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Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 12 Ways to Keep Yours Alive Hardcover – May 1, 2014
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The book is based on interviews Rainer conducted with representatives from 12 closed churches. Through these interviews he identified various patterns and symptoms of dying churches: lack of evangelization, a failure to budget for mission, no communal, prayer, etc.
Rainer's purpose is not just to depress us, though. As he states in the outset, his hope is that this "autopsy" will help others to identify symptoms of an unhealthy church before it becomes a crisis. To that end he includes reflection questions at the end of each chapter to help church leaders discern the "vital signs" of their communities.
The book ends with suggestions for churches in various stages of decline. Rainer does not mince words. He advocates for drastic changes in drastic circumstances, something many communities will resist. But Rainer is not concerned with comfort; he is concerned with churches communicating the Gospel effectively.
A quick note to Catholic readers: while Rainer is Baptist and some of the examples in the book have a decidedly Protestant bent, the symptoms and suggestions identified by him are just as applicable to Catholic parishes. Any diocesan or parish leader interested in healthy parish communities would do well to read and reflect on Rainer's work.
I know of several churches -- or mainly the pastors of churches -- that should have had this book a few years ago. One of them is already dead and buried, and the other one has all the symptoms of stage 4 cancer. It's just a matter of time.
An example of impending death, which is exactly what I saw in the church that died and the one that refused change and is dying: The most pervasive and common thread of our autopsies was that the deceased churches lived for a long time with the past as hero." If churches do not change with the community, they will live in the past when the surrounding community was different and the church was full. Do the faces of the people in the pews on Sunday morning mirror the faces of the surrounding community? If not, change must take place or death will occur. That is only one of the many important principles that were brought up in the book.
As a convert in the Jesus Movement of the late '60s and early '70s, I saw these principles come into play. The Gospel of the love of God and the forgiveness of sins in Christ was contextualized to those of us drenched in the '60s counter culture and the conversions were in the hundreds of thousands.
You can't go wrong by gaining the knowledge this book passes on.
It is a short read but has a powerful message. If your church is struggling, this is the book for you to read.
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It speaks to the unacknowledged reality that leadership and laity within a congregation that's currently experiencing decline should learn to identify,...Read more