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Monday, December 19, 2016

"Guardrails" (Alan Briggs)

TITLE: Guardrails: Six Principles for a Multiplying Church
AUTHOR: Alan Briggs
PUBLISHER: Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2016, (192 pages).

Growing churches is a desire among many Christian leaders. Whenever there is a huge increase in the number of attendees, people get excited. They rev up their engines to make Church run as efficiently as possible. They go on hyperactive mode to ensure that all the respective departments are up and running, able to meet the needs of all age groups. The moment the number drops, worry rises. Giving drops and panic rises. The focus then shifts overwhelmingly to one concern: How do we grow the Church? Here lies one of the biggest misconceptions in Church growth. Numbers do not necessarily reflect a healthy Church. The key to Church health is not numbers but discipleship. Author Alan Briggs provides four chapters on foundations and six principles to execute the way of discipleship. The key is how to start a movement and not simply a one-off project. Briggs looks at some movements in history and notes the need to avoid models in favour of principles.  We also need to avoid the three obstacles of kingdom building:

  1. Tendency to build kingdoms for self
  2. Tendency to build idols of security for self-preservation
  3. Tendency to think only for the present moment

Building upon the six truths of the Great Commission, readers learn about the need for relational learning; experiential learning; and formal learning. Discipleship is the way forward. The six principles are:

  1. Simplicity: Whatever methods we use, it needs to be simple enough for people to follow.
  2. Holistic: Any discipleship program needs to integrate heart, soul, mind, and strength.
  3. Adaptable: Form, strategy, methods, or any programs need to adapt to our contexts.
  4. Regular: Consistency and faithfulness
  5. Reproducible: Clear and easily passed down from one generation to another
  6. Positive: Inculcate freshness in ministries and enthusiasm with hope.
These six principles which the author calls "guardrails" form the framework of the book. I like the way Briggs has simplified discipleship into clear and understandable ways. It is common to see Christian leaders clueless as to what discipleship entails. Many would simply reduce discipleship into some classes to attend and once they finish the course, they receive a certificate that declares them as discipled. Others would simply usher people into conferences or seminars with discipleship as the topic. Another confuse mentorship with discipleship. As a result, many churches want to do discipleship but do not really know how to start. Those that do find it difficult to sustain the momentum. The single biggest takeaway is the simplicity factor. When things are made simple, not only will more people understand, the levels of participation would increase. Simplicity means being able to focus on the fundamentals and not be distracted by the peripherals. One of the biggest barriers is the lack of understanding of what it takes to adopt a discipleship program. Once it is simple enough, people will be able to adapt the idea to fit the many different contexts. They can communicate it far and wide. People from different ages will understand it more. It is also easily reproducible. Briggs has given us a very useful resource to start with, to experiment, and to implement with boldness and enthusiasm. It is hoped that this book can spur individuals to continue the good work of discipleship. 

I like the guardrails title which help us keep the main thing, the main thing. 

Alan Briggs is director of Frontline Church Planting where the focus is on helping churches build disciples. He is also the multiplying pastor of Vanguard Church.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of NavPress, Tyndale House Publishers and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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