I have spent the last week reading through Dangerous Church by John Bishop, pastor of Living Hope Church. This book is part of the Leadership Network Innovation Series. Since I have enjoyed reading other titles in the series, I had high hopes that this book would really challenge my thinking.
From the first phrases of the book it is easy to see John Bishop’s passion for doing church in a way that focuses on evangelism. He begins with several good questions:
- Why are you doing church?
- If your church ceased to exist, would anyone notice?
- Will you lose to win?
- Who is building the church?
The book is broken up into four sections:
- Risk Everything
- Reach Everywhere
- Release Everyone
- Remember Only God
In part 1 Bishop’s big contention is that churches too often play it safe by not wanting to upset people, being committed to too wide a selection of programmes/activities and instead need to focus on people and their life-changing encounters with Jesus. Towards the end of this section he writes very powerfully on failure, its necessity, and how the church has to deal with “failure” as well as “success”, I found that a real encouragement.
I struggled more with part 2 where Bishop seems to focus on the weekend service as the primary form of evangelism. This may be a difference between the UK and American Christian cultures, but in the UK much of our evangelism is focussed on the church members living their faith out with their friends, and often using courses such as the Alpha course rather than the acutual weekend service for evangelism. Whilst I think the UK could learn a lot from people like Bishop in the effort and creativity that goes into their services, I would want to know how do they encourage church members to invite people to the services – is it natural or is it based around marketing campaigns?
Part 3 is called “Release Everyone”, I appreciated his stories of hiring staff, and his advice to hire from within the community – again something I haven’t seen lots of in the UK churches I’ve worked with. Bishop’s biblical examples of all the failures God used to bring his kingdom to earth were very encouraging.
The book finishes with a challenge to focus on God in the midst of both success and failures. Again here Bishop illustrates the points well with stories from his own ministry from around the world.
I have a few minor criticisms of the book:
- I’m not sure the book offered me as many practical solutions as others in the Leadership Network Innovation series.
- His church seems to be a classic attractional based growing American church, I wonder how many of the thoughts succeed in other cultures.
- Will the multi-site model (which the book is based heavily on) survive or does the emerging church present big challenges to that model – I’m still undecided on that. In the UK there are very few successful examples of multi-site church, churches are much more likely to do a traditional church plant.
Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. It was written in an engaging style and challenged me in how I help to lead church. Ultimately, Bishop’s book is a good book, it re-energised me, but I wouldn’t have called it Dangerous Church in the way that many in places around the world, e.g. China, Pakistan are doing church. Instead he’s calling for a focus or refocus on reaching people with the gospel.