Thursday, 20 August 2009

Book review: "Church Unique", Will Mancini

This book was originally brought to my attention by Matt Hosier's blog and I'm very grateful that he did so.

If you're a church leader, no matter how large or small your flock might be, then give this book a strong consider for your to-buy list (I know, I know, my own to-buy list is eternally 50-plus, no matter how many I buy, beg, borrow or steal*, so I know what it's like whenever another leader recommends further material!) (*except the steal part. Honest.)

Will Mancini has a clear, deep-seated passion to see church leaders around the world press further into God's purposes for them, for those in their care, and for the communities around them. I'm always wary of books that appear to enjoy "corporate"-speak, and have pretty diagrams and flow-charts that visualise the "process" discussed and so on. This is the glorious church of Jesus Christ, and I'd hate for us to reduce His bride down to number-crunching and conveyor-belt systems that enable "growth". So, having said that, I trust you'll take my word for it that this is not one of those books. It is possible that upon a quick glance or a scan "Church Unique" can come across as such, but spend time digesting it and you'll see Mancini has the right heart for Scripture-based, Spirit-soaked dependence whilst still being deliberate for the kingdom.

So, what's so special about this book? I won't list all its features and points - this is a review not a rewrite! - but, in a nutshell, Mancini's message is this:

  • Every church has a unique call by God.
  • Vision-casting formulae cannot be lifted from one "successful" church and transferred to your own.
  • We need to discover how to enable growth and health uniquely for ourselves.

A brief rundown of how Mancini helps us do so is thus:
  • Discover your "Kingdom Concept": if we take a close look at the resources God's given us (always unique), combine them with the local need(s) (always unique), and filter them through what it is that most prayerfully stirs our leaders' hearts (always unique), we find our specific calling. Mancini says, "Whoever you are and wherever God has placed you, therein is uniqueness. Whoever co-labours with you, in front of you, behind you, all around you, therein is uniqueness." So true.
  • Once discovered (over a decent period of time; it doesn't take a 2 hour meeting!), Mancini then leads us through how to ensure the vision is pursued: decent collaboration (team development, outside counsel, etc), articulating the vision through mission, values, strategy, and measures (he articulates these in a new way; read it to find out!), and the need for excellent communication and use of language.
And THAT's the slightest of overviews, so it skips all the meat, but I trust at the very least it captures the essence of the book.

Being deliberate in leading our churches is essential: take a closer look at Rev 19.7-8. Familiar verses to most, but as well as a glorious picture of a day to come, don't they also tell us of an intentional attitude? That we clothe ourselves, not wait to be clothed? We've got some work to do...

My own heart has always been that we learn increasingly how to be church, not how to do it. That's been the apostle Paul's message throughout his letters, and it compels me to pursue how we see that unfold for ourselves today. "Church Unique" is a book that helps us on our way.

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