Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Review - Ignite

"Ignite - How to Spark Immediate Growth in Your Church" by Nelson Searcy with Jennifer Henson takes an approach of having a series of 'big days' in your church to spark growth, and double the size of your church. The method is very practical, has been used in Searcy's own church, and lays out its rationale very clearly. The book is fairly well written, and will be of use to many churches who are healthy but stuck at a size barrier and wishing to break through.

I have enjoyed Searcy's other books like Activate: An Entirely New Approach to Small Groups, Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church, and Launch: Starting a New Church from Scratch, which are also very pragmatic books seeking to help leaders do a good job with their systems for small groups, first impressions, and church planting. Searcy is definitely a 'systems thinker.' What I like about the other books is that they give very practical tips about implementing things that are very healthy and appropriate for most churches. (See my earlier reviews for Fusion and Activate)

Yet I don't feel the same enthusiasm for Ignite. While he does not intentionally minimize the role of the Holy Spirit, and notes that God wants to reach people far more than we do, the book still comes across as a paint-by-numbers approach to manufacturing growth by human means. He says that both attractional and incarnational approaches to outreach work well and that he advocates doing both, this is a 100% come-to-us approach to evangelism. The material really isn't that new if you're already familiar with the purpose driven church model and the teaching of Rick Warren (which also thinks highly of big days). One issue I have with this book's approach is that it really has a goal of growth, as opposed to a goal of health. In every discussion of big days and church growth I've heard from Saddleback it's been very clear that the goal is church health, and the natural result (if your structure doesn't interfere) is growth - but you never make growth itself your target. When the table of contents talks about equipping the people for evangelism and giving them the tools they need to succeed, I was really hoping for more than 'invite postcards'.

The book describes how big days and the buzz and momentum that come from it can attract more visitors. What is not discussed at all are the reasons why the people would choose to stay. For your limited budget and energy, do you want to invest in mailings and big events and attendance numbers, or do you want to invest in people and disciple-making that show the difference it makes to be a fully devoted follower of Christ. (If you're doing the latter well and want to know how to do the former, this book is for you.) Again, the book and methods aren't bad in themselves - if read and followed with a great attitude seeking to honor God, reach the lost, and be a part of God building a healthy church, then your church may find benefit from this. But more likely the church that is "stuck" and not growing may have a deeper and more spiritual reason that is not best addressed by Ignite.

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