Friday, July 27, 2007

Review: Power Surge by Michael W. Foss

I recently finished reading Michael Foss's book Power Surge, and have been meaning to write up a review. When I received the church profile for Franklin Lakes, where I will begin September 1st, I was struck in their profile by their statement, "seeking to move from a membership model to a discipleship model." I find this extremely encouraging! When I asked some folks at the church about it, they told me this is a key idea in Foss' book, Power Surge, which Bishop Devadhar has been encouraging congregations in the Greater New Jersey conference to read. They gave me a copy of the book, and it was a quick, easy, interesting read.

I have to admit, the cover, the title, the subtitle (six marks of discipleship for a changing church) - none of these are things that would make me likely to pick up this book if I wasn't directed to it as I was. It reminds me (both before and after reading it) of Adam Hamilton's Leading Beyond the Walls - another book that I enjoyed and learned from but started reading with a great deal of hesitancy. Foss' approach is like Hamilton's: he offers up his own successful model of ministry and his reflections on why he's chosen this model of ministry, what's worked and what hasn't. It is very practical in that sense, with concrete and specific ideas, which Foss reflects on in more general, broad-reaching ways.

I think Foss' strongest point is with his emphasis on the changing role of the pastor. He talks a lot about what pastors expect of themselves and what roles congregations expect them to fill, and he describes changes to this role over time, and changes that should happen for authentic, effective ministry. He talks about the stress of trying to be a "personal pastor" - "The reason many church don't grow - or stop growing - is that the pastoral staff reaches its limit for personal care and then, consciously or unconsciously, creates a climate and systems that discourage growth." (12) Pastors, he says, are leaders, not chaplains. Leaders, not managers. (Ouch. How much of the time do I spend being a chaplain? Manager?) He says that discipleship as a ministry model "raises the bar - not to the level of perfection, but to the level of passionate followership." (31)

As I've mentioned in another post, Foss talks about burnout, and boredom too, not just in clergy but also in congregants. He says that burnout and boredom are the two most common reasons people leave churches, and that these days, people consider themselves active in a congregation even when they worship only once or twice a month. (5) He talks about the membership model that most churches have, and recounts asking people about joining the church only to have them respond, "What do I get as a member that I don't get now?" (20)

Foss has helpful sections on mission and vision and how to figure these out as a congregation in a useful, usable way. Some ideas are a little too cutsie for me - Power Surge is actually an acronym used in his congregation for spiritual disciplines congregants can commit to practicing - Pray, Worship, Read the Bible, Serve, be in Relationship, Give - but, I guess if it works, then it's worth it, right? He also talks about teams vs. committees and things of that nature that are not new and so perhaps less helpful.

Each chapter concludes with some discussion/reflection questions. I can see how well this book would lend itself to a congregational study, especially among a group of people particularly interested in being visionary. The book is accessible and interesting, practical enough to make Foss' ideas seem doable, and convince you that change might really be possible in your congregation, at least pointing you in the right direction.

Anyone else read this? Thoughts?
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