*The below article was a post on evaluating Aubrey Malphurs’ book Advanced Strategic Planning. It has been left in its unaltered state, but covers Malphurs’ contribution to a specific aspect of strategic planning, that of researching the church and the community. I hope it may be helpful to my fellow ministers and seminarians.
The most influential aspect of the reading requirements for the class for the author of this post was the questions to ask about the church congregation as well as the community. The first step Malphurs suggest accomplishing is that of understanding the church’s boundaries. He recommends understanding how many members live within twenty minutes as this will indicate 40% of your membership. (Malphurs, 2013: 179-180)
The next beneficial aspect of this that the author found most helpful is that of the specific questions. Malphurs breaks it down into community questions (Malphurs, 2013:181-184) and congregation questions. (Malphurs, 2013: 184-186) This information is incredibly beneficial as it provides a better understanding of the community to be reached as well as the members who will do the reaching. Gary McIntosh, a church growth guru, writes, “Often well-intentioned churches make mistakes that keep them from experiencing biblical church growth, and one of the major mistakes is to fail to do adequate research to understand the people they are seeking to reach with the Gospel.” (McIntosh, 2003: 136-137) McIntosh really aptly describes the problems of most churches’ evangelistic efforts. The research aspect is a necessary aspect of planning for outreach, and Malphurs provides the church with a good head start for questions. Of course other information could be added or subtracted, depending on the specific outreach plans of the church. However, the questions offered by Malphurs also produces excellent results for a focused effort of evangelism.
Besides reaching the community the church’s function is to teach and make disciples. This involves the members of one’s church and their own spiritual growth and development. Unfortunately many churches fail to adequately train and raise up volunteers and so the few that do contribute often experience burn out. (Marshall and Payne, 2009:13-14) Understanding who makes up the congregation will enable the leadership to focus on training specific people with regards to their own unique and diverse backgrounds and cultural influences. In order to be more effective in the outreach of the community it is necessary to build up the people within the church. Marshall and Payne describe this, writing, “If we want our strategy to be people-focused, we should concentrated on training, which increases the number and effectiveness of gospel communicators (i.e. people who can speak the good news both in personal conversations and in public settings).” (Marshall and Payne, 2009: 19) Thus, understanding who is in one’s church will enable the church leadership team to more effectively train the individual members. Marshall and Payne offer a chart that enables leadership to plug members into sections to determine the spiritual maturity of each one. (Marshall and Payne, 2009: 110) With the understanding that this list is a general idea rather than specific information, the leadership team can take the information garnished through the research and then handpick one another for more specific development.
The combination of understanding the community and the congregation will enable the church to make disciples and thus fulfill the Great Commission. Malphurs’ contributions to this area of church theology and practice will prove, in the estimation of this author, to be of unrivaled benefit for generations to come.
Gary L. McIntosh, Biblical Church Growth: How You Can Work with God to Build a Faithful Church (Grand Rapids, Bakerbooks: 2003)
Aubrey Malphurs, Advanced Strategic Planning: A 21st Century Model for Church and Ministry Leaders (Grand Rapids, Bakerbooks: 2013)
Colin Marshall and Tony Payne, The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-Shift that Changes Everything (Kingsford, Matthias Media: 2009)