by Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson, Broadman and Holman, 2007
Overview—Give a brief overview of the book, including its theme, perspective and approach.
In Comeback Churches, the authors compile research data from more than 300 churches in America that were declining only to "comeback" with new growth and vitality. The authors sifted though the research to discover factors that were common to the comeback churches. Such factors include worship and preaching, evangelism strategies, mobilizing the laity, and connecting people through small groups. The authors suggest that in applying such principles and strategies many plateaued and declining churches can also make a comeback.
Critique—Offer a brief critique of the book, including elements of strength and weakness.
Comeback Churches, like other books of its type (Breakout churches, Leading Turnaround Churches, etc…), finds common factors (mentioned above) that churches should deliberately apply. These factors come as no surprise. In fact they seem like common sense. The difference is that comeback churches are relentlessly deliberate in their pursuit of change in these areas. Having read a number of resources in this area, I would say that Comeback Churches serves as a more complete compendium as it addresses a wider spectrum of issues. Its weakness may be an overall pragmatic approach to change in church ministry and a church-as-business model. Having said that, the authors do a better job than most in emphasizing the spiritual issues underlying growth.
Application—Offer some specific application to your own ministry— demonstrating the value and relevance of the material in this book.
I particularly appreciated the chapter on "Comeback Change Agents: New or Renewed Leaders". I was not surprised to read that 60% of comeback churches had a change at the senior pastor level. What was encouraging was that 40% of comeback churches changed without changing their senior pastor. The crucial ingredient was getting a pastor with a renewed vision, whether that was the current leadership or new leadership. This is precisely what I need, a renewed vision.
Best Quote—Be sure to include the page number where the quote can be found.
Page 176: "Nobody changes until the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change"