Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 12 Ways to Keep Yours Alive by Thom S. Rainer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A depressing book about churches so dysfunctional that they die.
A family member asked me to review it - I hadn't heard of it before.
The premise is not very attractive or marketable, but as a pastor of 13 years there is plenty of experiential truth in here.
Rainer’s main theme seems to be the need for the church to serve and to look like the community around it. The dying church serves its own members instead of those outside who need to hear the gospel for the first time.
An assumption made throughout: change or die. This one is tricky. If you take this in the modern evolutionary sense or in the Christian marketing world of Lifeway (the author is its president and CEO) it is false. Society is changing and the church has to change with the times to stay relevant. I detest this view.
But there is a theological sense in which this cliché is true. Change or die? John Owen said it best: “Be killing sin or sin will be killing you.” Churches like individual believers have sinful defects remaining that must be attacked with a holy warfare. Sanctification is the mortification of sin by the grace of God. We either kill the sinful parts of ourselves (or keep trying to) or we die spiritually.
We need to face this ugly fact, though perhaps not in the way Rainer gives it to us. Lifeway is a statistics machine, and Rainer seems to measure false versus true hope by the statistics, instead of by God’s ability to revive churches out of the blue. I appreciate the defibrillating jolt he gives dying churches with the premise of the book, but more on the solutions and hope side would have been better.
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