by Rev. Jeff Lawson, lead pastor, Life Church, Aurora, IN, 3/31/16.
Practical, useful, and downright easy to use. Those are the words that come to mind as I read through Dr Bob Whitesel’s book, Cure for the Common Church. I would highly endorse this book. There is so much that stands out from this resource, but the first thing is my plea that every single pastor should read this and keep a copy on hand as a useful tool to aid his ministry.
The practical side to this book is the way it is written. Just like you would go to a doctor and describe what ails you and then the doctor gives his prescription as to what will make you well, Whitesel lists numerous issues that most churches deal with that might prohibit their health, and then he prescribes the needed steps necessary to make them well again. I found myself time and time again laughing out loud and saying, boy, now that really makes sense.
There are far too many ‘common’ churches in our world today. Whitesel gives a solid argument that there must be more ‘uncommon’ churches that are willing to go the extra mile so to be healthy and doing all that God has planned for the local church. Whitesel says, “For a church to be uncommon today, it will be necessary for all congregations to go out into their neighborhoods and connect with the needs of non-churchgoing people.” That idea may seem scary to many, but by following the provided prescriptions, everyone is able to use their God-given gifts to increase the Kingdom of God.
The book is divided into multiple sections so that a person could read and easily benefit from everything, or they could zoom right into their own particular issue that they are dealing with so to begin to correct their problems. The area that gave me the biggest boost was in and around the small group area. Whitesel writes, “To become smaller means that a church increasingly focuses on the health of its small, intimate fellowship structures.” I read this and re-read this, and then read it a third time to try to absorb the idea. Whitesel goes on to say, “Growing smaller means ushering a church into a new, central focus on small groups that are not cliquish but reach out to those inside and outside the groups.”
So the immediate question that comes to mind is how? How do you accomplish this? For instance, if a church does not do their small group ministry well, there is an easy to follow guide that helps to make you understand how to, “Grow UP-war, Grow IN-ward, and Grow OUT-ward”. By following this system, the small groups in your church will continue to cultivate healthy relationships within their group, within their local fellowship, as well as within their community. The problem that many small groups make is that they only do one or possibly two well, and then they find themselves out of balance. This is a wonderful plan to ensure that the groups are not only growing, but growing healthy.
One might think, what difference does it make? Why are small groups so important (I know, I once had the same thought), Whitesel quotes Thom Rainer, “New Christians who immediately became active in a small group are five times more likely to remain in the church five years later than those who were active in worship services alone.” That statistic should grab the attention of every senior pastor.
The book concludes with a brilliant plan for the church to be open to all people. The church has a long history of expecting people to clean up their act prior to coming to church. The absurdity of that notion is the same as expecting a sick person to get well before visiting their local doctor. The church is the place to come to receive care. As individuals give their lives to Christ and grow in their relationship with Him, then the healthy change begins to happen. An important lesson I learned was that, “People need guidelines, but they also need those guidelines to be explained by a mentor whom they can trust and question.” Being a mentor is not something that can just arbitrarily be done. Careful selection should be made to match an individual.
This book is a tool that I will use with my leadership team. It would be good to have the team dig through it together, gleaning wisdom as to how to keep God’s bride healthy.