In case you missed this review at Disciplemaking in the Historic Church, I thought I’d bring it to your attention because it seems to get to the heart of the matter… Here’s the link: iPray: A simple Prayer book for- Ministry, Mercy and Multiplication by James D Buckman
You can buy the book or get a Kindle sample here at Amazon. Having seen both I suggest the larger print version. It’s an easy to read 8.5 by 11 large print book.
So what’s the real issue with our churches? Why are so many “dead” or “dying”? Check with the latest “church growth guru” and they might say the problem is “no cell groups”, “no contemporary worship”, “outdated liturgy”, no “Purpose Driven teaching” or “no Sunday School program” and IF those are true they are only true to the degree that another problem is present, and I think the book “iPray” hits the nail on the head.
While it doesn’t say this in so many words, Buckman’s book is a strong reminder that the problem in our churches is the failure to activate the priesthood of believers in the most basic ways such as prayer and other simple forms of obedience to our Christian calling. To the degree gimmicks, strategies, techniques “work”, they only do so by reactivating the priesthood of believers.
Buckman’s strategy for doing that is calling people to pray… first as member care to shore up the foundation of the church and activate pray-ers. Next as visitor care. Finally as outreach. The faithful can take this to the step of even planting new house churches if they wish. These concentric circles of prayer move from well within our comfort zone gradually outward. They shore up the base before moving on. They build a base of supportive people who recognize that when prayer is the basis of outreach, their needs will not be overlooked in pursuit of winning others (that concern may seem petty to some but it is, nonetheless, very real.)
When we see the principle of activating the priesthood, the program shuffling becomes seen for what it is: an exercise in ecclesiastical musical chairs.
Before you try to “implement a new program” and try to work yourself and the people up with promises of “great things” and “If we only….” consider what Buckman has to say. He’s done the “attractional” and offers us this alternate path instead.
Again, this is my reading of the import of Buckman’s book. The actual book is about our calling as Christians, the doctrine of prayer from a confessional Lutheran perspective, and only THEN implementation. Could it be tighter and more succinct? Possibly. Self published books without outside editors have some blemishes. But if you read the book and come to conclude, as I have, that the ultimate issue is how to sanely and faithfully reactivate the priesthood of believers without selling one’s soul, you’ll find a way forward for most churches without the trauma of trying to conform your congregation into the mold of the latest “superstart du jour”. Buckman speaks from a missionary’s zeal and a pastor theological concern and wisdom. He’s worth hearing on this I think.