Ask most pastors, lay leaders, and church members the health of their church and inevitably most of them will direct you towards their numbers. To many, those numbers are the defining measurement by which a church is or is not growing. As a result many churches are looking for ways to grow membership in their churches. Coming together to share what worked for the explosive growth at the Journey Church, Nelson Search and Jennifer Dykes Henson have released Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests into Fully Engaged Members of Your Church.
The book is a simple explanation of developing and integrating a system within the church in order to spur growth and involvement from first-time attenders. This system, and it is a system, is not about getting new people into the church, but instead focuses on guests and visitors that may attend and how to maintain contact with them. Over the course of the 200 pages and nine chapters the authors put together a step-by-step checklist of engaging and following-up with guests so that they don’t merely return to your church, but also are engaged (or assimilated as the authors say) in your church. While the authors have accomplished their objective according to their own definitions, this is really a book wrought with problems and concerns combined with many missed opportunities.
Low View Of God’s Word
Unfortunately, even when statements are made that are in line with Scripture, the authors fail to convey it from a conviction of God’s Word. Searcy and Hanson bring forth some important points that focus on hospitality towards guests and exhort readers to the need for excellence. However, they miss an opportunity to teach from a depth of conviction that comes from God’s Word and instead utilize secular reasoning. For example, there is an opportunity here to utilize Scripture to show how a love for God and love for others results in the very characteristics (like hospitality) that they are calling on readers to have. As a result, readers are left desolate with nothing of more value than what the world has to offer apart from God.
Low View of God’s People
Whereas the authors have missed the connection between godly hospitality and godly love as it comes from a love for God, that inability to connect results in a lack of genuine care for the people coming through the doors. Instead, it treats all people as nothing more than a system. This is not my phrasing, but rather the authors repeatedly refer to what they are teaching as a system. It is a system that is built not upon the needs of the people, but on the wants of the church. This system treats every person as the same by sending the same form letter, the same follow-ups and having the same interactions with all with little recognition of the individual needs of each person.
Low View of God’s Church
Thirdly, the book demonstrates a low view of God’s church body by focusing on numbers and programs. This is further demonstrated in chapter 8 when the discussion approaches getting guests involved in service in the church. There are two major concerns with this. First, there is no discussion of salvation. Second, the authors discuss service in certain areas before membership. These are areas in which caution must be exercised because we certainly do not want unbelievers teaching/influencing believers. Furthermore, membership demonstrates a commitment to the church and the church’s doctrine, therefore membership plays an important role in the determination of who should serve in the church in this way. Now, I must be fair and say that the author’s did not exclusively say get involved new guests involved in teaching only; however, the consistent lack of caution and care over God’s people combined with a lack of clarity leave open an interpretation that many would follow if they are not appropriately taught, and so the author’s have not taken seriously their role as teachers here.
Low View of God’s Work
Each of these points to a major issue of the book: the authors have a low view of God’s work in the lives of people. Not once do the authors mention the need for conversion and in fact, they seem to assume that every person who enters the doors is already a believer and simply needs to be plugged into the church’s programs. I would propose that this comes from a low view of God’s people. The authors have little recognition of the depths of the spiritual needs of the people who come through the doors and instead are more focused upon growing the numbers of their church. The result is pushing every person who enters the church towards membership and involvement in Bible studies without an accurate assessment of who they are.
Unfortunately, much of the church growth taking place these days is less about conversions and more about transfer growth. The system employed here seems to deal more with people who would be coming from another church than dealing with those who are unconverted (although their straw man examples indicate otherwise). Therefore the system fails to account for and take seriously the great commission commanded by the Lord Jesus Christ. Overall, the authors’ failure to consider and deal with the spiritual condition of those coming into the church makes this an inadequate book.
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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher at no cost for the purposes of review. However, my review was not influenced in any way by the publisher, author, or any other person associated with the book and is the result of my own reading of the book.