“First, in spite of wonderful stories of outward success and church growth, we believe that the church in North America is in serious trouble.” That was written by Kent Carlson and Mike Lueken, two pastors and now authors of this book: Renovation of the Church: What Happens When a Seeker Church Discovers Spiritual Formation. This book is not “another success story.” The book is their journey of pastoring the same church together — Oak Hills Church of Folsom California.
The question of the day: What are you doing to combat competition and focus on spiritual formation? Or, how much is this a struggle for you?
This book tells the story of changing the DNA of a church from an attractional model to a spiritual formation model, and they made mistakes and tell about them. “It has been a costly journey.” They lost over a thousand people in this journey. Some came back; some didn’t. This story is the story from a Willow Creek model to a spiritual formation model, and it is not critical of Willow so much as it is an indictment of the North American church. It is the story of what happens to people who grow up on the megachurch model who encounter Dallas Willard and Eugene Peterson.
“The attractional model, we believe, is fundamentally flawed and will not be able to produce in any significant way the kind of Christ followers church leaders want to produce” (26).
In the midst of building and growing a megachurch, Carlson and Lueken were reading the spiritual formation folks — Willard, Merton, Nouwen, Foster, Peterson, the desert fathers, classic spiritual masters. They realized their church structure worked against personal transformation and spiritual formation.They started all over again. They began with a series during mid week services on genuine experiences with Jesus. They changed weekend services from seeker sensitive services and they focused on the kingdom of God and spiritual formation. They ended their mid week services because they were the same as weekend. Their weekends dropped down to 750.
They shifted from Willow conferences to Renovare conferences.
The major shift occurred on how to understand the gospel. From sinners in private transactions with God it became sinners learning to become apprentices of Jesus. From “accepting” to “apprenticeship.” The pastors became spiritual directors.
Consumerism and ambition now shape church cultures — a shift from faithfulness to productivity and success. In fact, Kent Carlson writes an exceptional chp on dealing with ambition. Here are his major points:
1. Admit it.
2. Fear it.
3. Cooperate with other ministries in your community.
4. Churches need to get behind the pastor and help the competitive environment.
5. Emphasize the true nature of the church.
6. Reduce public exposure.
That’s enough … you can read the rest in the book, which I highly recommend for pastors who have figured out the attractional part but want to move to formational churches. The rest of this book has chapters on co-pastoring (insightful chp from experience), understanding fellowship of the unformed, spiritual formation, outreach and worship … and then a sketch of some mistakes they’ve made.