I know: this is a book dealing with the church in Canada, but this review is carried in a United States journal, but the similarities of the churches on both sides of the 49th parallel keeps relevant the material written by both for both. The same questions apply to both sides: what is the role of Sunday worship? What is the place of the sacraments? What is the role of the ordained and what is the preparation required for ministry today? What are the lines of oversight and authority? (p 281).
What the book is looking for is adaptive leadership and not technical quick fixes. No single model, or searching for the latest gimmick, but dealing with the target and citing examples of ‘successful innovation’.
To there are chapters dealing with specific issues: rural possibilities, inner city dynamics, creation care, spirituality, leadership and young families. A useful approach is the sharing of information of organizations who have developed ministry options, program s and media resources. Eg there is a page of eight questions helpful in developing ‘resources for mission’ (p 266) for local congregations.
The book deals with the changes to Canadian/American culture that impacts the church. In the last 20 years, political structures have changed (eg the role of political options—the Republican party). Population has grown (largely through immigration), but the churches are small and on the fringes of power culturally. Relationship patterns have changed (eg internet). The religious landscape has shifted (secularization and pluralism). For church planting, relationships in the community are more crucial than institutional structures and paradigms.
Vern Ratzlaff is a pastor and professor of historical theology at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.