Henard, Bill. Can These Bones Live? A Practical Guide to Church Revitalization. Nashville: B&H, 2015. 256 pp. $14.99.
Anyone who has served any length of time in pastoral ministry understands that the church is not a static entity. It is an ever-changing organism that is constantly being affected by any host of internal and external influences. These influences could arise out of the culture, the economy, the long-time church member, or even the pastor himself. They have the ability to either strengthen and build or weaken and destroy the local church.
Can These Bones Live? is written to the pastor who is called to lead the impoverished, dying (or dead) church in desperate need of new life. If the church you are leading is losing (or has lost) its effectiveness for the Kingdom of God, then this book is for you.
Can These Bones Live? approaches the issue of church revitalization in a simple, yet effective, “problem/solution” format. Bill Henard (writing from years of pastoral experience) begins by asking the question, “Why is there such a great need for church revitalization” (p 3)? The answer: churches are dying all across America. With Henard’s help, the concerned pastor will recognize the symptoms of decline in his own church, and then make steps to reverse this downward trend.
In the first two chapters, Henard lays the book’s foundation by identifying the essential ingredients necessary for church revitalization, including a look at the different “investors” within and outside the church that make revitalization possible (or difficult!). Henard then dedicates the rest of the book to identifying eleven different sources that cause the breakdown of a church, while countering each source with pages of practical and spiritual counsel. He concludes the book by presenting the “Change Matrix,” a “four-step course of action” (p 210) for the pastor who is ready to implement the guidance suggested in the middle eleven chapters.
Benefit for Pastoral Ministry
If you are like me, the church God has placed you in has its problems and could be even falling into a state of decline. What I like about this book is that Henard leaves no stone unturned in helping me locate and assess those areas of weakness in my own church. These areas include the mindset of the current congregation (for example, its resistance or openness to change), environmental factors (i.e. the economy), and physical factors like church building location, the church website, and the appearance of hallways and common areas. Henard then graciously draws out a detailed plan of action to help me and the church together make changes where necessary. For the church revitalization pastor, identifying the problem is only half the battle—working toward a solution is much more challenging! Henard offers essential counsel to the concerned pastor on both of these fronts, and the person who receives it will, no doubt, start seeing the change he so desperately longs for.
From a theological perspective, I found myself wanting a little more. Henard is careful to indicate the importance of the power of the Holy Spirit in church revitalization (p 12-13; 16), as well as the necessity of solid, biblical preaching/teaching (p 10; 68-69), and prayer (both individual and corporate [p 11, 72, 199-203]) as agents of revival in the church. And yet, there were times I was almost overloaded with what I should “do,” and wished there was further space given to Christ’s active role in revitalizing His church. After all, the Church is His own body. If these bones will live, it can only occur by the reviving breath of the Holy Spirit upon His church! What the church revitalization pastor needs (in addition to the “how to”) is a personal revival of the Holy Spirit, first and foremost.
In the end, however, one must remember that this is a practical guide. It will serve as a valuable resource for the pastor looking for specific guidance on his own role in bringing the church back to life. If this is you, Can These Bones Live? will not disappoint!
Essential — Recommended — Helpful — Pass It By
Can These Bones Live? is a valuable tool for the pastor wanting practical advice on how to revitalize a dying church.