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Eating the Elephant: Leading the Established Church to Growth Paperback – August, 2003

4.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Thom S. Rainer holds the Ph.D. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he has served for over a decade as the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth. The author of 15 books and hundreds of articles, Dr. Rainer also serves as president of the Rainer Group, one of the leading church and denominational consulting firms in the nation.

Chuck Lawless serves as the senior associate dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth. A Ph.D. graduate of Southern Seminary, Chuck also served as a senior pastor for fourteen years prior to joining the faculty at the Graham School. He is also the author of Spiritual Warfare: Biblical Truth for Victory, Discipled Warriors, Making Disciples through Mentoring, and Serving in Your Church Prayer Ministry.

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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Pinnacle Pub; Rev&Updtd edition (August 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 097423060X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0974230603
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #820,327 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Brian Prucey on June 16, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The familiar adage asks, "How do you eat an elephant?" Answer: "One bite at a time." How does a pastor encourage a plateaued or declining established church to grow? Through small, incremental changes.

Such is the advice from Rainer and Lawless who chide church leaders for rushing from one quick-fix method to another searching for the right formula to bring growth. The key to facilitating growth in an established church is the willingness of the senior pastor to commit to staying for the long term. A pastor's greatest effectiveness begins around year seven. Unfortunately, most pastorates last less than four years. The book's greatest value comes from the encouraging examples of churches and pastors that stayed the course and made the necessary changes gradually over time. Don't expect any magic formula from this book; just encouragement to do the hard work most church leaders already know how to do-like pray, love, train, serve, and fight the good fight.
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After having read the first edition of this title by Thom Rainer, I was curious to see what kind of changes would be present from the input of Chuck Lawless. What I found was that the wise counsel of Rainer has become even wiser when accompanied by the spiritual warfare/prayer expertise of Lawless. The theme of this volume is that church growth principles must be implemented in a congregation slowly, over a period of time. While American churches are dying for lack of godly change, too much change too quickly can make a bad situation even worse.

This revised edition offers a much stronger emphasis on prayer, which is the bedrock of any positive congregational change. He also describes doing a prayer walk through the church's community, which hints of a spiritual warfare mindset. Again, this addition is a welcome one.

The first edition of this book was good, the revised is even better. For any pastor wanting to employ principles of church growth/health into a traditional congregation, this title is a must-read!
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If you are in an established church that continues to decline in attendance, this book will help you see you do not have to start over. Your church has the foundation, but needs to find the evangelism that once fueled the joy and celebration of a growing church. If you have been in a pastorate for 5-7 years and the trend is not good, hold steady, there is great hope! The book is full of real examples of small dieing churches that have turned it around, and practical advice on how you can lead your church toward spiritual/numerical growth.
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This work is one that I am continuing to study because it is so thought provoking. I appreciate its approach to church growth and change.
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