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The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church Hardcover – October 3, 2003

4.5 out of 5 stars 85 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"This is the most courageous book I have ever read on church life. McNeal nails the problem on the head. Be prepared to be turned upside down and shaken loose of all your old notions of what church is and should be in today's world."
— George Cladis, senior pastor, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Oklahoma City and author, Leading the Team-Based Church

"With humor and rare honesty Reggie McNeal challenges church leaders to take authentic Christianity back into the real world. He's asking the right questions to help us get back on track."
— Tommy Coomes, contemporary Christian music pioneer and record producer, artist with Franklin Graham Ministries

"Reggie McNeal throws a lifeline to church leaders who are struggling with consumer-oriented congregations wanting church for themselves. The Present Future will recharge you passion."
— Rev. Robert R. Cushman, senior pastor, Princeton Alliance Church, Plainsboro, New Jersey

"Christian leaders will find great questions being answered in this compelling and motivating work that unwraps what he calls 'the realities of the present future' in the church today."
— Kelvin Gardiner, district superintendent, Christian and Missionary Alliance.

"The momentum of God that allows visionary ministries to experience exponential growth stalls for the lack of great management (having the right systems and people in place to move to the next level). This is a must read for the young entrepreneur at the beginning of ministry or the seasoned pioneer!"
— Mike Slaughter, senior pastor, Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church, Tipp City Ohio

"I would highly recommend this book to any person interested in the current state of the Church in North America and the future of that Church. It is time that we pay attention to the realities of our ministry context and like David's 'Men of Issachar' discern the right path into the future."
— Rick E. Morrow, pastoral care coordinator, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Ft. Bragg, North Carolina

"This book is a rare find in which McNeal lovingly challenges the church with a spirit of adventure and rediscovery."
— The Rt. Rev. Charles Jenkins, Bishop, The Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana

From the Inside Flap

Many of the old beliefs held by church leaders and congregations read as if they are self-evident, irrefutable truths – If you build the perfect church they will come . . . Growing your church automatically makes a difference in the community . . . Developing better church members will mean better evangelism . . . Time has failed to produce the evidence of these claims.

In this provocative book, author, consultant, and church leadership developer Reggie McNeal debunks these and other old assumptions and provides an overall strategy to help church leaders move forward in an entirely different and much more effective way. In The Present Future, McNeal identifies the six most important realities that church leaders must address including: recapturing the spirit of Christianity and replacing "church growth" with a wider vision of kingdom growth; developing disciples instead of church members; fostering the rise of a new apostolic leadership; focusing on spiritual formation rather than church programs; and shifting from prediction and planning to preparation for the challenges of an uncertain world. McNeal contends that by changing the questions church leaders ask themselves about their congregations and their plans, they can frame the core issues and approach the future with new eyes, new purpose, and new ideas.

Written for congregational leaders, pastors, and staff leaders, The Present Future captures the urgency of a future that is literally now upon us, in a thoughtful, vigorous way. It is filled with examples of leaders and churches who are emerging into a new identity and purpose, and rediscovering the focus of their mission within new spiritual dimensions.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 151 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (October 3, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0787965685
  • ISBN-13: 978-0787965686
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #703,504 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Brian Prucey on April 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase

With the writing of The Present Future, Reggie McNeal lent his voice to a rising chorus in American Christianity warning that traditional church growth and development strategies are no longer effective. He posited that over the past hundred years or more, the church adopted an organization and operational model consistent with the needs and expectations of modernism. With the cultural shift toward postmodernism, the expectations of the North American society have changed regarding established institutions like the church. However, the church has largely failed to recognize the influence postmodernism has had on the decline of the church. McNeal theorized that the church must force itself to recognize where the culture is and where it is heading in the future. American Christianity must then adopt strategies that best translate the timeless Gospel message into the language of the culture without compromising essential doctrinal truths. To help church leaders in this process, McNeal presented what he considered the six new realities arising from the advent of the postmodernism. His examination of these new realities provided opportunities for serious reflections on any future strategies of the church.

Critical Analysis of Strengths and Weaknesses

McNeal's first new reality of the changed culture is the imminent collapse of the modern manifestation of the church. He did not suggest that the church as a spiritual entity is dead. He suggested the cultural expression of the organizational church is dying and the obituary is already written. The builder generation is passing away. Those in generations X and Y, along with the more recent millenniums, no longer see the relevance of the church.
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Format: Hardcover
There was so much good stuff in this book, that I could practically underline everything I read. I was constantly shaking my head in silent laughter while at the same time nodding assent to the assertions made that how we Christians 'do church' must be re-evaluated and how that some long-held assumptions must be discarded.

As a staunch local church advocate, it would have been easy, at first, to label the author as a loose-cannon with an authority problem (the pharisee within me was saying what's wrong with the way we do church ?? - the church in America has been cranking along just fine, thank you very much, for the last 200 years - why should we change ??)... but there's no denying that the church in America is changing - the younger generation does not learn the same way or see life in exactly the same light as do their grandfathers, yet we blindly 'do church' the same way we did it 50-60 years ago. By the way, how's that been working for ya?? Perhaps some will say it works just fine, but many of us are not finding that to be true.

We tend to get wrapped around the axle with making the church grow (all to God's glory, of course - and it looks good on the resume) and making good church members (here's your new member packet detailing all the essentials you'll need to know on being a productive, obedient church member) verses encouraging members of the kingdom to have a vibrant love-relationship with Jesus, help them develop the gifts God has given them, and then turn them loose on the culture at large.

No, we 'church people' initially tell them to "come just as you are", but once they're are in the church, we'll strap them with rules, regulations & obligations (i.e. attend all services & don't forget tithing!!).
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Format: Hardcover
I love this book. I ask my entire mission and worship committee to read it and had the name and ISBN # printed in our church news letter for the rest of the congregation. The author doesn't mince words. He wants to stop judging the success or failure of our churches and missions by the number of attendees. Stop talking the talk- without walking the walk. Stop trying to "fill the pews" and instead go out and show people what it means to have a personal relationship with the creator, God, Lord of all.

The congregations in my region have been contemplating consolidating into one church building. This would allow them to put their people and money and efforts into one "pot" and thus offer more diverse programs, etc. I felt in my heart that this was not a good idea. "The Present Future" came into my hands during the period of time when I was praying for guidance on this issue. Mr. McNeal spoke to my concerns, and helped me see a new perspective. Suddenly I was able to see the,"cruise ship" mentality that a big church offers, with coffee shops, work-out areas, and varieties of programs and entertainment. The "church " becomes about the members and not about God.

He talks about the "cruise ship" churches taking members from the smaller churches,("fishing from the same bathtub", as one minister in our area calls it). Mr. McNeal speaks to becoming missional churches. Going to where the people are, rather than wanting them to come to the church. He urges us to stop using "church speak" that an unchurched christian might not understand.

It was in one of his first chapters when he talked of Christians who were leaving their churches to "preserve" their christianity that I realized this was an important book. I highly suggest reading,"The Present Future" as a resource for real christian, missional church growth.
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