Presenting 1,000 ideas for fresh, energetic ministry
As the new year is almost upon us, I’d like to return to a book I mentioned briefly a few weeks ago. I think it is helpful for pastors as we imagine and plan and dream about fresh avenues for ministry in 2008.
I have always enjoyed reading books of anecdotes, quotes, and illustrations. As a kid I remember titles like “500 Dynamic Sermon Illustrations” or “1,001 Stories for Bible Talks”. I also read through sermons by Moody and Spurgeon, Graham and Sunday, Wiersbe, Vines, and Rogers – each of whom used great illustrations in their otherwise different approach to homiletics.
At some point along the way in my development as a preacher I learned about exegesis and hermeneutics, the proper foundation for exposition and homiletics. However, I also remember the first time I heard a preacher say, with great condescension, that books of illustrations aren’t worth the paper they are printed on. The reason given was that truly powerful illustrations are either drawn from the Bible itself or from our own life experiences.
While I generally don’t disagree with that principle, I have also come to realize the foolishness in a legalistic avoidance of “Sermon Illustration” books. I believe it was the gifted expositor Steve “Key Life” Brown who said something to the effect that he considers a book of illustrations to be money well spent if he only gets a handful of quips and quotes and stories to use out of a book of hundreds. Although the beauty and “fit” of an illustration is in the eye of the beholder, any book that puts 10-15 good ones in my hand is a friend indeed. So, I went back to the illustration-compilation books with a newfound sense of freedom to mine the gold out of the mountain of worthless (to me) rocks.
So, what does that have to do with the book we are looking at here? Diana Davis is the author of Fresh Ideas, a compilation of “1,000 Ideas for Growing a Thriving and Energetic Church”. This book is not theory and speculation. It is one page after another of practical tips and specific ideas for improving the outreach and fellowship of your church.
Her premise is simple. Even with a sound foundation of biblical theology and ecclesiology centered on the glory of God, we all could use some fresh ideas for outreach. This book assumes that the local church has the right theological and spiritual foundations, and seeks to help such churches be creative in how to build real Christian fellowship, evangelistic outreach, and disciple-making.
She writes, “There should be no such thing as a stale church. We serve a life-giving, vibrant, exciting Savior. Worship in his house should be no less! When you attend the same church for years- as you should! – you tend to think that every church does everything exactly like your church. To some extent that’s true. But I quickly observed that every church has its own way of doing things – its own personality, if you will. To be honest, it’s not usually big things that add freshness to a church. Small adjustments can make a world of difference.”
There are 75 chapters, each with 10-20 ideas organized around themes such as – benevolence, fall festivals, new Christians, prayer, church facilities, and sport evangelism – just to name a few. The themes are not the creative part. Rather, it is the ideas flowing from the themes where Davis showcases her imagination.
Davis gives the reader advance permission to dislike a boatload of her ideas and concepts. She says, “You may want to read it with a highlighter in hand, crossing off the ideas you already implement, scribbling the ones you don’t like, and circling some ideas you’d like to try. Not every idea will fit your church. Some will delight you. Some won’t. Some will make you laugh hysterically. But I’m praying at least a few ideas on these pages will reignite your fire for serving God, fit your church perfectly, and help freshen up how your church does church.”
I ran through this book quickly with a highlighter in hand just as she instructed. And what did I find? She is right, for some of the ideas would immediately fit into the church I pastor…and some of the ideas would never fit at all. It would be a disservice to you for me to copy down a few ideas as a sample for you because with my luck I’d pick the 2-3 that you’d think sounded ridiculous.
Therefore, this book is very similar to those 1,001 Sermon illustrations books in that you aren’t going to come away with nothing. You might just end up with a handful of good ideas that translate into more meaningful contact with non-Christians and more meaningful relationships between your members. That’s worth the price of a book. (Scott Lamb is a founding pastor of Providence Baptist Church, St. Louis, and is the ongoing book reviewer for The Pathway. To read about other books, visit www.AChristianManifesto.com.)