Back to Zero
by Gil Rendle
Abingdon Press, 96 pages
reviewed by ALLEN D. TIMM
Gil Rendle says the church must go “back to zero.” We must think of the early church. People with gifts who heard God’s call to ministry led it. People were part of a movement and involved in ministry. Once again people want to be involved in ministry that will change lives. They want to be involved in mission. We need a new model for ministry. Congregations need mission and visibility that show neighbors they care. Rendle stresses that churches need to know who they are and the needs of folk in their neighborhood. They need to ask God to help define the purpose for the congregation. Once they hear the call, congregations need more flexibility to make a clear difference. They need plans that can measure results and outcomes.
Members need to be citizens who make new rules. Citizens are people whose work aims to make the whole better. Citizens put their oar in and look for what can happen rather than what is not happening. Rather than complain about what others don’t let them do, or what others do to them, citizens work “for the whole of the enterprise.” The early church testified to what God was doing in their lives and in their communities. Congregants need to tell Christ’s story so that they make disciples who change the world.
Rendle poses a question: What will be different because of the ministry of this congregation or presbytery? His question is on target. It is not about the number of meetings leaders attend. It is about being a catalyst to help change lives, through members who step out the door and show Christ to their neighbor. How many are fed? How many are warm because a congregation sheltered the homeless? How many advanced a grade level at their school? How many know these efforts come from faith in Jesus Christ, the light of the world, the Savior who brings hope to the lost?
“Back to Zero.” What can a presbytery or congregation do to make disciples who change the world? Leaders need to act as catalysts, storytellers and gatherers of like stories. They will represent and gather people from all ethnic and racial backgrounds. They will foster movements within an institution, so that when disciples hear a call, they can act quickly. They need permission to get to work and the resources required to make a difference. Institutions give us direction and resources. But rather than focus energy on changing the institution, leaders need to foster entrepreneurs, giving them permission to start ministries that touch lives.
As in his other works, Rendle reminds us that we need to respect traditions, but if we are to reach the world, we need to allow fresh visions and ministries to emerge that touch lives. But how can we change lives? When our ministries hear the cries of our neighbor and show the love of Christ. I believe Gil Rendle is right. We need to go back to zero. We need to make disciples of Jesus Christ who change the world.
ALLEN D. TIMM is executive presbyter, Presbytery of Detroit.