Review: Preaching for Church Transformation

February 24th, 2011

Pastor, church consultant, coach, and author Bill Easum’s latest book, Preaching for Church Transformation (Abingdon, 2010), will be most useful for pastors in new church starts or at the beginning of a new appointment. But it is also easily adaptable for a pastorate at any point along the way if the preacher is open to suggestions for congregational renewal and revitalization and senses a need for something new to happen, new joy and optimism within himself or herself, as well as in the life of the congregation. Here is encouragement to persuade, transform, and persist.

Easum’s contention is not new. Asserting that 80-90% of churches in North America are at risk, Easum is passionate about pastors praying for vision and renewed commitment. This book offers some very practical suggestions for pastors who desire to preach biblically-based, missional, motivational sermons as part of an over-all plan for renewal in churches that have plateaued or are in decline.

Drawing upon his long years of experience in a start-up situation, Easum shares his preaching design for the first eight months of that ministry centered in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. Each of the eight chapters opens with a “Key Idea” or slogan such as “With God all things are possible. So it is best to dream the impossible.” Each chapter includes boxes that highlight ways in which he has preached the material or suggestions for preaching it in the reader’s own context. Graphs, charts, and illustrations for use in PowerPoint presentations are available at a supplemental website listed in the book.

The most helpful gift of this book might be found in Easum’s refusal to accept inward-looking congregations with a deep sense of entitlement and low expectations. God wants more and the Gospel demands more, he maintains. If the language can at times sound too much like sloganeering, the main points are still well-taken. Resignation, cynicism, and self-pity have no place here.

Easum presents many helpful insights into the fear and resistance that accompany renewal attempts. While readers might bring a range of theological interpretations to the exegesis of Acts, pastors and laity alike will nevertheless find much to ponder in this short book. It is not a demanding read, but its premises are deeply Wesleyan—namely that personal and social transformation must go hand-in-hand and that the Gospel of Jesus Christ demands nothing less than our full devotion and deepest, passionate commitment. Longing for a renewal of the preaching vocation? Eager for some practical suggestions? Ready to grow into a community of outward looking, mission-minded disciples? This book opens the door and points the way.

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