Review: Make or Break Your Church in 365 Days

July 10th, 2012

Paul Borden writes as someone who knows, or rather, as someone who has learned the hard way, all that is truly involved in church renewal. As Executive Minister of Growing Healthy Churches, he has worked as consultant, judicatory leader, large-church pastor and professor of homiletics. Drawing on his direct personal experience and his vast work as a consultant, Borden has distilled in Make or Break Your Church in 365 Days: A Daily Guide to Leading Effective Change a plan for beginning a new pastorate or for new beginnings in a pastorate already underway with an eye, a heart, a passion and a strategy for renewal.

The title is a bit misleading, implying as it does a missal of 365 tips for leading effective change, one for each day of the year. What Borden presents instead is something far more comprehensive and foundational. Borden starts with the assumption that being called to serve God in a leadership role requires hard work, discipline, wisdom, strategy, perseverance, and mentoring from effective pastors in the field. And for this work, he observes, most pastors are not prepared.

This is a book for pastors just starting out, for pastors who have picked up bits and pieces of what church renewal entails, and for pastors who know the ground has shifted underneath them and find themselves ill-equipped to lead the church into renewal and effective change. To put it another way, this is a book for all conscientious, faithful pastors who feel God’s tug into a vital future serving God’s people. For Borden maintains that short of the good fortune of learning from an experienced mentor, most pastors are not equipped for the work to which they are called, the work their denomination and their congregations now expect of them. This book is designed to help fill that void by helping pastors who feel the call but ask themselves how in the world to go about actually doing it.

Borden covers all the bases—prayer, sermon preparation and delivery, worship planning and evaluation, money, facilities, knowing the community, dealing with sacred cows, developing leaders, keeping the vision front and center. He offers a weekly time management plan, giving a suggested schedule for each day of the week to help the pastor stay grounded in the Word and focused on the vision. This is bracing for pastors who so often unintentionally fall into patters of reaction and of responding to presented needs. He also challenges pastors who “need to be needed” to be self-directed and to stay vision-focused. This book offers a needed challenge to the ever-pervasive temptation of sloth and complacency.

Nevertheless, a few cautions should be noted. Borden’s approach, like others who so strongly focus on the role of the clergy leader, tends to veer dangerously towards pride and hubris. He does recommend cultivating a group to pray with and for the pastor, but fails to point to peer accountability groups which provide settings for correction, confession and perspective. And, while referring to both male and female pastors, this approach appears to assume a very active spouse carrying much of the responsibilities of home and family. The few hours of family time here and there which he builds into the suggested work week of the pastor do not begin to cover the actual demands of child-rearing, home-making, a sustaining a vital marriage.

Read this book not as a bible but as a guidebook for the journey. As Borden says, this ministry is not for the fainthearted, but in the end it is God who has promised to take the offering of our faithful work and grow the church.

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