Critical Review of Mike Slaughter’s “Change the World”
by "Dale's Gospel Sketch Pad"
Friends, I hope you will scan the summarizing review below of a recent, challenging book by Michael Slaughter, who will be our speaker at Annual Conference this year. It's not my work, but blogger "Dale" has done a thorough job of summarizing Slaughter's work, making the insights immediately accessible for your own ministries. I commend the review, the blogger, and the book for your study alone and with the leaders in your parishes, and in preparation for Annual Conference.
Mike Slaughter’s book “Change the World: Recovering the Message and Mission of Jesus” is a refreshing, informative, practical, and needed contribution to Church leadership in North America. The thesis can be restated by paraphrasing Pastor Mike’s creative turns of phrase. The church has spent too much time getting people into heaven instead of getting heaven into earth. Or, to say it again, in a different way; the church has spent too much time getting the world into the church instead of the church into the world.... Pastor Mike calls the church to return to the message and mission of Jesus.... He is transforming the dominant church paradigm and calling Christian leaders to a new model. The emerging model that Pastor Mike calls for is rooted and grounded in Jesus’ message and mission and finds its biblical grounding in Luke 4:18 (see also 61:1-2) as well as Matthew 25:35-40. (It’s also obvious Slaughter’s dependence on the Social Gospel movement.)
In this sense, his analysis is deeply theological and practical. He shows his indebtedness to his own theological tradition of Methodism by combining both personal holiness and social holiness in a fresh synthesis. Pastor Mike’s persistent and consistent focus on the Church’s mission to local communities is made clear throughout the work. For example, he writes, “The business of the church is to engage and empower disciples of Jesus in meeting the needs and closing the gaps of disparities for the least of these (p. xvii.)." ....
Chapter one is titled “Missional vs. Attractional.” The point of this chapter is that missional Churches follow Jesus’ call to the marginalized not worrying about their self-gain or self-image. He writes, “Mission Evangelism is not dependent on a person’s response, nor does it always have to be tied to a verbal presentation of the gospel. Jesus said people would be able to sort our truth from fiction by the demonstration of his follower’s love, followers who are willing to sacrificially lay down their rights, conveniences, and lifestyles so that others may live (p. 13)."
Chapter two is titled “Inclusive vs. Exclusive.” This chapter argues that the Christian church should always be ‘inclusive.’ In fact, he calls anything less ‘toxic religion.’ Another noteworthy point about this chapter is Pastor Mike’s clear and honest wrestling with the GLBTQ community. I applaud him for not ducking and diving his own position and stating it clearly.
Chapter three is titled “Disciples vs. Decisions.” This chapter offers very helpful information on disciple making in the church. He uses the analogy of community college motorcycle classes to stress that the church has to be intentional about how it helps people follow Jesus. His question at the end of the book haunts me: “Does your church have a clearly articulated process of discipleship training?”
Chapter four is titled “Micro vs. Macro.” This chapter urges the Church to simplify is processes. The strongest argument for doing this is so that sustained attention can be given to the essentials of Christian formation. “The focus will be given to the fundamentals of community, discipleship, and mission (p.57).” Another important argument for simplification is our recent cultural condition of “Economic meltdown, mobility, Time competition, Changes in family life, and a Networked society.” Another salient feature of this chapter is the concluding section where he outlined how he successfully empowered cell groups and house churches. Once again, Pastor Mike practices what he preaches, and has created space for those who will never darken the door of a traditional church. He provides these groups with resources and support. Over and over, Mike drives home the proverbial punch line: It’s about building disciples not church buildings.
Chapter 5 “Multiplication vs. Expansion.” The point of this chapter is that disciples and Missional Churches are built by multiplication not expansion of church building projects. An added feature of this chapter is the chart on pg. 77 that gives practical steps to revitalize dying congregations. And, as the careful reader has come to expect, multiplication helps fulfill the mission to “connect people to the liberating love of Jesus and to empower folks to rise out of the malaise of poverty (p. 82)".
Chapter 6 is titled “Mission vs. Mortar.” His prophetic urging in this chapter is for the church to minimize brick and maximize mission. He repeats this familiar phrase at least 10 times throughout the chapter. What’s extremely helpful, at least, for those of us in the local church trenches, is the easy way he has of categorizing budget expenses: ministry, mission, and mortar. He even offers a helpful sheet for tracking these important matters. His charge to Pastors is “to make sure that ministry and mission are not sacrificed on the altar of mortar (p. 95).”
And, Chapter seven is titled “Courage vs. Compliance.” This last chapter encourages church leaders to be people of courage, vision, and leadership in a world of compliance, mediocrity, and wilderness wandering. He concludes with four pieces of advice for church leaders. First, “Don’t let fear determine your actions.” Second, “Recognize holy ground.” Third, “Serve God’s purpose in others,” and lastly, “Focus Forward.” He ends with Len Sweet’s “out of control Disciple” and urges creative and courageous leadership on behalf of the world’s poor.