101 Great Ideas for Growing Healthy
Churches: A MODEM guide
John Nelson, Michael Lofthouse and Anton Müller,
Canterbury Press £14.99
Church Times Bookshop £13.50 (Use code
FOR two decades, MODEM has been helping Christian
leaders distil the best insights from commerce and management. The
present volume, MODEM's fifth, is a multi-author collection of
bite-sized insights into how churches can be helped towards health
and growth by principles from secular management theory.
Most of the contributions are a couple of pages long,
beginning with a Bible text, a Top Tip, and a Business Perspective
that explains the commercial principles behind what is to follow,
ending with questions for individual reflection and group
discussion. Other contributions are significantly shorter.
The best contributions succeed admirably because they
do exactly what it says on the tin. They offer, in a short space, a
great idea that could make a real difference in a church. Paul
Davies, a vicar in Sunbury-on-Thames, describes two community arts
projects undertaken by his church - what was done, who was
involved, and how church and community alike were helped.
Mike Breen, a pioneering British minister now based
in the United States, makes a compelling case for every church's
needing an effective plan for making disciples rather than leaving
discipleship to personal whim or chance. He writes: "There is not a
leadership problem in the Church in the West. There is not a
missional problem. There is a discipleship problem."
Likewise, some of the pithy one- and two-line
contributions invite deeper reflection. Keith Lamdin of Sarum
College writes that there are three essentials for every leader:
discontent, vision, and courage. Much writing on leadership has
tended to focus on the second of these, but Lamdin is surely right
that creativity and innovation begin in a dissatisfaction with the
status quo, and that the best leadership has the courage to stick
with a good idea until it becomes a reality.
Other contributions are of uneven quality, mainly
because they fail to deliver on the promise of the title, an ironic
failing in a book so besotted with modern marketing principles.
Some pieces are little more than homiletic truisms, with no obvious
application. Others read like randomly generated strings of
business jargon (clergy are "required to engage in an ongoing
hegemonic discourse with customers to establish and maintain
quality thresholds"; most church leaders "fail to disaggregate the
organization leading to aggregated decisions that are bounded by
More seriously, the commercial tail sometimes appears
to wag the Christian dog. A foreword claims, with no obvious irony
and no further explanation, that there is "only one measure" of
effective church leadership, which is "a profitable church". In an
item on marketing the church, we are told categorically that
"perception is more important than truth." And what on earth would
the Apostle Paul have made of Lofthouse and Müller's definition of
a congregation as "a collection of individual customers who demand
Canon Starkey is Vicar of Llanidloes and
Llangurig, in Bangor diocese.