Recovering Hope for Your Church: Moving Beyond Maintenance and Missional to Incarnational Engagement
“Why?” seems to be on the lips of many church, judicatory, and denominational leaders today.
“Why has our church plateaued?”
“Why are so few young leaders going into church-based ministries?”
“Why are so few interested in church these days?”
Recovering Hope for Your Church uncovers the “whys,” creating space to embrace new realities, commit to the tough road of recovery, and develop new skills, structures, and ministry designs through a process of spiritual discernment, congregational coaching, and a deeper reliance on the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit. Eddie Hammett, a Professional Certified Coach and Church and Clergy Coach for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina, provides a step-by-step process of hope and health to encourage, guide, and inspire pastors, leaders, churches, regions, and denominations that recovery of hope is possible.
A TCP Books title.
“Now and then one reads a passage that leaves you thinking, ‘That’s good! That’s really intelligent. The writer leaves us with a truth we cannot, should not, ignore. That was smartly said.’ Eddie Hammett left me with just that sentiment six chapters in to his recent book, Recovering Hope for Your Church: Moving beyond Maintenance and Missional to Incarnational Engagement (The Columbia Partnership, 2014).
Hammett writes on page 34: ‘Often the journey of recovery involves getting our focus off our pains and illness and opening up to receive support from others and often to help others. Such can often become part of the treatment and recovery as we shift from over preoccupation with our care to caring for others. Many churches are in need of recovery from spending most of their time, energy, and money just on taking care of the members rather than mobilizing members into missional experiences in and through their careers and community relationships. Shifting focus of time, energy, and resources is key to recovery. Even if only a remnant of the church shifts, it can make a significant difference in the possibility of recovery and hope.
‘Many congregations (districts, judicatories, associations) and pastoral leaders are crying for clear, focused pastoral leadership amid rapid change in our culture, but most are primarily getting/giving pastoral care. What’s that about? What are the consequences of minimal leadership in our churches, judicatories, districts, and denominations?,’ Hammett asks the all-important question.
As important as pastoral care is over the centuries of Christian life and thought, pastoral leadership has been on the horizon only in the past maybe 40 years—since the time Bill Hybels held his first roundtable of pastors that later became the leadership conferences and today is the Global Leadership Summit. He didn’t invent the concept but he stuck to it when others might have moved on to some other cause within the church.
Hammett says that pastors are inherently given to being pastoral by training, rather than leaders. And congregations, when calling a pastor, instinctively ask whether the candidate has a good bedside manner. ‘Those [pastors] trained most recently are at least introduced to the value of leadership, but unfortunately, in far too many cases, the introduction is so elementary that those pastors face their first churches with fear and limited training,’ Hammett concludes. ‘Most churches and other denominational organizations get stuck or become irrelevant and out of touch when pastoral care concerns and skills override leadership concerns and skills. Caring is a needed and important function. However, when pastoral care is overdone and overexpected, a church becomes ingrown, maintenance minded, and often sacrifices the biblical mandate/mission for being a loving/nurturing church.’ Don’t stop caring, Hammett tells the church, but says: ‘I am pleading for a reallocation of time/energy/resources and expectations to give a new, more forward-looking balance than an inward-looking/caring focus.’
This past August I went to a satellite location of the Global Leadership Summit, all the while thinking back to the earlier iterations of where the Summit came from and those I attended in person at Willow Creek while living nearby. They excited and invigorated me, and Hybels never disappointed in his presentations. I always thought it interesting how leadership became the focal point of his ministry and how that has led hundreds upon thousands of churches, now worldwide, to thinking differently about ministry and mission. Today there is probably not a week that goes by without the announcement of a new book on leadership in the church.
Still, while many have benefitted from this plethora of titles, so much more needs to be done. Hybels has only energized the tip of the religious community in being better leaders and carrying the church into a new era. Churches can be so much better than they are, and getting past what one denominational leader said to me 20 years ago: ‘We’re organized for the 1950s, and if the 1950s ever come again, we’ll be ready.’”
— Ronald E. Keener, former editor, Church Executive, “Ready for the 1950s? Let’s Get Real,” churchcentral.com, 12/16/14
"Recovering Hope for Your Church is practical, accessible, and saturated with wisdom. It will help you deal with congregational realities from church bullies to fear of change, from being over-programmed to thinking you're friendly when you're actually not, from refocusing your purpose to developing a healthy culture, and so much more. A gift for pastors and lay leaders alike from a wise and seasoned coach."
–Brian McLaren, author, activist, and speaker
"I challenge anyone to read this book without having a holiday in their heart. Hammett not only showcases how hope is the distinguishing mark of a vital church, but turns this book into a rope of hope to transform no-hope and low-hope living into high-hope communities of faith."
–Leonard Sweet, theologian, author, and futurist
"In many ways the church of Jesus Christ is not healthy and it's losing hope. That's why Eddie Hammett's book is the right word at just the right time. Drawing upon his personal experience as well as expertise in congregational coaching, Eddie offers pastors and church leaders a way to rediscover hope and experience new energy for the future. Through his diagnosis of the times as well as his coaching resources, pastor's and church leaders will be able to embark on a journey of dreaming and discovery that will reenergize their passion for Christ as well as the Great Commission. If you feel your church is stuck, your next step needs to be to go and purchase this book. It will be your first huge step towards renewal."
–Scott Wagoner, Pastoral Minister, Deep River Friends Meeting (Quaker)