Change. It is a dirty word in most established Southern Baptist churches. Indeed, unless a commitment to change is a part of the DNA of a local church, it is often impossible to bring it about. Many pastors have stared the specter of change in the face and walked away, frightened of what it would do to them and their flocks--and, for good reason. Leading congregational change can be excruciatingly difficult and few have found a way to do so without losing their minds or their churches.
It is for this reason that I'm pleased as punch to be able to review and recommend my friend Marty's first book: Journeys: Transitioning Churches to Relevance, co-written with Todd Wright. Both men pastor Southern Baptist churches in Georgia, New Bethany Church in Buford and Midway Church in Villa Rica, and both men have poured blood, sweat, and tears into their God-appointed mission to lead their flocks to be the church in their communities.
Many books about leading churches through change are little more than step-by-step guides, following after the pattern of some other "successful," uber-charismatic pastor who's gone from 50 to 5,000 church members in 5 months. (Well, maybe its not that bad, but it sure feels like it.) Anyone used to books like that will find Journeys to be a breath of fresh air.
The bulk of the book is narrative, as Marty and Todd alternately walk the reader through the many heart-breaking and gritty details of their transformation as pastors, which lead to the transformation of their churches. In both cases, the barriers in the way of change were many, including racism, trust, power plays, personal weakness, and communication. But, in both cases, these things were overcome and the transition from mindless irrelevance to missional relevance was made.
I found the book's narrative quality to be highly engaging. For me, the back-and-forth chapter arrangement was difficult to adjust to at first, but once I settled in to the reading (which didn't take long), I found the style to be quite effective for comparing the two pastor's experiences. Especially valuable is the openness and vulnerability shown by the authors. Their candidness about personal shortcomings, doubts, and fears will be a tremendous encouragement to any pastor, soon-to-be pastor, or pastor's spouse. And, for interested laypersons, their story is an eye-opening look into the life of pastors leading churches through transition.
The book ends with words of reflection and encouragement from Todd and Marty, including wise counsel about weighing your motivation for change, counting the cost of change, and choosing to focus upon faithfulness rather than "nickels and noses." Also, they include a select bibliography and a helpful list of recommended reading.
I highly endorse this volume for you, your pastor, your staff, or your friends in ministry. For the next week or so, you can order Journeys at a pre-publication price of $11.99, down from the regular retail price of $14.99, through the publisher Missional Press. Very soon, it will be available on Amazon and many of your favorite bookstores.