Discovering or rediscovering one’s passion for God serves as the catalyst necessary to move people to grip God’s directives. Joseph Kidder aptly highlights this fundamental principle as the hallmark for moving the church to “become a Spirit-led community.” Apart from the necessity of implementing personal, biblical spirituality, there are certain invaluable enablers of church growth. Growing congregations are discipleship-focused, relational in evangelistic nature, and creative in connecting with people (28– 33). Implementation of these church growth strategies requires effective leading, intentional evangelism, “awe- inspiring worship” (67), preaching that engages and transforms individuals, and renewal through church planting.
Although helpful to all church members, the leadership principles emphasized by Kidder are geared toward church leaders, particularly pastors. These principles will help pas- tors become effective leaders. First and foremost, efficient leaders need “passion for a continual connection with God” (11). The interactions between the passionate leader and God are then to be communicated to the church. Therefore, knowing how to capably communicate the gospel is an essential leadership quality. Successful leaders are also vision-casters, effective change agents, and people of influence (13–20).
Evangelism is the heartbeat of the church. It is accomplished proficiently through relationships. Kidder is “convinced that it’s better for our churches to have an evangelistic culture than just to have a series of evangelistic programs” (35). Developing a “culture of evangelism” will mobilize the church to adopt Jesus’ methods in reaching “the unchurched.”
“Awe-inspiring worship” would be, also, a tremendous church growth enhancer. The church service should inspire worshipers to experience “God moments.” These are moments “in the worship service when our hearts touch the heart of God and we have a vision of him” (70). What this means in everyday terms is that the worship service should be creatively engineered, enabling worshipers to experience the presence of God. To create such transforming effects, every element of worship should be God-focused. This includes music particularly selected for the congregation, the uninterrupted “flow of worship” (70), the attention given to guests, the transformational prayers, and, undoubtedly, the presentation of God’s Word through properly crafted sermons.
Preaching should be an integral part of the life-force of the church. Therefore, there needs to be a space for “engaging and transformational preaching” (85). Kidder suggests 20 pivotal ways to improve one’s preaching skills. His practical approaches include being creative, honest, and transparent. Infused with much prayer, thorough preparation, and the power of the Holy Spirit, the delivery of the sermon through the instrumentality of the “effective and efficient leader” will produce deep-rooted results.
For Kidder, “church planting is an effective evangelistic tool” (109). To strengthen his point, he shows quite aptly, based on his research, that churches in North America are on the decline due to the failure to invest effort into planting new churches. Church growth also brings about revival; therefore, “one of the best ways to bring about church renewal is through planting another church” (117). Ten practical steps on how to start a church plant are suggested in the book.
Kidder’s personal experiences as a pastor are well noted in the volume. His rich testimonials make his suggestions practical and believable. At the same rate, these experiences highlight the book’s frailties. While personal experiences add credence to the work, it is important to note that they may be anecdotal and may not necessarily have broad application.
Perspectives from a wide range of professionals, as well as advice from varied capable minds, can build even stronger credibility. Emphasis on reaching the current generation could have also added strength to the volume. Without these factors, one may be left wondering how to implement Kidder’s noteworthy suggestions within a context and time that is different.
Kidder’s main theme, the great importance of having personal connection with God, cannot be over- emphasized. It is this spiritual focus that can break down the walls of skepticism and negativity and enrich the church.
Moving Your Church: Become a Spirit-Led Community is well worth the read, I strongly recommend it. The book is ideal for any church member or leader and particularly, in my opinion, a valuable tool to be placed in the hands of new pastors. Firsthand knowledge of the information presented in the book can prevent many pastoral pitfalls. The book is an equipping tool. Everyone who desires to grow as an individual and endeavors to help the church grow spiritually will find Kidder’s work significantly useful in moving the church to become a Spirit-led community.
—Reviewed by Alrick Watson, pastors the Williams Lake and Quesnel Seventh-day Adventist Churches, British Columbia, Canada.