The Present Future

In this provocative book, author, consultant, and church leadership developer Reggie McNeal debunks these and other old assumptions and provides an overall strategy to help church leaders move forward in an entirely different and much more effective way. In The Present Future, McNeal identifies the six most important realities that church leaders must address including: recapturing the spirit of Christianity and replacing "church growth" with a wider vision of kingdom growth; developing disciples instead of church members; fostering the rise of a new apostolic leadership; focusing on spiritual formation rather than church programs; and shifting from prediction and planning to preparation for the challenges of an uncertain world. McNeal contends that by changing the questions church leaders ask themselves about their congregations and their plans, they can frame the core issues and approach the future with new eyes, new purpose, and new ideas. (

I have listened to Reggie McNeal's podcast through for about a year now and I have found him to be a refreshing, no-holds-barred voice for healthy, missional change in the Church. "The Present Future: Six tough Questions for the Church" is no different. The book begins with McNeal making a case for the needed "missional" shift in North American church culture. His conclusions may be written by some as fatalistic and sensationalized, but despite his grim outlook on the preominant church culture in North America, underneath the stats and stories is a sense of hope; hope that the Church can become more like what Jesus had in mind, and that this "missional shift" may actually come from movements outside of what we have traditionally called church.

MacNeal poses six tough questions for the Church by first identifying the "wrong questions" that the church has been asking. The first "wrong question" he identifies is "How do we do church better?" The modern church has preoccupied itself with, "methodological pursuits while not facing the hard truth: none of this seems to be making much of a difference." (7) Churches have poured their resources in to buildings and rec centers and fancy equipment and shiny packages, focusing on an attractional model and methodology. "If we build it, and if we build it good, they will come." The scorecard has been based on how many people we can get plugged in to our programs and in the pews at our worship services. The problem, according to McNeal (and I agree), is that often the church has only succeed in contributing to the busyness of people's already busy lives. We have tried to program spirituality and keep it in a nice, convenient, easy to measure package. McNeal argues, "Church activity is a poor substitute for genuine spirituality." (7) The better question, according to McNeal, is How Do We Convert from Churchianity to Christianity? He argues that in North America, "to become a Christian has become largely an invitation to convert to the church." (11) There is a lot that we need to unlearn in order to recapture the mission of the Church.

To be continued…

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