Recently, I was given this work by Shannon O'Dell, lead pastor of Brand New Church in Harrison, Arkansas. To say the least, O'Dell is a polarizing personality. He recently spoke at a conference in MO and I have heard reviews ranging from some who thought he was fabulous to others who weren't such big fans of the message he brought forth. As one pastor told me, if you can get even one good nugget of truth out of a book, it's worth the price and time to read it. That said, I did find a few good nuggets in Transforming Church in Rural America. These are some of those good pieces of wisdom.
1. When you desire to grow a congregation, you will never get it. But if you grow congregants, then you are going to see transformation in their lives and within the church. - pg. 39
We live in a day, as Rainer and Stetzer agree, that churches measure their success based on the 3 Bs - buildings, budgets, and booties in the seats. Isn't it time for something more than that? Isn't it time for pastors and leaders to think bigger than this? I pray that I'll not be so obsessed with numbers that I lose focus on the people behind the numbers. After all, Jesus never set out to grow a megachurch or fill a stadium. He was in the business of life-change and restoration. I pray that I, under the Lordship of Christ, will share the same goals as the Savior. I want more than anything to see our people know Christ and grow in Him.
2. Everyone likes change - except when it makes things different. - pg.71.
O'Dell also follows this statement up by giving the cycle his church has walked through. The cycle is: Change -> Conflict -> Growth -> Change.... I've heard Ed Young, Jr. say a similar thing recently. While I agree that sometimes change can actually be negative, I also agree with O'Dell when changing items that ought to be changed. Healthy things grow and change and adapt as they grow.
3. Exellence does not cost a lot of money: it costs in time and vision. - pg. 148
O'Dell explains that his church IS about doing things right, and that doing so doesn't always mean buying the latest and greatest and coolest ___________ (fill in the blank). In a church culture that seems to be in the midst of concert-style venues and hazers and guitar pedals and HD cameras, this is a refreshing thought. Now, I should probably say that I LOVE technology and I LOVE many churches that use such equipment. I just wonder if so many of us have decided to be copycats of what working in other places and states in hopes that this "formula" will somehow crack the code and twist God's arm into doing what only He can do.
Well, there you have what I think are three good nuggets from this book. There are other good elements in it as well, and I would recommend reading it, especially if you're doing ministry out of the metropolis like me. If you can see wild turkeys from your office window, you might be a good candidate to read this book.