I chose to review Rise: Bold Strategies to Transform Your Church by Cally Parkinson and Nancy Scammacca Lewis because I’ve always been skeptical of a lot of statistical data and any “plug & chug” Christian programming meant to “fix” a church. I wanted something to challenge those notions, and hoped this might be that book. It was certainly more than I expected and quite helpful!
REVEAL researchers took survey material from 727 churches from different areas of the USA, different denominations, and different cultures (this is all charted and explained in an appendix), all between 2008 and 2010 (churches involved in surveys from years pre-2008 were tossed because they did not include what turned out to be some key questions) and pulled from it eight archetypes in which most American congregations find themselves: troubled, complacent, extroverted, average, introverted, self-motivated, energized, and vibrant. Each of these is explained with charts, typical symptoms, and model case studies of participating churches—where they were, what they changed, and where they landed a few years later. There is then a final chapter that offers ways in which churches may grow in a number of areas that were assessed.
I found the information quite helpful because its generalizations are offered as starting points—the authors even explain where a church might have secondary, or “shadow” archetypes (e.g., a primarily extroverted church may be tend to be energized or average). Before offering ways in which churches may use this information, the authors provide this honest and helpful statement: “Our sole caveat is to begin with a cautious and sincere reminder that we do not pretend to be capable of advising your own particular, individual church. Only you and your fellow leaders, in concert with God’s wisdom and mercy, can truly discern the best “next step” to help your people grow closer to Christ” (153–4).
The reader may not agree with how some of the particulars were put together and may still remain skeptical about how one may be certain of the accuracy of surveys, a Spiritual Vitality Index (SVI), etc. (I’ll probably always remain in that boat!), but when used as a base, at least as far as I can tell, typical American churches are quite likely to find themselves in one of the archetypes and able to use that as a starting point in determining where they may or may not want to begin making changes in order to be better disciples of Christ.
I’m surprising myself with this recommendation, but here it is: I believe this can be a helpful resource for church leaders to have in their libraries, perhaps revisiting it every couple years or so to reassess things.
*This book was provided by Tyndale House Publishers for review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I offered or provided any compensation.