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Brief summary of the book
Essential church is a book written by Thom Rainer in 2008. This book tries to analyze the different reasons that cause dropouts in the American church, Thom R. and Sam R, 2008, pp 24. This book shows that the church in America is in decline with the largest group of those leaving the church being the young people of the ages between eighteen and twenty-two. According to this book, more than half of the young people are dropping out of church and only a small percentage of the youth are now in church.
This book also makes suggestions on the steps to make in order ensure that no youth use back doors in the church. The authors have divided the book into two sections. They have dedicated the first part of this book in a research that explains why people are running away from the nonessential church. The second part of this book explains how the essential church will close the back doors used by the youth. According to this book, a four step prescription can help the church to close the back doors used be the youth. One of the four steps is to simplify the structure of the church through ensuring the clarity of what the church means and how people can participate in the matters of the church. The other prescription given by this book is that the church should provide solid biblical teachings to deepen the impact of the church to the youth. The third prescription given is for the church to have higher prospects of the people in the church and the fourth step is to emphasizing on evangelism, Thom R. and Sam R, 2008, pp 76.
Analysis and critique of the author's major thesis
Essential church is a book whose major thesis is about a thousand church dropouts interviewed about why they were leaving the church. The book analyses the answers given by the youths and offers a prescription of what the church requires to do in order to ensure that the youth no longer use back doors in the church. This book gives ten major reasons why the youth decide to leave the church. One of the main reasons that the youth gave for leaving the church is that they wanted a break from the church, Thom R. and Sam R, 2008, pp 98. In this connection, the youth felt they only wanted to stop attending the church. Another reason given by the youth for their continued church dropout is that they never wished to condone the judgmental and hypocritical nature of the church members. This means that some of the church members are hypocritical, they judge the deeds of other people, and hence the youth decide to run away from the church.
Another reason as to why the youth run out of the church is that when they move to learning colleges, they stop attending the church. This means that moving into colleges and other learning institutions causes the youth to move out of church. The youth also claimed that the work responsibilities given to them made them to leave the church. Another reason given by the youth for their continued church dropout is that they claimed to have shifted to areas far from the church hence they could no longer attend the church. The youth also explained that sometimes they found out that, they had become too busy hence; they could not continue attending the church although they wanted to attend. Moreover, the youth explained that feeling disconnected with the people in the church was yet another reason why they were leaving the church. Disagreement between the youth and the other people in the church on political and social issues is another reason why the youth were leaving the church. The youth would also choose to spend more of their time with their friends hence; they could not continue attending the church, Thom R. and Sam R, 2008, pp 56. Lastly, the youth explained that they realized that they had been going to church to please others and that is why they were dropping out of church.
This book also analyses how the essential church works hard to close the back door. In order for the church to close the back door, this book proposes for good steps. First, the church needs to simplify the structure of the church. This step implies that the structure of the church is complicated and therefore it requires simplification in order to prevent the youth from leaving the church. Another suggestion given is that the church needs to deepen the understanding of its people about the contents of the bible so that they get to know the expected results. The other thing that the church requires to do is to expect more from the people in the church in the church by ensuring that those in the church have the right attitude towards the church.
Lastly, the church should multiply the number of people attending the church by ensuring that they put more efforts in evangelism. The last thing in this book shows how the church can build an essential church and the factors that can contribute to the building of an essential church. Essential church is a book that simply focuses on the ways that can help prevent the church from declining.
The book has also given an analysis of an essential church. According to Thom R. and Sam R, 2008, pp 212, an essential church is the one that simplifies its structure so that it can incorporate the youth in the matters of the matters. A church whose structure is simplified is essential because the youth do not run away from such a church. Another characteristic of an essential church is that it expects more by ensuring that the people have the right attitude about the church. Another characteristic of an essential church is that it embarks on evangelism, which helps the church to multiply in numbers hence preventing it from declining. Lastly, an essential church is the one that goes deeper in searching the knowledge of the bible and trying to help its members to understand the contents of the bible.
While an essential church can use the four steps prescribed in this book to end back doors, there are seven sins of a declining church. These are decline in evangelical passion, dilution of the set of guidelines in the church, irrelevance, conflict due to personal preferences, a small number of outward focused ministries, setting precedence over comfort and lack of biblical literacy. The essential church values the basic doctrines of the chronological Christian church and offers ways of service for the church to be meet the needs of the people in the church, Thom R. and Sam R, 2008, pp 58.
I can criticize this book for various reasons. One criticism is about its presentation of the essential church. The book presents the essential church as a church that deepens, multiplies, expects and simplifies. People might stretch the characteristics of an essential church in order to come up with new churches. In addition, this book is criticized because it sets the church as the most important thing. Though the bible emphasizes on the importance of gathering together for worship, it is good to let people know that they can still pray and worship their God even while they are away from the church. More so, the people who go to church are the church and there is no way we can say that the youth run away from the church. It is also important to make the creation more vital than the creator.
Another criticism of this book can be on the reasons given for decline in the church in America. This book tries to show that the youth are the ones who are leading to the decline of the church. The young people are not the people who drop out of church and therefore the book should generalize on the issue because people of all ages can lead to the decline of the church. Moreover, if the young people find the church irrelevant in their lives, their parents are the ones to blame for the decline of the church because it seems like they have not imparted the right knowledge about the church to their children.
This book shows that the church takes on the characteristics of its leaders. According to Thom R. and Sam R, 2008, pp 98, the pastor is the major vision-casting leader in the church. The book should not associate the decline of the church with the kind of leaders in that church because the leaders cannot force the congregation to do anything. The leaders in the church are there to nurture the congregation in the church spiritually.
Moreover, an essential church requires emphasizing on the spiritual growth of the church but not the grown in number. The last criticism of this book is on the point that the youth are drooping out of the church because of going to colleges. We understand that most institutions are church based and therefore even when the youth go to learn institutions, they should still go to church because the churches are everywhere.
Appraisal of book's strengths and weaknesses
The book essential church has several strengths as well as weaknesses. One of the strengths of this book is that it has succeeded in defining an essential church. In addition, it has also explained well the characteristics of an essential church as well as the failures of a declining church. The other strength of this book is that it has fully analyzed the reasons why many youth are dropping out of church. It has given the various reasons given by the church dropouts who have been interviewed about their continued decline in church attendance.
Explaining on the measures that a church should take in order to become an essential church is strength of this book. According to Thom R. and Sam R, 2008, pp 134, a church should simplify its structure, deepen its members' understanding of the church doctrines, multiply and expect more from the members in order for it to be become an essential church.
Though this book has several strengths, it has some weaknesses. One of the weaknesses of this book is about the reasons presented in the book for the continued decline in the American church. This book shows that the church is declining because many youth are running away from the church. However, the book does not show what can be done to ensure that the youth do not run away from the church. The book does not emphasize on building new churches in learning institutions to ensure that the youth can access the church even while in school.
Another weakness of this book only associates the decline in the American church with the youth who have dropped out of church but not on the other members of the church. Lastly, the book associates the decline in the church with the leaders while leaders are not able to force the congregation to do anything in the church. The pastor is there to nurture church members spiritually but not to force them into the matters of the church.