Twelve Dynamic Shifts for Transforming Your Church. (Book Reviews).
E. Stanley Ott is president of the Vital Churches Institute and the author of The Power of Ministry and The Joy of Discipling. His work's focus is on leadership whose goal is to grow churches that are dynamic and effective and that equip their members for discipleship both within and outside the church.
Ott's vision involves the transformation of traditional congregations so that they become places where vital ministry happens, where members become disciples who understand ministry as a way of life. He understands that the greatest challenge to this effort is the tension between our comfort with the old familiar ways of doing church and new approaches that seem to be the key to attracting new people to our churches.
Ott provides a vision, motivation, and practical advice and ideas for ways that we might go about transforming a congregation. He recognizes that there will be resistance to change, and his insights for dealing with this are pastoral and yet advance the work of change. He repeats this phrase throughout the book: "Bless what has been, and add what is new."
His work is based on the discipleship model. He encourages church leaders to understand that mission and ministry involve more than having good programs that care for members of the congregation. He presents a process in twelve steps, which he calls "shifts." These shifts provide both the vision and the plan for accomplishing the transition from a traditional church model to a transformational church model. The shifts concern "Vision and Expectation," "Ministry to People," "Congregational Programs," and "Leadership."
In the vision shift we see a change from present goals to those that God may have in mind for the congregation as it seeks to become one with a dynamic vision. The people shift is the heart of Ott's vision in that it stresses developing discipleship, a missional focus, and an insight about friendliness and hospitality that is critical. Ott makes a distinction between friendliness and hospitality: "friendship is warm, sociable and pleasant" while hospitality invites people into our lives in meaningful ways. Hospitality is the key to keeping new attendees and making them a part of the congregation.
In the program shift we look at making worship responsive to many needs and explore the importance of small-group ministry. Finally, in the leadership shift, Ott advocates shared ministry between the pastor, the leaders, and the members of the congregation.
This practical book offers seven signs of a vital congregation and six principles for going about the practice of vital ministry. This book would work well as a tool for use with the church's board or congregation council when it is determined that a new vision for ministry is needed. It is practical and inspiring, hopeful, and confident that God is at work in every congregation. Ott includes scriptural references that support his message about mission, vision, and God's presence in the church.
The practices of discipleship Ott lists are the "Seven Habits of the Burning Heart." Like the "Six Marks of Discipleship" created by Mike Foss (see his Power Surge: Six Marks of Discipleship for a Changing Church [Augsburg Fortress, 2000]), these are spiritual practices that support and sustain the growth of disciples. Ott's habits are concerned with relationships, both with God and with others; well-being--spiritual, physical, and emotional; stewardship; and ministry and work. He reminds us that these tools of discipleship are the work of God's Spirit among us that forms Christ within us.
He advises pastors and leaders to be clear about the present state of their congregation and then to choose which of the shifts are most useful and most easily accomplished in order to begin the change process. He encourages us to be flexible and open to using any of the twelve shifts that we believe we can accomplish, building success on success as we continue in the process of change. In other words, this vision is flexible enough to circumvent or minimize resistance to change--blessing what has been and adding what is new. Ott supports pastors and leaders through this time of transition, acknowledging that these leaders will be responding to the needs of both existing and new members and that it can be a challenging process.
He recognizes that the church is in a time of transition today but reminds us that this is not a new state, that the church is always in some state of transition. Ott offers a very positive definition of transition. He writes, "But I want to offer a new definition of the transitional congregation--a church in transition to a positive, future-embracing vision that says, 'We have not yet experienced this congregation's greatest ministry. Let us bless what God has done among us and add the ministry we believe will touch another circle of people'" (p. 6).
Ott's work is influenced by Easum's "Permission-Giving Church," and his organizational structure is built on this framework for doing ministry. He includes an extensive bibliography with reference to each of the twelve shifts.
This vision--the shift to a transformational church--is a confident and hopeful one, and this is a great strength of Ott's work. He models essential characteristics of effective leaders. Our own faith and our confidence in the changes that we propose to the congregation will be important assets in overcoming people's natural resistance to change. In my favorite quote Ott writes, "Wherever you find yourself as a church, know this for sure: God has an exciting, life-building vision for the whole church and for your congregation. Ask for the faith to believe it, and the grace to see it, and the courage to act on it" (p.4). To this I can only add, Amen!
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|Publication:||Currents in Theology and Mission|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2003|
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