Editor’s Note: We are introducing a new periodic blog series, with book reviews from our Transitional Director of Presbytery Ministries, the Rev. Dr. Barbara Smith. Like most of us, Barbara has a reading pile full of books of interest to others in ministry. She’s eager to share what she gained from this reading, and how your congregations might benefit.
The Presbyterian Outlook is hosting a 90-minute webinar with Nate Phillips, discussing where churches can find encouragement as we look forward and “stop doing things as usual.” Newark Presbytery will host a watch party at the Presbytery Center, if you are interested in the webinar.
DO SOMETHING ELSE: THE ROAD AHEAD FOR THE MAINLINE CHURCH
by Nate Phillips (Cascade Books, 2016)
From time to time as I have the opportunity to finish something in my reading pile, I will share my thoughts with you –
In his Forward to the book, Bruce Reyes-Chow points out that this “is NOT a book that intends to give a list of “how-to-do” church tips to save any particular faith location, but one that simply asks the question, “What if?” in order to inspire and give texture to the idea that the church is and can be so much more than we can imagine. So read this book, not as a command to go and do something specific, but as a powerful encouragement to go out and be the church in ways that are specific to the community into which it is called to serve.”
Maybe it is because I visited MATE (Mission at the Eastward) in rural Maine a number of years ago that the beginning of this book immediately captured my attention. The author – Nate Phillips – while he is now a pastor at Red Clay Presbyterian Church in Delaware – grew up in rural Maine in an old manse owned by local church. He shared his experiences of church groups showing up to “do something” with their hands. It taught Phillips that “the church can do something. For a long time, it’s done the same thing. Perhaps it’s time for it do so “something else.”
In this book, Phillips talks about different churches that have engaged in different mission, entered cooperative parish arrangements, and started new worshipping communities. All excellent food for thought, but Chapter 4 is the one that caught my attention. As I travel around the Presbytery, I hear a similar question over and over again – a question that wonders how to increase church attendance and, especially, attract young families. Maybe it’s because I’ve been read a lot of these kinds of books and heartily agree that it’s time for the church to rethink itself, that Chapter 4 has the most yellow highlighting of any other. Chapter 4 – “What We Mean When We Say ‘Church’” is actually written by Phillips’ colleague, Matthew Bruce.
A good read through and through. But the icing on the cake for me was the Study Guide at the end of the book – one study guide for each chapter. It is scriptural based and the questions are quite thought provoking.
This would be a good book for an adult study, or a visioning group!