IN SEARCH OF THE EFFECTIVE CHURCH

Not all healthy churches look alike, but a few family resemblances can be detected.

I spent my three-month summer sabbatical on a cross-country tour with my family, visiting twenty-five of "the most effective" churches in the United States.

Before I left, I expected to find a lot of similarities. The differences, however, surprised me most. I came back without a clear, monolithic model of effective ministry. Instead, I found myself confronted with options and choices.

Plotting the Search

I began planning this trip a year before it took place. My ministry experience had been limited to one nineteen-year pastorate in a university town, where our independent church had grown largely in isolation from any one model or tradition. I felt the need to see firsthand how other churches worked.

So I contacted a number of respected Christian leaders and asked each to give me the names of five congregations with unusually effective ministries.

As my list grew, I noticed some congregations mentioned repeatedly. I contacted their pastors for the names of yet other model congregations.

I narrowed ...

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