The local church is the hope of the world – Bill Hybels, Willow Creek Community Church
Mike Durall has written a very useful book for anyone who dares to take the above statement seriously. In particular it is a useful book for established churches that find themselves stuck, yet still have hope that their church can be an outpost of hope, grace, and real meaningful change.
The book is entitled “The Church we Yearn For” with the bold subtitle of “The Search for a New Minister as a Revolutionary Event in the Life and Times of Your Congregation.”
As the title suggests, this book is centered around the period of time when a congregation goes through the process of searching for and calling their next settled minister. As a pastor involved with interim ministry I have found it to be a great book to have the church I’m serving read. The content of the book is well laid out, and has that most important quality of being informative without being threatening. It gives insight into not only the search process itself, but also good information for congregants to analyze their own situation and what a creative future might look like.
I also found that church members responded well to the parts that described search and settlement from a minister’s point of view. This is something that most congregants don’t give a lot of thought (why should they?) but the assumptions about clergy can have a make or break effect on congregational life. One of the assumptions that he challenges right of the bat comes in the introduction:
I believe the search for compliant ministers is a primary reason why mainline protestantism is faltering in America today.
The book paints a compelling choice that congregations’ encounter in the search process. The choice is between finding someone who “fits” the congregational culture as it has been versus choosing the minister that can lead the church into the future. I would agree with Durall’s analysis that for most established churches this tension between the comfort of what is, even if it’s apparent that it’s not working, and the choice to step boldly into a visionary future paralyzes most congregations. Like many of the issues facing our established churches, the choice seems obvious from the outside, but inside the web of relationships and feelings the answers seem almost invisible. Helping churches understand and own the invisible assumptions is one of the foremost leadership challenges of the day.
I recommend this book to any congregation seeking to make the invisible visible.