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Becoming a Blessed Church

By Brian McLaren, speaker, pastor, and author of The Great Spiritual Migration: I am deeply grateful to Graham Standish for his thoughtful, practical, and inspiring masterpiece, Becoming a Blessed Church. Now, if anyone asks me to recommend one book that a church's leaders could read together to help them envision a better, more vibrant future, this is where I'll point them. He presents a vision that is accessible to and legitimate for churches across the spectrum because it gets beyond old polarities—evangelical, mainline, traditional, contemporary, etc.—and leads to a better, richer, more fruitful path.

 

By L. Roger Owens, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary: As a pastor I learned much from Standish's wisdom in this book. As a professor I see to it my students learn from him as well. And now, with this second edition, I'm even more eager to commend the book. The three new chapters covering leadership and discernment address exactly the questions churches need to face if they want to flourish in spiritually vital ministry but don't know how. If they read this book, they will.

 

By David Sherbino, professor of pastoral ministries and spiritual formation, Tyndale Seminary, Toronto, Canada: Becoming a Blessed Church is about becoming a church that knows and experiences the presence, the power, and the love of God. Graham Standish writes out of years of experience as a congregational minister who has led his congregation into that reality. The book is easy to read and understand. It is filled with numerous illustrations drawn from congregational life that bring theoretical concepts to life. If your congregation is looking for help in hearing God and being guided by Him in your life together, this is the book for you.

 

By Alfred Fletcher, executive minister, American Baptist Churches of Maine: Becoming a Blessed Church is not a how-to book. It is a why book. At the heart of every endeavor, the local church needs to prayerfully discern the why. Dr. Standish’s book provides a framework for helping local churches begin the hard and rewarding work of discerning the why. As the people of God, why are we doing what we do? Discerning the why invigorates a congregation as it faithfully lives out its mission in the world as God’s community in Christ led by His Spirit.

 

By Young Jin Cho, Bishop, Virginia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church: This is one of the books I highly recommend to both clergy and laity who are interested in the transformation and renewal of our churches today. I believe that a renewal of our churches must be more than implementing new programs or new initiatives. It should be a movement to restore a biblical and authentic church. Becoming a Blessed Church is the book that helps us to think about the nature of an authentic church. In this revised edition, Graham Standish provides us more guidance in how the church discerns God’s will in its mission and ministry. There is great wisdom and guidance not only in the main body of this book, but also in its appendix. I am confident that this revised edition will be a great blessing to many churches and their leaders.

 

By Ray G. Jones III, Presbyterian Mission Agency: This book is a must-read for any church leader interested in church renewal. Graham Standish offers a biblical way into intentional ministry, which leads to authentic evangelism and life-changing mission. There are no shortcuts for reaching people and being the church in the community. Becoming a Blessed Church provides a thoughtful way forward into effective ministry through prayerful discernment, spiritual practices, and discipleship.

 

By Diana Butler Bass, author of Grounded: Finding God in the World―A Spiritual Revolution: This book is not for everyone. It is not for those who are comfortable with business-as-usual church, for those who think that programs and theories will fix declining congregations. Becoming a Blessed Church is for those Christians who idealistically believe that the Trinitarian God has something to do with our lives— those who seek the Creator’s purposes, who hunger for Jesus’s presence, and who know that the Spirit’s power alone can save and heal the world. In these pages, Graham Standish points the way of hope, opening the possibility that a church can be blessed and offer blessing through deceptively simple acts of faith and trust that can nurture wise, authentic, discerning, and loving spiritual communities.

 

Pastor and author N. Graham Standish describes how a church that is open to God’s purpose, presence, and power can claim God’s blessing. Becoming a Blessed Church will help you discern God’s purpose and the path God is calling your congregation to walk. This book will help you find Christ in your midst and become aware of the many ways the blessings of God’s Spirit flow through your congregation. This second edition includes three new practical chapters that answer the questions the author is most frequently asked.

In God's Presence

By Tony Jones, author of The Church Is Flat: The integrated worship that Graham Standish advocates is just what so many churches—and worshipers—need in our fragmented and dis-integrated time. Rather than chasing each fad, Standish encourages to develop worship experiences that are just as beautiful and diverse as our theology. This book will both challenge and hearten many church leaders.

 

By Thomas G. Long, Bandy Professor of Preaching, Candler School of Theology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA: Churches, Graham Standish observes, have a predictable tendency to slide from vibrancy to mere functionality. Wisely using his pastoral experience in leading a Presbyterian congregation toward the renewal of worship, Standish provides a wealth of insightful counsel about how to help churches stem and reverse this tide. Particularly welcome is his conviction that the true renewal of congregational worship is not about technique but about the recovery of a deep sense of the holy.

 

By Jim Walker, Pastor, Hot Metal Bridge: I find most books about worship to be watered down and very 'fuzzy feeling' centered. Not this one. Graham takes the experience of worship and knits it expertly with lots of thought provoking theology, captivating church history, and 'down to earth' rationale. This is so refreshing. As I read In God’s Presence, I was constantly reminded that worship is supposed to be Jesus centered. This reality should cause us to drop the masks of superficial worship and draw deeper to God- mind, body and spirit.

Ministry Proverbs

Ministry Proverbs is a collection of 60 proverbs that the Rev. Dr. Graham Standish has developed over the years to guide his own ministry. These are proverbs such as “We are only responsible for our efforts. God is responsible for the results. So be responsible for your part, and let God be responsible for God’s part. Wisdom comes in learning to tell the difference.” Each proverb is followed by 4-6 paragraphs of reflection that take the reader deeper into the ramifications and applications of the proverb. The reflections are intended to help readers to apply the proverbs in their own ministries, and to remember them so that when they face a difficult or uncertain situation, they can tap into the wisdom.

Humble Leadership

There comes a point at which leaderhsip can break down precisely because of our success as leaders. When confidence turns to pride and arrogance, we lose sight of the people that we have been called to serve and become consumed with following our own vision. Graham Standish offers a way forward that moves us through this paradox by seeking to humbly follow God's plans rather than our own. Humble leadership, grounded in the teachings of Jesus, means recognizing that what we have and who we are is a gift from God, and our lives should reflect our gratitude for this gift. It requires us to be radically and creatively open to God's guidance, grace, and presence in everything. When we lead out of such openness, God's power and grace flow through us. The path Standish proposes is not easy. Humble leadership can be personally dangerous, exposing our weakness, powerlessness, fear, and anxiety. Our cultural need for strength infects Christian leaders with a pride that causes them to ignore biblical teachings on humility. But a humble leader says to God, "I'm yours, no matter where you call me to go, what you call me to do, and how you call me to be. I will seek your will and way as I lead others to do the same."

Discovering the Narrow Path

In a time when competing and often irreconcilable belief systems seem to dominate all religious conversation in Christianity, N. Graham Standish offers an alternative to leading a spiritual and faithful life. Providing models that embrace elements of many spiritual traditions within Christianity, Discovering the Narrow Path seeks to hold all extremist positions in perfect tension, by integrating their essential truths yet also recognizing their flaws. In doing so, Standish surveys the wisdom of the mystics, the practice of forming a Trinitarian faith, the openness of healing traditions, and the value of balancing prayer and action, as well as spirituality, theology, and religion.

    This book explores how to move beyond today’s simplistic responses to the struggles of faith, and guides people on how to walk the unclear path of faith that requires trust and commitment to God. It explores themes such as the mystical approach to faith; the role of healing; living in balance; forming a Trinitarian faith and spirituality; serving Christ in a balanced way; integrating theology, religion, and spirituality; and understanding the different approaches to faith in modern Christianity.

Paradoxes for Living

At the core of Christian faith lie paradoxes.  These are beliefs that on the surface seem self-contradictory, but when we meditate on them we discover deeper truths.  This book explores the importance of paradoxes in the process of forming faith and growing spiritually.  It looks at scriptural paradoxes such as:  to be strong we have to be weak;  to live we have to die;  to be mature we have to be like children;  to save ourselves we have to lose ourselves;  to receive we have to give;  and to know God we have to know ourselves.