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Breakout Churches: Discover How To Make The Leap Hardcover – January 9, 2005

4.6 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

From the subtitle to the research methods, this is a book-length, church-focused homage to Jim Collins's business bestseller Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't. Rainer, a dean at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and president of a church consulting firm, sent a Collins-inspired team of researchers to pore through previously collected data on "effective evangelistic churches." The team was looking for churches that had gone through a period of stagnation before experiencing a "breakout" period of vitality, measured largely through membership growth—while keeping the same pastoral leadership. These criteria excluded both churches that had grown consistently or churches that grew after changing pastors. Of the 50,000 churches in the seminary's database, only 13 qualified. Rainer seeks to identify the secret of those churches' success and draws some telling comparisons with similar churches that were in gradual decline (and persistent denial). But his conclusions are consistently tainted by what statisticians call "post hoc bias"—there is no way to prove that the factors he identifies, which track closely with Collins's conclusions, were responsible for these churches' growth. The real value of this book is the hope Rainer instills that even churches that appear moribund can see remarkable change—if their leaders are willing, in Rainer's words, to "confront reality." (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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'...a refreshingly candid overview....A great read.' (enrichment)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan; First edition (January 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031025745X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310257455
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #754,017 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I must start by saying that I am not an advocate of what is typically known as the "Church Growth Movement." However, I believe "Breakout Churches" breaks all the molds of this genre of books. What the remarkable research of this book has demonstrated is simple and yet profound in our day: Church growth is directly related to the godly passion of its leadership and not to the promotion of pragmatic strategies.

Several things struck me about the results of the research Rainer's team did. The churches that experienced phenomenal growth - not just adding new believers to its ranks in revival like fashion, but seeing these believers mature into stable godly Christians and functioning members of the body - they did so by being singularly focused on the fundamentals of NT Christianity. First of all, they did not grow over night. The average tenure of the pastors of the breakout churches was 21.6 yrs. vs. less than 4 yrs. for the average American pastor. Secondly, each church had to face a crisis within the church, overcoming obstacles from members who opposed the vision of the leadership. This often led to painful splits and left scars upon the pastoral leadership. The differences between these pastors and those found in comparable situations (note that research was done in comparison churches that experinced no growth but plateaued or were declining) was the "breakout" Pastors endured these difficult times, yet never lost their sense of God-called purpose to lead the church. In contrast, the comparison pastors sought to avoid conflict altogether or leave for greener pastures (which rarely turn out to be greener). Hats go off to these men who endured difficulties some times for years, yet did so with a determination to never give up but to trust God with their ministries.
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Format: Hardcover
I loved this book, and not just because I'm in one of the churches reviewed. I thought one of the most fascinating things they document is how members and staff in plateaued or declining churches all go on about how awesome their church is doing, and how many people they're winning. They are completely out of touch with the fact that the church has lost vitality. Why? Probably because the leadership is engaged in propaganda with their own people, too scared to tell them the truth.

It is scary to confront your church with truth when you are failing. I've been there. Especially as the lead pastor, you have to point out that your church stinks in terms of accomplishing your mission, when guess who is the leader! However, that's what they need to know, and that's the only way to get things turned around.

Many thought-provoking and practical lessons in this book.
-Dennis McCallum, author Organic Disciplemaking: How to promote Christian leadership development through personal relationships, biblical discipleship, mentoring, and Christian community
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Format: Hardcover
I've thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and the research brought forth principles which many other books on church growth do not show, together with the reality checks that Rainer brought forth. In fact, some portions of the book would be difficult to write about, and even Rainer admits to it, because it shows the ugly side of church, and that most of the problems which prvents a church from being a breakout church happens internally. Rainer was careful not to make this book appear as a step-by-step approach for churches to break out, and despite the principles that are stated, there is a recognition that great churches are great only because of the power of a great God! This book also does not imply that great churches are always big churches, but great churches do grow. Churches are never plateaued, but are always either growing or declining, as the research shows.

"Great churches were, in our study, churches that had broken out of the mediocrity of losing as many people as they were reaching. They were churches that had become outwardly focused, more intentional about evangelism than before." (pg. 189) Rainer also used the comparison churches who were not categorized as breakout churches constantly to show the difference in principles and perspectives.

Even though the definition of breakout churches may be a bit narrow (e.g. that it has to be the same senior leader that leads the churches to breakout, meaning that if there is a change in the senior leader, it whould not be considered a breakout church), the principles apply the same. What is important in this research is describing some of the processes that senior leaders of stagnant and declining churches go through, what they realized and learnt from God and their circumstances, having a never-say-die spirit, and to forge ahead a dream that God had put in their hearts for a great church!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I will start with my only two complaints: first, the text proofing in this book is atrocious. Missing spaces caused words to run together, mainly at the sentence ending punctuation. I use both a Kindle for PC app and a smartphone Kindle app so this may be a function of the conversion software, but it should have been reviewed and corrected. Second, the charts, as they appear on the smartphone Kindle app are unreadable as they do not resize. Changing text size does not help.
My reason for reading this book is that our family is intimately involved with our church and has been for many years. We feel that we are in that critical time when hard decisions have to be made and this book addresses the process and the pain that is involved in turning that decline around. Some churches will face the process and accept the pain involved, most will not and slowly continue to die.
This book is outstanding in its study of why few churches are able to overcome their static or declining congregation. They provide a solid research model, large sample size and strict criteria for the churches studied. Their use of three comparable churches for each "breakout" church identified offers a background against which they can determine differences between the two groups of churches.
Their conclusions are presented clearly and concisely, with the main conclusion so impactful that it alone was worth the price. That conclusion is that to be be successful, the focus of any particular church should be that area where the pastor's passion intersects with the congregation's giftings and the community's needs. If this criteria is not met, much time, effort and money is wasted that could be focused on the reason that God has brought that pastor and congregation together in that community.
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