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What Makes Churches Grow? Vision & practice in effective mission

Author: Bob Jackson
Published By: Church House Publishing (London)
Pages: 299
Price: £16.99
ISBN: 978 0 7151 4474 9

Reviewed by Paul Beasley-Murray.

Church Growth is back on the agenda – but not the 1970s variety from the USA, but rather the new style espoused by the Church of England. Already in Ministry Today, we have reviewed Church Growth in Britain (Ashgate 2012) and Towards a Theology of Church Growth (Ashgate 2015), collections of essays both edited by David Goodhew of Cranmer Hall, Durham. Now Bob Jackson, Director of the Church Growth Centre attached to St John’s College, Nottingham, has written a stimulating analysis of Anglican church growth from which every pastor of whatever denomination could learn.

It is a book full of hope and new life – and statistics: “It’s about how the Church of England is growing under the radar of the media, the critics and, sometimes, the bishops”. How should we assess the size and growth of a church?  “By the number of its people, the depth of its faith, and the power of its ministry… Healthy growth comes in holiness, effectiveness and numbers all together”. Who could quibble about that?

God apart, ultimately church growth is down to leadership, but if leaders are to grow churches, then they need to be growing themselves:

“Church leaders have little hope of stimulating spiritual growth in others if it is not happening to them. If the vicar is tired, jaded and stuck they are of little help to the others. Leaders owe it to the whole church to keep on refreshing their own spiritual journey, to have a spiritual director, to read demanding books, to talk at depth with each other, to find new ministries, to recharge their own physical and emotional batteries, so that they can lead and inspire rather than simply go through the motions.”

This in turn surely means that they need to subscribe to Ministry Today and come along to the annual Ministry Today consultation!

According to Jackson, leaders don’t have to be ordained or paid. Instead of multi-benefices, he argues for a ‘focal’ minister in every church. What is more, “The cure of souls is not to be vested in the focal minister, but in the whole local church community.  The role of the focal minister is to lead the mission of the church and galvanize the ministry of all”. Training will have to be given to focal leaders, but not the traditional training provided by a theological college – rather training needs “to equip for mission rather than ecclesiastical promotion”.

The book abounds in quotable quotes: “Postmoderns treat churches like helicopters. They keep their distance for fear of being sucked in by the rotas”! Or what about his emphasis on the need for “a new sacramentalism driven by people passionate about baptizing new believers. This is the primary sacrament. The Eucharist feeds members of the body of Christ, but baptism creates them.” Not even a Baptist could have said it better!

This is a book I could not put down until I had finished it. It is a deeply challenging and highly practical book, and full of hope.

Paul Beasley-Murray

Senior Minister of Central Baptist Church, Chelmsford<br>and Chair of Ministry Today

Ministry Today

You are reading Issue 65 of Ministry Today, published in November 2015.

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Ministry Today aims to provide a supportive resource for all in Christian leadership so that they may survive, grow, develop and become more effective in the ministry to which Christ has called them.

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