Book Review: Change the World

Change the World: Recovering the Message and Mission of Jesus

by Michael B. Slaughter
(Available at cokesbury.com)

Rediscover and reclaim the message and mission of Jesus: that is the singular focus of Michael Slaughter’s new book, Change the World. The book also serves as the centerpiece for the nationwide “Change the World Event,” April 24-25, 2010.

For the unacquainted, Slaughter is the lead pastor and chief dreamer of the Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church, a rural, small-town congregation that grew over thirty years from fewer than 100 to nearly 5,000 worshipers on three campuses.

“Not” Another Church Growth Manual

Be clear, however, Change the World is not another church growth manual. Despite Ginghamsburg’s achieving megachurch status, Slaughter and his leaders received a divine directive not to build a much-needed 3,000-seat sanctuary. Two scriptural passages led them to a spiritual about-face.

The first passage is Jesus’ inaugural message in Luke 4:18-19 in which the Lord declares good news specifically to the poor. Slaughter notes, “If [the gospel] is not working to benefit the poor and oppressed, then it is not the gospel!” The second passage is Jesus’ litmus test for true discipleship in Matthew 25:35-40. Here, Jesus identifies true followers as ones who give food, drink, clothing, visits, and care to “the least of these.”

These two passages transformed the thinking of this megachurch pastor. Slaughter says, “Quit worrying about getting people into your church and start finding opportunities to move the people who are already there out into God’s service,” hardly the advice of a church-growth guru. This book’s purpose is literally to help churches “change the world” by following Jesus Christ.

How Do You Measure Success?

Slaughter challenges current traditions and paradigms falsely canonized as biblical truth, such as the abcs of church growth: attendance, buildings, and cash–former measures of church success. Real growth derives from the development of active disciples.

The ethos at Ginghamsburg urges attendees to live simply and sacrificially, and to make mission a priority. The result? Servants (not volunteers) of Ginghamsburg are helping restart inner city churches locally and are providing sustainable agricultural projects, safe water, and child protection and development in Darfur, Sudan.

Mission not Mortar

Slaughter is keenly aware of today’s economic challenges. Ginghamsburg is sixteen miles north of Dayton, Ohio, named in 2008 as one of the fastest dying cities in America by Forbes magazine. This entrepreneurial pastor has never forgotten the skills he learned when he carved out ministry thirty years ago with an annual church budget of $27,000.

Slaughter confronts limited resources with boundless creativity and unflappable faith. He presses readers not to ignore cold facts and “common kingdom sense.” While the economy stutters, churches need to speak clearly about budget priorities. Slaughter urges churches to examine the percentage of money directed toward mortar (physical plant), ministry (ministry within the church  facility), and mission (ministry outside the walls of church facilities). Nearly 65 percent of Ginghamsburg’s current budget goes toward ministry and mission.

Servants not Spectators

Each chapter in Change the World invites congregations to critique their ministry and mission. Prophetic concepts cry out to readers: make disciples not members, servants not spectators, multiply ministries first, church buildings last.

The book has no shortage of real-world ministry based on biblical foundations, nor does it lack heavy doses of honest, provocative insight. Think of these 121 pages as a candid conversation from a megachurch pastor determined to spend the second half of his ministry “being and doing the things that [matter] most to God.” Want to change the world for Christ? Read this book.

Online Change the World Resources

Click here for the (mp3) audio file of this article

Copyright General Board of Discipleship. www.GBOD.org Re-posted on EC with permission.

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