Book Review: Renovation of the Church
By: Kent Carlson and Mike Lueken
Publisher: InterVarsity Press ISBN: 9780830835461
This book showed up on my radar a few weeks back with an advanced reading copy (bound transcript form) from InterVarsity Press. At the time I had quite a few books that were on my “to read” list that preceded Renovation of the Church, so I skimmed it, made a few notes, and put it aside for later reading.
One of the reasons that I have “quite a few books” on my reading list is the season of my spiritual journey. The past couple of years have been rather intense with the direction that I have sensed God leading me, and my quest for answers and guidance has resulted in much reading, listening, and prayerful contemplation. Skimming through Renovation gave me the impression that I had already gleaned the information that it offered to me. That was presumptuous of me.
A couple days ago I saw a brief review on a popular blogsite I frequent of Carlson and Lueken’s book and was reminded of my transcript copy. I went to my bookshelf and retrieved the book with the intentions of reading the highlighted chapters noted in the review. Coincidentally, a few hours later this same day, a fully edited copy of Renovation of the Church arrived on my doorstep for review. I thought; “Maybe I should read the whole book.” I sat down this morning and read Renovation from cover to cover.
To say that this book was a timely read for me would be an understatement. As I mentioned earlier, I have been on a spiritual pilgrimage of sorts for the past couple of years (I am a pastor) trying to redefine the ministry of helping to “make disciples” as Jesus has instructed us. I resigned from my pastoral position almost a year ago because of a sense of disconnect over issues of spiritual formation in my local church setting; the subtitle of Renovation of the Church is “What happens when a seeker church discovers spiritual formation.” It was with this frame of mind that I sat down to read the book.
The first few chapters of the book provide some needed back-story, but transitions quickly to the meat of the story and the mission shift of Oak Hills Church. I found my own journey intersecting with the journeys of the authors repeatedly and received affirmation and encouragement in the direction and path I have taken in the past year or so. I needed this book.
I was also very encouraged with the transparency of the retelling of the Oak Hills transformation. The impression I got of the authors was one of humility and genuine love for the Church. I appreciated the honesty in the stories shared. Significant challenges were discussed and reviewed from a “real-time” perspective as well as reflective assessment. These challenges were the transition process itself, rethinking the gospel, and some of the logistical and organizational difficulties encountered in the existing structures and programs. Chapters nine through eleven discussed and shared some of the implementation and tangible practices the Oak Hills community experienced in pursuing their transformation from an attractional model church to a formational-missional community. These experiences were very insightful to me and will prove themselves to be invaluable I am sure. The final chapter, twelve, was a reflection of mistakes and “what we might have done better” review. This might be one of the most beneficial and humble expressions in the book. I found myself becoming convicted and exposed for making some of the same mistakes in dealing with people and transitional situations. I am hopeful that my heart might be healed and humbled to the same degree that I sense has occurred with the authors, Kent Carlson and Mike Lueken. I am thankful for the Oak Hills Church and their pastors for sharing this story. I am also thankful for the providence of being offered this book for review from the publicity department of IVP. This is an important book for the church in America at this moment. I am hopeful she will have ears to hear. My recommendation: a must read.
From the summary introduction:
Co-pastors Kent Carlson and Mike Lueken tell the story of how God took their thriving, consumer-oriented church and transformed it into a modest congregation of unformed believers committed to the growth of the spirit–even when it meant a decline in numbers.
As Kent and Mike found out, a decade of major change is not easy on a church. Oak Hills Church, from the pastoral staff to the congregation, had to confront addiction to personal ambition, resist consumerism, and reorient their lives around the teachings of Jesus. Their renewed focus on spiritual formation over numerical growth triggered major changes in the content of their sermons, the tenor of their worship services, and the reason for their outreach. They lost members.
But the health and spiritual depth of their church today is a testimony of God’s transforming work and enduring faithfulness to the people he pursues.
Honest and humble, this is Kent and Mike’s story of a church they love, written to inspire and challenge other churches to let God rewrite their stories as well. Read it for the church you love. InterVarsity Press, softcover, 180 pages.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Intervarsity Press to read and post a review on my site. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”