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I found this book full of practical advice concerning one of the most intractable problems in the church: the revitalization of existing congregations. Nixon frames his argument in terms of 6 either-or questions/choices that churches have to make, starting with the choice of life over death. Some of Nixon 19s examples are silly, of merely flashy gimmicks. But mostly he is advocating assertive, innovative, experimental, risky ministries and strategies. I think churches need to become conscious of these choices because they are making them by default whether they know it or not. Many are unwittingly choosing to die. I don 19t know if everyone reading this book will recognize how radical and challenging some of it is. In the first choice, life over death, Nixon makes some observations the possible consequences of which he doesn 19t mention, but which are important. For instance, he talks about locating and empowering the 1Cvision shareholders 1D of a congregation, which may include inactive members. (My experience is that inactive members are not generally worth the energy it takes to reactivate them; but if Nixon has found this to be fruitful work, more power to him.) It is the bigger problem of what happens when a pastor alienates those (the majority) who are not 1Cvision shareholders, 1D that Nixon does not quite address. 1CAs you grow the roll of those who get it and choose life, do not be discouraged if the official church roll continues to shrink 1D (p. 34). He recognizes that this will not go over well with judicatory officials. But he does not address what to do about that, beyond staying the course. And he certainly has no advice for a church that has become so courageous in choosing life that it is no longer 1Csustainable 1D in terms of members and money. In other words, Nixon 19s message seems to be 1Cdo these things and your church will grow, 1D but he doesn 19t say enough about how a church may have first to dramatically shrink before it is equipped to grow, and that growth may take a while. Few churches will accept Nixon 19s 4 characteristics of this kind of ministry: 1Cspending less time in pastoral care of accumulated membership, more time building bridges (I would say serving needy people) in the community, less time in pointless meetings, and more time developing the leaders that will be taking the church into the future 1D (p. 36). This is exactly the opposite of what current congregational leaders often want. Nixon has some great things to say about building a small group ministry and community building, and the importance of cultivating joy and positive energy. But his baseless attack on Fred Rogers is inexcusable. He does this in the 1Cbold over mild 1D chapter. I get that he wants to emphasize the necessity of radiating some challenging energy, and he is great when he reminds us of how bold Jesus 19 radical teachings are. That is boldness we should definitely go with. Amen! But holding up for ridicule a saint who was teaching children non-violence and community frankly makes me wonder where Nixon 19s heart is. It is almost like he would prefer some in-your-face Miley-Cyrusization of worship which lifts up loudness, offensiveness, and spectacle for its own sake. Rogers was astonishingly bold too, in bucking the commercialized violence that characterizes so much of children 19s TV. Nixon says some great things about how our buildings are killing us, and gives many infamous and all-too-common examples of lethal procrastination in the church. I would add at least one more to his 6 choices. How about 1Cdiscipleship over institutional preservation 1D? Many of Nixon 19s recommendations would work just fine for any organization trying to attract new members, from a bowling league to a scout troop. That 19s fine, but the church is about making disciples and teaching people to obey Jesus 19 commandments. Nixon 19s book has a few too many concessions to the 1C3-B 19s 1D (bucks, bricks, and butts); it veers dangerously close to measuring church success by 1Csustainability, 1D counting people and dollars. He still appears to think that a successful church is one that gains members, not one that follows Jesus. Perhaps he would say that a church that follows Jesus will gain members, and that might be true to a point. However, the discipleship has to be the first and only agenda, and any quantitative gains secondary and derivative. There is almost nothing in the book about lifestyle, justice, or peacemaking. He says very little about ministries that might not produce new members directly. A very big part of the boldness of Jesus is his refusal to make any concessions to popularity or conventional versions of 1Csuccess. 1D (I can think of other choices that churches are making as well: how about 1Cawake over asleep 1D? Or 1Cnew mind (metanoia) over old mind 1D?) Anyway, there is a lot of good stuff in here in terms of practical advice and different approaches. I plan to use it in changing minds and the culture of churches, and I hope others do as well. Not much of this is new, frankly; similar things have been taught by church consultants for several decades. Nixon puts it all together in a slightly different way 26 but whatever gets through to us and changes our defeatist, backward-looking, inertia-crippled, building-bound, institutional church mindset is fine with me.+++++++

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