Will Change Undo The Church?
A Church for the 21st Century,by Leith Anderson (Bethany House, 246 pp.; $14.99, hardcover);Church Without Walls,by Jim Petersen (NavPress, 226 pp.; $9.99, paper);The Consumer Church,by Bruce Shelley and Marshall Shelley (InterVarsity, 232 pp.; $9.99, paper). Reviewed by Steve Rabey, religion editor of the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph.

Imagine a traveler using an outdated map trying to book a flight to the Soviet Union. The travel agent explains that the Soviet Union is no more, having been replaced by 15 independent republics. But the would-be traveler will hear none of it. “This can’t be,” he shouts. “It’s right here on my map!”

Like it or not, this traveler resembles many leaders who are trying to plot a course for the church of Jesus Christ by using outmoded analyses and traditions. At least, that is the opinion of the authors of three new books that are trying to move the discussion of ecclesiology out of the ivory tower and into the pulpit and pew.

These new books share some similarities: discussions of staggering “paradigm shifts” for how we must view our changing world; references alternating between the New Testament and contemporary books on business and marketing; and critical re-evaluations of church history and tradition.

Yet each book also reflects the unique perspective of its author. Leith Anderson, senior pastor of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, provides a hands-on manual for managing change that reveals his decades of experience as a leader and servant of local congregations. Jim Petersen, an executive with the Navigators and a former missionary to Latin America, fears that the church’s self-serving traditionalism may hinder believers from carrying out the Great ...

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