30 Mar Go Grow Your Church! – Book Review
Go Grow Your Church!
Spiritual Leadership for African American Congregations
James F. Miller
Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim Press, 2008
176 pages, $20.00, paper
Reviewed by Mark R. Teasdale
E. Stanley Jones Assistant Professor of Evangelism,
Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Evanston, IL
Although organized topically, with each chapter titled after a specific practice of ministry, Go Grow Your Church! is written as a narrative, covering the experience of Rev. James F. Miller from the time he began his pastorate at DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church in DuPage County, Illinois until the congregation grew to over 1,000 members and moved into a new building.
Mapping the events he faced at DuPage to the practices in each chapter, Miller suggests that what made the church growth DuPage experienced possible was the same thing that invigorated the various practices of ministry: effective church administration. Based on this personal history, Miller draws the conclusion that if administration can be performed with sufficient spiritual maturity and worldly savvy, then the church will be actuated for growth and excellence in the practice of ministry. To this end, Miller states that “the ministry of this book is to offer administrative advice and suggest methods that will not only explain what to do, but also show an implementation process for accomplishing the stated purpose” (20-21).
The first chapter, which starts when Miller arrived at DuPage AME, describes the process of evangelism that he deployed to grow the number of people in the congregation. Miller terms this practice of evangelism “Closed Net Evangelism” (CNE). CNE essentially consists of preparing the members of the church to welcome new visitors to the church in such a loving and inspiring way that the visitors sense a powerful move of the Spirit in the church and want to return. Revealing the strongest suit of the book, Miller offers significant detail as to how he organizes his congregation for this work, from the way he encourages them to use bulletins as conversation pieces with unchurched friends and family to the script that follow-up callers use in contacting visitors. This detail is how Miller demonstrates the focus on administration in the book.
The second chapter begins the saga that will stretch through most of the book – that of how DuPage AME outgrew its facilities and needed to find a new building. Specifically focusing on the practice of administration, Miller discusses how he organized the congregation’s boards and lay leadership to move through the often contentious process of deciding to leave the existing church building and move to a new one. In doing this, it becomes clear that when Miller refers to administration, he is largely referring to the pastor’s job of leading the congregation. While good administration will entail creating space for lay leadership, ultimately for Miller the pastor is uniquely gifted by God to envision God’s will for the church and shepherd the congregation to be faithful to that vision. As a result, the primary job of the pastor is to organize the lay leadership in such a way that it will come around to the pastor’s vision. This may require significant patience and prayer on the pastor’s part, but Miller is convinced that the pastor will ultimately carry the day as God’s anointed messenger. This understanding of the role of the pastor as the final authority in the church undergirds all of his suggestions and techniques.