The Road to Growth (towards a thriving Church)

Bob Jackson is highly respected in Anglican circles for his work and research in the field of Church growth and this book brings together a mass of wisdom which he has acquired over the years. In some ways the book paints a gloomy picture of the state of the Anglican Church in the UK but by studying carefully the well presented charts and tables, the reader can determine those factors which either help or hinder Church growth.

The book states that the decline in Church attendance is down to two factors. The first is the internal failings of the Church itself (self-inflicted wounds). The second is the dramatic change in the social climate (Church attendance is no longer in the nation’s DNA).

I was fascinated by the research which the author has done as depicted in the charts and tables. Of particular interest are the statistics of membership decline or growth when, for instance, a minister stays in place for a long period, an interregnum is too lengthy or when the church runs process evangelism courses like Alpha or Emmaus. It was odd that in Kensington (Alpha’s heartland) many of the churches which were growing were the ones who did not run any such course.

The reader needs to be aware that this book is primarily for Anglicans and focuses heavily on the Anglican way of doing Church. Some aspects are not easily translated into Methodism but, overall, there are enormous lessons to be learnt for all Church leaders.

He accompanying booklet, ‘Going for Growth’, is for church groups, leadership teams and others who wish to embark upon a radical overhaul of the way they do Church. It has 8 chapters which bring together the findings of chapters 5 through 18 of ‘The Road to Growth’ in such a way that one chapter can be studied in an evening (an ambitious task).

What I like about this book is that it is totally frank about the situation the Church is in. In places I felt it was over-critical of the traditional Church but it certainly asks all the questions which need to be asked and gives some highly constructive and well thought out solutions to the decline we all see. Some of the solutions are so blindingly obvious that we may wonder why things are as they are.

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