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Book review: Who broke my church?

| by Ronald Keener

There are a number of experienced consultants to churches working at improving the emotional and organizational health of congregations, but few can boast of working from a knowledge base of 75,000 people in 1,700 churches from 65 denominations and 5,000 one-on-one interviews as can Kent R. Hunter, the Church Doctor, of Corunna, Indiana.

Only two weeks after the release of Hunter’s new book, Who Broke My Church? 7 Proven Strategies for Renewal and Revival, the publisher, FaithWords, has gone back on press for an additional quantity because of its demand.

Jesus’ mission, Hunter writes, “is to get in motion a movement—the most impactful, longest-lasting, greatest life-changing movement in history.” “Human intuition for a movement is to go big and move fast. We judge success by size. A big crowd gets our attention. Size matters!,” says Hunter.

But Jesus’ approach is different from the world’s way. Hunter spends a lot of time and explanation discussing Kingdom culture, what it is and how it is done. “The miracle of the movement is not limited to one big crowd listening to one great speaker,” he writes. “This movement is every believer imprinting others, one person at a time. The disciples caught the Kingdom imprint. It wasn’t simply what they were trained to do. It was who they became.”  

“Jesus didn’t just train them in tasks. He changed the atmosphere. Once they became Kingdom healthy, they were ready for the challenges and opportunities life brings. Once they were Kingdom healthy, they would figure out the strategic stuff of life. With Kingdom focus, they could thrive in changing times, in various cultures, forever,” he believes.

From there Hunter moves into his seven strategies. The first one is to “turn your church right-size up. Jesus is the classic example for asking questions, Hunter says. “When you look through the lens of Kingdom culture, you focus on church health. Most churches will never achieve health until they leave the highly structured form of church-as-organization. The organizational structure of most churches is a major roadblock for thriving Christianity. The bureaucratic approach is the result of secular drift,” he says.

Hunter adds the italics for a reason—to get your attention. I’ve concluded that a major stumbling block is the congregational form of church structure. It is way too democratic, taking its direction from Western political science rather than Kingdom culture.

And note the last word of that quote—drift. It is one of my favorite words for churches in trouble, striving to remain healthy, however you want to define that, rather than thriving. Drift is a word that appears regularly in the book. Pastors and leaders want authority without responsibility,” he writes.

“Authority without responsibility is one indication of insanity. It is a direct contradiction of Kingdom culture. This is the result of subconscious drift. [My emphasis.] It is the non-Christian notion of entitlement. It’s killing secularized society, and it kills churches.” Wow, think on that for a time.

But he goes on. “To make matters worse, many churches allow a public forum, open to everyone in the congregation. This concept is baptized as holy, so no one challenges it. However, those who are spiritually mature should handle sensitive and challenging issues. This approach excludes spiritual children, new Christians…. Many churches treat everyone equally as long as they are members. Often, infants in Christ have no biblical basis for decision making.”

Hunter says “congregational or republic forms of government results from secular influence. They represent Kingdom drift.”

I can hear the uproar now from pastors who love the democratic sound of one person, one vote. And I would bet their congregations aren’t growing and prospering.

It is a great book of 238 pages. And the other six strategies? Turn your church inside out; Turn your faith into God-sized potential; Turn up your fire for change; Turn your strategy into God’s math; Turn your service into dignity; And turn your life into generosity. Writing with Hunter for the book is Tracee J. Swank.

Ronald Keener

Ronald E. Keener was editor of the national business and leadership magazine, "Church Executive," for eight years, and writes from Chambersburg, Pa. His church interests lie with congregational transformation, church health movement, church strengthening and revitalization and reporting on churches that have not just survived but thrived. 


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