Review of N Graham Standish’s Becoming a Blessed Church

Published by The Alban Institute, Becoming a Blessed Church: Forming a Church of Spiritual Purpose, Presence, and Power, is a book devoted to helping churches, develop their unique and God given ministry as a church that is one of purpose, presence, and power. The Rev. Dr. Standish is the pastor of the Calvin Presbyterian Church outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Divided into three sections: Becoming a Blessed Church, Forming a Church of Purpose, Presence, and Power, and Leading a Church to Blessedness, Standish challenges the common operating assumption of “rational functionalism” in today’s churches. What he proposes is an alternative idea of the “blessed church” that means “discerning and doing what God is calling us to.” While Standish further defines what a blessed church is, the strength of the book to me is on his emphasis on prayerful discernment to, as he quotes Henry and Richard Blackaby “to find out where God is and join Him there.”  His constant re-emphasis of discerning God’s will and purpose for a church’s particular mission and ministry I believe is a liberating word to pastors and church leaders who have struggled with what I respectfully call a “plug and play” approach by trying the latest ministry program in a setting that it does not fit. The final section, “Leading a Church to Blessedness,” had much to say to me, and to the reader, as a leader. Standish’s focus is on a wider range of qualities such as humility, trust, and the like in addition to the ability to discern a vision. Written I think primarily to a mainline audience, but with sources across the spectrum of Christian thought, Becoming a Blessed Church is a thought and heart provoking book that pastors of all backgrounds would benefit from. (Note: I received this book as part of a seminar led by the author that was sponsored by the Northeast Center for Congregations. I wrote the review solely for personal reasons and to share the book with others.

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