Easum and Bandy make excellent points regarding the difficulties of traditional churches. Who can argue with the reality of decline; the substitution for institutional maintenance for evangelism? Unfortunately their response to the challenge is gimmicky and shallow. For example, they envision "worship" consisting of chats with a holographic Jesus and Mary on the challenges of family life. Is such a retreat into entertainment the only way to reach today's generation? Is it even possible for such entertainment to be authentic worship, or have we settled for a Disneyland version of reality? The authors don't consider such questions, nor do they address the question of resources, envisioning the megachurch, with its wealth, to be the only option for the future. Current trends indicate the future is not quite so monolithic. There are other books tackling these issues with far more practical advice.
I picked up "Growing Spiritual Redwoods" not long after reading Bill Easum's "...Gourmet Burgers". Bandy and Easum continue his analysis of the problems dragging down "traditional" churches as they encounter the new century. Bandy adds a "nuts and bolts" element that was missing in "Burgers". Traditional churches have let spirituality slip while they pursue better ways of doing church work on a corporate model. The authors want us to return the focus of the church to worship and specifically "indigenous worship"... matching worship style to the community-especially the unchurched community. Many churches are surrounded by spiritual searchers who feel alienated by the "old-fashioned" music and liturgies of traditional worship. Some of their suggestions for styles and environments are hard for me to swallow, but they do encourage thoughtful consideration of how our worship styles have become as dated as knickers. I am not sure that the overwhelming sensual assault of much of modern culture is absolutely necessary to relate to the Under-30 crowd, but I can see where it could provide a way to communicate the transformative power of Jesus to the MTV generation. Beyond worship, they advocate building strong, spiritual individuals to replace the ineffective and energy wasting committee structures of the past. Church leaders become coachs, inspiring rather than directing each individual's ministry. Teams of desciples coalescing around natural leaders who share their vision will do the work of Jesus, rather than the work of the church. This is not a book of instructions, but it does point out the elements necessary to make the kind of transformation they feel is required for the survival of the larger church in the post-Christendom, pre-Christian era. Even if you disagree with the methods that Bandy and Easum suggest, this book will stimulate serious thought and conversation with others in your church community about how we do the work of our Lord.