Tuesday Book Review: Bruce B Miller’s Your Church in Rhythm

Boston - Back Bay: Trinity Church (aerial)
Image by wallyg via Flickr

“We want our churches to be effective for Jesus Christ. And yet, we’re not satisfied with what’s happening. Not enough people are coming to Christ. Average church members are not serious enough about their faith. There is no silver bullet, no one solution. But there is a dimension many church leaders have not adequately considered, a question we’ve not asked deeply. “What time is it in your church?”

What time is it in your church? A very insightful question that I believe is not an easy one to ask because to ask it is to perhaps face the fact that the type A nature of so much of our congregational life and today’s clergy lives, are driven to distraction and despair because the church is not growing like it is “supposed” to grow.

This is a book for pastors, laity, and churches that are stuck or have come out of a season of growth and find the downward slope looming ahead or are dealing with a period of growth and not sure how to handle it or… well it is for all churches and church leaders.

Miller, I believe, helps the reader to see that churches, just like people and especially followers of Christ, go through seasons of growth, harvest, pruning, and planting (summer, fall, winter, and spring). And that these seasons are beyond the reaching of programs and planning and yet can provide a guide for helpful and appropriate ministry.

He ties in the idea of seasons with the concept of rhythm and he notes “In our attempts to” have it all” this year, we constantly push people to an artificial ideal. Ignoring rhythm can damage you and your church because you’ll waste time on issues that are untimely.” He then goes on to challenge the issue of balance and says that “balance communicates a fixed value, as if there were some magical configuration of proportionate effort and time to a set of purposes or ministries that would determine a healthy church. But a well-run church should be unbalanced when examined in certain time segments: a week, a month, a year, or even a period of years. Although some things, such as the Gospel mission and the Lordship of Jesus Christ, are constant, ministry happens in time.”

I found this book to be very helpful as it relates to the practice of carrying out a ministry that excites but does not drain the staff and congregation; a ministry that is enhanced by understanding the various “rhythmic contexts” of one’s ministry. While at times Miller gets detailed as he describes various aspects of congregational life, the over all picture painted by this book is one a ministry, that while acknowledging the unseen changes in ministry due to sin, death, and other factors, that seeks to be rhythmic is a one that can become a healthy one.

Note: I purchased an electronic copy of this book for personal use.


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