Original post at http://henrysthreads.com/2013/04/speaking-of-dying-churches/
What should a church that grows out of the New Testament witness look like? Dave Black posted a list of items on his blog today, and I, with his blanket permission, extracted the list to the Jesus Paradigm web site. (The site supports Dave’s book The Jesus Paradigm, which I publish.)
I hope you will go read, think about, and then discuss the ideas Dave presents. They’re similar to the ones he presented in his book. I’d love for you to read the book as well. It’s available in print as well as for Kindle, Nook, iBooks, and Adobe Digital Editions. My greatest disappointment as a publisher is not when a book doesn’t sell or sells poorly, though I want books to sell well, but when a good, challenging book doesn’t reach as many people as I think it should. The Jesus Paradigm is a book that I think has reached far fewer people than it should.
Now when I say reached, I don’t just mean that people have bought the book, or have read it, or even have agreed with it. What I mean is that people have thought about it. Do you disagree with some of Dave’s points? Fine. Discuss! Much more importantly, do! If a few of us in the church would do more and talk less, it would be great. Talking and listening, writing and reading are great and essential. But action based on good listening, reading, and thinking is better.
My fundamental idea in choosing what I publish for Energion Publications is to ask whether it will drive people to think and study, and then hopefully to put something into action. I think the most important element of learning to study the Bible is actually doing it. I think the most important aspect of mission and ministry is doing it. That’s why I’m delighted that so many of the Energion authors are active in ministry. One of my authors (my mother) is 94 years old and is still active in the mission of her local church. She gives the children’s stories and she’s involved in sewing, knitting and quilt making in service for the poor. Incidentally, she’d agree with the point Dave makes about having all ages together in the church. What about you?
In addition, this is why I have a diversity of authors. Contrast Dave Black with Bruce Epperly. I publish books by both. They both are or have been seminary professors. One is a Southern Baptist, the other United Church of Christ. But Dave wrote The Jesus Paradigm and Bruce wrote a study guide to Philippians that actually has the audacity to suggest we should be applying a bunch of what Paul says to what we do in our local congregations. With that start, I’m hooked on both. Now I’m editing Bruce’s forthcoming book Transforming Acts, in which he again has the audacity to suggest looking back at the early church to see how we can transform the church now.
Do these books or these authors agree on everything? No. But they’re both taking the step I would like to see readers of this blog or of their books take: They’re looking to the source and listening to the Spirit and asking what this means for the church today.
This post has a somewhat commercial sound to it, and I don’t deny I hope to sell books. But these aren’t the only people thinking about this and taking action. Our pastoral staff at First United Methodist Church in Pensacola have decided to focus on preaching from acts for the seven weeks leading up to Pentecost. What a wonderful way to spend the season of Easter and prepare for Pentecost! Dr. Wesley Wachob is teaching Wednesday evening classes from Acts. He’s preparing a study guide to the book for me to publish. I’m excited about that opening as well.
And I suspect each of you have Bibles as well. Turn to the book of Acts as a starting point, read it, and ask yourself how you can build God’s kingdom. Let me suggest that it wouldn’t be a program, a system, or a denomination. Perhaps it will be people on fire, speaking in many languages, in many ways, in many places.