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Breakthrough: Trusting God for Big Change in Your Church

SKU 9780827203280

by Dawn Darwin Weaks

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Small-group study guide included in the book

The last 30 years of American church life have played a familiar refrain: “The church is old, out of touch, dying, and it’s too late.” Why bother? What if the church is not old enough, not out of touch enough, and not dying enough? When survival-rooted panic is supplanted with calm, spirited creativity, that may be exactly the moment your church was made for, that your community was hoping for— and that God is waiting for. First Christian Church of Odessa, Texas made a radical choice and was reborn as Connection Christian Church, with a new view on ministry and new energy. Breakthrough: Trusting God for Big Change in Your Church tells the story of what happened when this church dared to place their desperate, dying selves into the hands of a God whose middle name is “Surprise!” — and hints how readers might find that audacity in their own congregations.


This book is truly a breakthrough; a hope-filled epistle to the modern church in a rapidly changing world. Rev. Dr. Weaks captures the spirit of courage and resilience necessary to build effective and connected ministry that meets people where they are with the love of Christ. I said "amen" and "hallelujah" aloud a few times while reading this powerful story, and I bet you will, too. — Rev. Erin Wathen, Pastor, Grace Immanuel United Church of Christ and author of Resist and Persist: Faith and the Fight for Equality

In a time when many pastors and congregations are struggling, this book is right on time. Dawn Darwin Weaks’ book, Breakthrough, is an encouraging word that will uplift, inspire, challenge, and surprise you. She shares a down-to-earth story of church growth that honors relationships, trust, risk-taking, loving one another, and loving our neighbors who are most in need. It’s a story of good news for the church. — Sarah Griffith Lund, Senior Pastor, First Congregational of Indianapolis, IN, author, and national staff, United Church of Christ

For anyone who’s ever felt cynical about church, Breakthrough is a breath of fresh air: the real-life story of a congregation who chose not to stay stuck, but to hear the Spirit’s whisper, then take a giant leap of faith. By sharing her church’s story, Weaks invites us all to dream about what bold faithfulness might look like in our own contexts, but more than that, she inspires us to believe those dreams might be possible. — Rev. Kyndall Rae Rothaus, author of Thy Queendom Come: Breaking Free from the Patriarchy to Save Your Soul 

Weaks has poignantly captured how to do change well. Readers will be captivated by the story, but take away lessons for engaging change in their own context. For any congregation going through a challenging time, this is the book for you. — F. Douglas Powe, Jr., Director, Lewis Center at Wesley Theological Seminary and James C. Logan Professor of Evangelism 

For years, churches have abided by the real estate adage, “location, location, location.” In telling the story of a dying downtown congregation that relocated, pastors Dawn and Joe Weaks tell how it’s not just where a church can be found, but what it means to be church that really matters. Theirs now meets at “the intersection of Inclusive and Purposeful.” This book is full of practical and theological wisdom. A must-read for every dying church looking to be resurrected! — Mike Graves, Wm. K. McElvaney Professor of Preaching and Worship emeritus, Saint Paul School of Theology and Scholar in Residence, Country Club Christian Church 

Dawn's book is no pollyannaish "this will be the answer for every congregation." Rather it's the story of the callings perceived and acted upon in one congregation. Here is applied ecclesiology -  recognizing when a congregation needs to relocate, remodel, re-engage one's community. Her style visualizes the process. The story can be rejuvenating! — Bill Tillman, Coordinator of the Center for Congregational Ethics 

No matter where your church is in its life cycle, change is both chilling and thrilling. With Breakthrough, Pastor Dawn Darwin Weaks leads us through the story of one church’s journey that is less a blueprint to follow than a spirit to be caught. Dawn, her co-pastor and husband Joe Weaks, and many congregational voices speak hope to us through these pages. Their creative and purposeful work is a balm and a blessing. — Rev. Dr. George A. Mason, Senior Pastor, Wilshire Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas

This book is a blessing. “Be of good courage and be encouraged” I hear Jesus say through the different voices in this book. With Rev. Dawn Weaks serving as the main narrator, joined by the first-person stories and insights of others in the church, we get to hear the multi-faceted story of one church’s adventure in following the call to serve Jesus. This church bravely took stock of where they were, where the Holy Spirit was calling them to be, and how they might get from the first place to the second. With humility, honesty, and humor we follow them from their old historic downtown building, to a wine bar, to a restaurant, to an elementary school. In true Exodus-style, these nomads in the wilderness learned that God still tabernacles, sets up shop for a time here and a time there, revealing Godself in myriad ways and blessing people in the most holy, if unlikely ways along the Way. This is a church that prays, studies Scripture, and, therefore, stays connected to the love of God concretely and palpably. We see their hopes, their fears, their disagreements, and their grief at what had to be laid to rest in order for resurrection to break forth. They now inhabit a “permanent” space (as if any church location were truly permanent) in which they partner with other nonprofits to greater effect for their community. They have mastered “doing church in weird places.” There is no doubt the reader will get genuinely excited to consider what might be possible for their own church community if “Fearless” became the theme for a year. We, too, might break new ground, holy ground, where we connect in life-giving ways. As Rev. Weaks declares and her church models richly for us: “God’s blessings must come not only to you, but through you to truly be divine blessing.” Amen. — Rev. Dr. Jaime Clark-Soles, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University