Review of "Churches that make a Difference"

This book was written to church congregations to help in developing more effective holistic ministries. Two characteristics are the focus of this book, one is the characteristics of a holistic congregation and the stages of holistic ministry development. The holistic congregation is one that is spirit-filled and ministers outside of the church walls. Chapter 1:

This chapter is about what the holistic ministry looks like. The author used an example of a church in Philadelphia that was a warm church where the people greeted each other and shared testimonies of how the church helped them with food, clothes, etc. The rest of the chapter gives examples of churches that reach out to the lost the way Jesus would do. The churches should meet people’s physical and spiritual needs to be effective for the Kingdom.

Chapter 2:

Holistic Christians love not only in “word or speech, but in word and deed.” This describes what the chapter is explaining. This chapter focused on sharing the good news with good works. The example of Jesus was focused on, how He set the ultimate example of servant leadership. Jesus said, “As the Father has sent Me, so I send you.” That is the focal message of out relationship to ministry in church. The church should respect and love people and see their needs like Jesus would, meet their needs, share the gospel and disciple those to live for Jesus.

Chapter 3:

This chapter was about evangelism and how to make it the central focus of the congregation. The church should say, “everything we do is evangelism.” One of the key aspects of biblical evangelism is ministering by word and deed. The author talked about how the ultimate goal of evangelism is to make disciples. One example of holistic evangelism was a church had a HIV ministry, where they met their physical needs along with their spiritual needs. Evangelism types discussed in this chapter include: network evangelism, contact evangelism, and service evangelism. All three of these complete the witnessing command we have from Scripture. Another part of the chapter talks about how we need to communicate the gospel message in a new way, but the message never changes. One way would be to use audio/video technology to display and communicate the gospel to the people. The author talked about how to train a church in holistic evangelism to be effective in their community. The overarching principle of evangelism is sharing the truth in love, knowing your audience, sharing the law and Jesus will effectively make a difference.

Chapter 4:

This chapter was on “embracing social action from relief to public policy.” It talks about kinds of social ministries, they include: relief, individual development, community development, and structural change ministries. The housing helps the homeless and how it opens up avenues to share Jesus. The under-employment helps in giving food and clothes closets. It also helps in GED and job training, it also helps in building homes for people who are less fortunate. The family crisis involves parental helps, counseling and places for children to be taught for after-school. The health ministry includes: immunizations, vouchers for medicine. All of these help meet people’s physical needs, that is what Jesus did in His earthly ministry, so we ought to do the same. The one key to holistic ministry is that is ongoing, it is not just a one time event. The author went onto explain how to change your churches ministry to reach out in these ways. This chapter was a great read on how the church can be an avenue of meeting their needs first, and then reaching out to their souls with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Chapter 5:

This chapter was on “integrating evangelism and social outreach.” This chapter talks in detail of the ways to put together social outreach and evangelism so that they gell together into one. The author discussed five ways of incorporating a religious dimension into social service: Passive, which are the spiritual truths that are expressed through modeling. Invitational, which is like having a meal and then a evangelistic message following the meal. Relational is about building friendships by meeting people by their hobbies or similarities and over time, using it to share Jesus with them. Integrated-optional approach is about how to reach out to international students. The fifth is integrated-mandatory, which is like substance-abuse centers and along with the program they are to hear the gospel, along with the help the ministry provides. The approach that this chapter takes would revolutionize churches to reach the lost with the gospel, it was a good chapter.

Chapter 6: This chapter was on the “divine love and power for outreach ministry.” This chapter talked about how we should love God and also out neighbor. The whole emphasis is that if we do not love God, then we will not love people. We must stay healthy as we do holistic ministry, or we will burn out and not be able to complete our mission. Prayer is the most important aspect of having the Holy Spirit to empower us to reach the lost. The key for transformation for mission work is prayer, Bible study and meditation. Christians in churches must first submit to God with their lives, and allow Him to use us as instruments by His love by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Chapter 7: This chapter was on “A commitment to community outreach.” This chapter discussed how churches often have a lop-sided view on the mission of the church. Evangelism can be the focus or actual hands-on ministry, but no balance. One quote that stood out to me was, “God is a missionary God…There is a church because there is a mission, not vice versa.” God gave us the mission, we must carry it out effectively to see God glorified. There are some boundaries that separate community and church. Spiritual boundaries, geographical boundaries, demographical and cultural, class and race, and “church culture”, and also physical boundaries. The churches job is to build a bridge in between these boundaries and reach out like Jesus. A church that proclaims, “we are for the world”, then the church can fulfill its biblical calling.

Chapter 8: This chapter was on “a healthy congregational base for ministry.” This chapter is on how many churches jump into figuring out the “how” of ministry, but who they are as a body of believers. One struggle in churches is balancing nurture and outreach. The job of church leaders is to equip the believers to do the work of the ministry. The holistic ministry must stand firmly on the Bible in all is ways of ministry. Effective holistic ministry does depend on uplifting worship, sound discipleship, and loving fellowship within the congregation. When these three parts come together the church will be effective in reaching out in a biblical, holistic way.

Chapter 9: This chapter was on “church leadership for holistic ministry.” This chapter was about the qualities for leadership for holistic ministry. You must be a committed disciple, have a contagious love for God, must have faith, humility, flexibility, vision, ability build up people, able to serve, ability connect with people, and maintain perspective. All of these make up a true follower of Christ in areas that will affect their witness. The author used Moses as an example of how he took all of the ministry on himself, until he learned how to hand it off to others. Churches need people who are growing in their relationship with Christ and have a passion to share Christ’s love with the lost and hurting.

Chapter 10: This chapter was on “a ministry-centered organizational structure.” The church must have a skeleton of for planning and implementing the ministry. Three warnings for unhealthy ministry was a lack of organization. Secondly, an overemphasis on structure and efficiency as the goal, rather than a means to an end. Thirdly, the church is efficiently organized to serve as a purpose, but it is the wrong purpose. The chapter then goes onto teach how to organize a holistic ministry. Communication is vital in the health of holistic ministry, without it a lot of aggravation and time is not spent. Without a structure and a plan a ministry will not last. When a ministry has the leadership on the same page, harnessed the people’s power and grows, God will be glorified.

Chapter 11:  This chapter was on “ministry partnerships.” Many churches need to come to the realization that they can not do all the work of the ministry by themselves. This chapter discussed how we should partner up with other churches in holistic ministry. Some practical reasons include: resources, expands the opportunity to form evangelistic relationships, prevents duplicating services, also cooperation is key to being more effective. Theological reasons include: the larger work of the kingdom, using diversity as a tool for witnessing with different congregations, also the churches will embody servant-hood to the community. Partnering with other churches goes against usual church happenings, but when they do they will reach their community with Jesus more effectively and model humility in having help to carry out the ministry.

Chapter 12: This chapter was on “developing a holistic ministry vision for your context.” This chapter includes three steps in developing a plan for the church’s holistic mission. They are identifying your church’s unique character by studying the congregation. Studying the congregation is getting to know the people and what they like/dislike. Many times you ask the question, “who are we?” It helps in identifying who they are in Christ. Another important part is studying the community. You have to know who your audience is and how to effectively minister to them. You must bathe the area in prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to do a work in the people’s hearts and lives so they will be fertile to the gospel. Holistic ministry is God’s ultimate plan and promise for every church and community. The church ultimately must rely and trust on the Holy Spirit to empower them to be lights in the dark world.

Chapter 13: This chapter was on “rallying support for the vision.” This chapter discussed how to get all the nuts and bolts together of the ministry after the people are fired up to do the work. The church must implement the vision in Bible studies, preaching, worship and all other aspects of the church. You must also communicate the vision in many ways that can be effective, through powerpoint, videos, stories and music. The key for church is to start somewhere, even if they haven’t ministered in past years. Prayer must be a focal point of the church and how it ministers to the lost. When the congregation rallies around the leaders who have a vision, then they will succeed in carrying it out with the Lord’s strength.

Chapter 14: The last chapter is about “dealing with fears, change, and conflict in your congregation.” This chapter concludes the book by explaining how holistic ministry is not easy. It is very costly with money and time, but it also is very satisfying for people who humble themselves and reach the lost. Jesus’ goal of coming to earth was to “seek and save that which was lost.” Holistic ministry is just that, it has its hardships and downsides, but in the end it will glorify the name of Jesus. The church must accept conflict and know how to deal with it. If the church is committed to the Lord, conflict and problems will not derail God’s ultimate plan for the church. Paul was confident when he said, “that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ” Phil 4:6.

This book was well written and had many great points on how to have a holistic ministry. The author completed his thoughts in a well-written way and made his points come across clearly and balanced. The purpose of the book was about churches that make a difference, he never left his ultimate purpose, so it was easy to follow and read. This book is a must have for church leaders who are either starting out or older ones that need a refreshing look at holistic ministry and how to bring it about and keep it going.

Ten "takeaways' from this book:

1.     Meeting people’s needs physically and spiritually

2.     Blending word and deed in ministry

3.     Developing life-long relationships with people and welcoming them into the church fellowship

4.     The church is equip and organize believers for ministry and builds them up with using their spiritual gifts.

5.     Unity in ministry is key to having a successful, balanced holistic ministry.

6.     Develop people who are mission-minded by building bridges of belonging and love with the community.

7.     Seeking the Lord in prayer and waiting on the Holy Spirit’s guidance

8.     Have a healthy balance of worship, discipleship, and internal nurture in the church.

9.     Identify leaders and train them to teach others how to reach the next generation.

10.  Always seek God’s guidance in everything, always ask “why are we doing this”, so the ministry stays on track with Scripture.