Andy Stanley and crew are masters of focus. So many of us, me included, tend to be more jacks-of-all-trades. We need to learn from 7 Practices of Effective Ministry (Multnomah, 2004). The interest-grabbing novel-like personal story with which the book opens (Part I) sets the stage for the later leadership lessons (Part II) extremely well. I love the cross-fertilization of ideas as the authors take insights received from a baseball manager and apply them very successfully to pastoral ministry.
The book’s baseball analogies and succinctness make it an easy read, at least for anyone with at least a passing interest in baseball. But the brevity does not take away from its depth of insight and leadership challenge. Brief sidebars called, “From Northpoint’s Playbook,” provide illustration and ideas without cluttering the narrative.
One of the challenging and fruitful dialogues advises “Think steps, not programs (p. 87ff.).” “When you think steps, you start by asking, ‘Where do we want people to be?’ That question is followed by a second more strategic question: ‘How are we going to get them there?’ The result is a ministry that works as a step—it has been created to lead someone somewhere. This way of thinking makes a lot of sense in the light of what the church is called to do (p. 89).” Most of us are so busy making something happen that we do not think about whether what we are creating is a step to somewhere for those who come. We just assume that participation in anything equals desirable growth. As I understand it, recent REVEAL research out of Willow Creek is showing that assumption to be patently false. This makes Andy Stanley et al.’s point not only strategic, but absolutely essential to fulfilling the great commission. Most of their points have that same kind of critical pungency.
I highly recommend this book for all pastoral leaders. It is a must read for pastoral leadership development groups such as our Wesleyan LDJ groups and for college classes preparing young ministers.