I was forced to pick one section, it would be Chapter 10: Evangelism or Intervention? (Although it is closely followed by chapters 4, 6, 7, and 9.)
The first story in chapter 10 captured my attention. As a relatively young pastor and a candidate looking for a position, my first reaction to the question, “How do we attract more young people?” is to offer a solution. Schaller reminds me that taking this plea literally and offering a suggestion will only lead to frustration. The problem is not trying to reach young people. The problems are a resistance to change and lack of agreement on priorities. By dealing only with issue, I fail to deal with the real problem. Schaller then goes on to discus three levels of change. He describes first level changes as doing what is currently happening, only better. If that does not work, then second level changes are a little more intense, but incremental. Third level changes are considered radical changes as they are a complete departure from the status quo.
What were the two most helpful tools, insights or practices that you gained and why?
- Ask more questions. Early in the book, Schaller says, “More can be learned by asking questions than by giving answers” (p. 24). He goes on to support this thesis by helping the change agent develop a series of questions that will help the interventionist discover the problems that are keeping a congregation from growing. A change agent should ask a lot of questions. Schaller is so sure of this that he devotes an entire chapter to a list of 393 questions and says, “The questions presented in this chapter should not be viewed as a complete inventory” (p. 188)!
- The discussion in Chapter 7: European or American? was extremely insightful for me. As part of a “made-in-America” denomination, I understand better why my denominational leaders do not talk about the reformers as much as the European denominations do. A joke I have with a friend of mine who is a Methodist pastor is that the Methodist must not see the Holy Spirit because they never talk about Him. He responds with, “Oh, we see Him. We just don’t bath in the Holy Spirit like you crazy C&MA guys.” The distinctions between European and American congregations will be very helpful with me as I attempt to acculturate people from other denominations into my congregation. It will also be very helpful when I am asked to consult with a congregation different than my own.
What will you change about yourself and your tactics as a result of this reading?
I will be slow to offer answers and quick to ask more questions. The goal of a change agent is to understand what needs to be changed and how. I cannot achieve that goal if I enter a situation with a ready-made solution.