My rating: 5 of 5 stars
There are lots of programs out on the market to make your congregation hot, hip and huge. The unfortunate side of these approaches is that (1) they function mechanistically, "Our product worked on the East Coast in an upscale New England city, it'll work wherever you are. Just follow our twenty-seven DIY steps exactly." (2) And each project also promotes, or assumes, a specific theology about Church, Christian Sacraments, Worship, and even Eschatology. You can read more about these two downsides here if you are so inclined: (http://mphilliber.blogspot.com/search...).
That's what makes "Church Unique" unique. Will Mancini, a former pastor and now founder and consultant of Auxano, takes a fresher and healthier stance in this 271 page hardback. He has pulled together some helpful tools and strategies that respect particular congregations' specific theologies. To put it simply, the author accepts that each congregation, with their liturgy, denominational connections, theology, doctrinal distinctives and so forth, has a unique place within God's larger Kingdom; and that it needs to find that unique, God-gifted role; capitalize on it and allow it to shape, drive, and define an individual church. Mancini posits some great, clarifying questions that are useful. And throughout the book I never felt pressured to throw off any of our historically distinct doctrinal, theological or liturgical positions to become squeezed into the "successful church over there" mold.
"Church Unique" is stuffed full of ideas, walking the reader step-by-step through each part of the vision pathway. One's head almost swims and spins in some confusion from the amount of information. The mantra "less is more, and more is less" (pounded all the way through the book) doesn't appear to have shaped the way the book was written. Nevertheless, there's quite a bit of worthwhile thinking that went into this volume, and that one can take away from it. I used some of the material in a recent Elder-Deacon retreat where we began thinking about our congregation's specific place within God's larger world rescue operation. I found it a challenging, thought-provoking and prayer-informing work. As long as you don't feel obligated to embrace every ounce of the author's strategy, then I highly recommend the book.
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