Rethinking The Church explores the nature of the church with a view to making the necessary changes that will ensure that the church remains relevant to our culture. The author proceeds from the foundation that much of what we do and see in today's churches is derived from 17th to 19th century culture, and as such has lost much of its relevance to our postmodern society. We need to critically examine our churches to discern to the world today and what is simply tradition holding over from days gone by.
White draws heavily on the writings of Rick Warren, Bill Hybels and George Barna: so heavily, in fact, that it often seems he has little to say that is truly original. If you have read The Purpose Driven Church and are familiar with Hybels' writings, you will find a lot of repetition in this book. Still, at only 128 pages it is an easy read and still worth your while. If you have not read books on this topic before, this makes an excellent introduction.
This book does a good job of showing the importance and, to some extent, the methodology of taking a critical look at the church to evaluate if it truly is an effective tool for God's work. I appreciated that on the whole the author treats the traditional church with respect, seeing the beauty of traditional parts of the worship service and traditional music. At the same time I appreciated his harshness on the necessity of being willing to make changes where changes are necessary.
Rethinking the Church by James Emery White is the book to read when it comes to understanding why your church is not growing. The primary strength of this book is that it asks the right questions - it leads the reader to ask the right questions about his or her church. The secondary strength of this book is that it does not prescribe one set answer, one model of doing church, as the only possible answer for the absence of growth in one's church growth.
Based on his experience of starting a church that reaches lost people, White delineates questions that need to be asked by every church. Even though the book was written in 1997, I found the questions to be accurate today. The questions White leads the reader to ask in the areas of Purpose/Vision, Evangelism, Discipleship, Ministry, Worship, Leadership Structure, and Community seem to me to be timeless questions. The value of answering these questions honestly and applying the answers thoroughly cannot be overstated.
When reading this book, the discerning reader will understand the style of worship used in White's church. The beauty of it all is that White does not try to force the worship style of his church upon the reader's church. However, he does stress the importance of using a worship style that is relevant to the lost people in your community.
I would recommend this book to everyone in church leadership. It will help you to understand the context in which you minister, and, hopefully, how to minister better in that context.