Every pastor who cares about evangelism should read this book. By far it is the most comprehensive book on how to grow a church I have read. The author surveyed and interviewed the pastors of over 500 churches to determine what works, and what doesnt work. Rainer doesnt waste our time, but starts off by documenting ten surprises he uncovered about effective evangelistic churches. In a nutshell, much of what has been promulgated by the church growth moment is wrong. Such things as event evangelism, revivals, and traditional outreach programs are still very effective, whereas some of the newly touted methodologies such as weekday ministries (childcare, MOPS, etc) are not. The two chapters that I appreciated the most were Chapter 5 (The Sunday School Factor) and Chapter 11 (Miscellaneous Matters and Important Lessons). In them I learned that Sunday is not dead (once again, contrary to the mantra of many church growth experts) and that pastoral leadership is essential if a church is going to be evangelistically effective and that leadership cannot be delegated.
Right off the bat, Rainer addresses the methodology issue. Most pastors, myself included, were or are looking for the magic bullet, the one methodology that will change our churches. The author points out that methodology is secondary to intentionality. Just about any methodology will work if diligently pursued.
There are some weaknesses. How in the world can a church with under 100 in attendance be considered evangelistically effective? Sure they may baptize twenty-six people in a given year, but if they continued this for more than one year their attendance would increase to over 100. Perhaps these small churches have evangelistic effective pastors. I would have not included any church in the survey that wasnt evangelistic effective for at least three years. Also, there is another factor that colors this book: only Baptist churches were surveyed. This taints the authors research on such topics as worship. It was no surprise to me that the vast majority of Baptist churches use blended or traditional worship services. The problem is that some unsuspecting readers may assume that only blended or traditional worship services are evangelistically effective. Despite these minor flaws, this is a wonderful book. My only regret is that I didnt read it seven years ago when it was first published.
This book shows Southern Baptist Churches across the country that have been effective in the past years at evangelism and church growth. It is very good if you would like to look more into what an effective church is.