One of the most excellent books on church renewal I have ever encountered is “Divine Renovation — Bringing Your Parish from Maintenance to Mission.” Written by Father James Mallon, this Catholic publication is the creation of the leading pastor of St. Benedict Parish in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the largest church of any denomination in Northeast Canada, which Mallon has grown to several thousand active disciples.
In his final and most outstanding Chapter 7, “The Leader of the House,” Mallon covers exquisitely the many facets and roles of pastoral and related leadership in a congregation, emphasizing that “a pastor who leads is in much need in our churches today.”
He writes, “Wayne Gretzkey used to say that the secret of his success was that he skated to where the puck was going to be.” Many leaders have been trained to skate to where the puck is; “never mind where it will be.”
Mallon also shares the following, which deserves being quoted:
“The late American Vineyard (a Protestant denomination) pastor John Wimber used to speak about the need for the pastor to ‘put the sign on the bus.’ This is the constant proclamation of where we are headed, done in a way that allows people to decide whether they wish to stay on the bus, get on it or get off it. When waiting for a bus, the first thing anyone does is look for the sign on the front that tells where the vehicle is going. This is a vital and just task when laboring to move any parish or ministry from maintenance to mission.
“The Church of God is missional. It is a bus that is designed to go. For centuries, however, these local ‘buses’ have sat in parking lots. They have been maintained and decorated. People gather to sit in them for one hour a week, some even drop in during the week, but most of the buses have never gone out. When a pastor starts the engine and calls ‘all aboard,’ those who receive the invitation must be told where the bus is going so they can decided whether to be on board. This telling is not just a public announcement, but a process of inspiring and winning people over to be a part of something wonderful.”
Elsewhere in his wisdom-packed seventh chapter, Mallon says:
“Someone once said that ‘Vision without strategy is simply hallucination.’ Vision is fundamental to transformation. It creates a desire and enthusiasm for the necessary journey, but as in any journey, once you have decided where you are going, you must then discern how you will get there. This is strategy — a word that comes from the Greek word meaning ‘warfare.’ It reminds us that bringing vision closer to reality by making concrete plans is essentially about doing battle. It is a battle against the human tendency to cling to the status quo and resist change.”
Mallon often refers to ideas he got from prominent Protestant leaders, including Rick Warren.
If you are a pastor or other leader of a church struggling to move from maintenance to mission, this book — especially the first brief chapter, “Remembering Our Identity and Purpose,” and the longer last chapter, “Leader of the House,” are key.
David Tritenbach is a retired Presbyterian minister.