Dying For Change
By Leith Anderson
Reviewed by Dr. Irv Busenitz
3.1 (Spring 1992) : 95-96
"Change," according to Dr. Leith Anderson, "is not the choice. How we handle it is" (p. 11). With that as his premise, the senior pastor of the Wooddale Church located in the Minneapolis suburb of Eden Prairie endeavors to expose the changes in society that currently shape our world, analyze the spiritual and sociological changes that the church will face, and chart specific plans to expedite these changes, including the type of leadership required. Within that framework, he proceeds to "examine recent changes in our world and country and use them as a basis for looking to the future" (p. 19).
And examine he does! For more than 100 pages, the author interestingly, accurately, and, at times, redundantly records the numerous changes that have occurred during the last half century. His research leaves little doubt that the world is experiencing rapid and far-reaching change. Beginning essentially with the decade of the 1940's and the "baby-boomers," he traces such notable changes as globalization, urbanization, resurgence of fundamentalism worldwide, mobility, ethnic diversity, and the proliferating emphasis on selffulfillment (pp. 21-41). Government, he adds, is having an expanding influence in the affairs of the church. Malpractice suits against churches, sexual and financial improprieties by church leaders, and limitations enacted by municipalities against churches have dragged the church into the jurisdiction of secular courts, establishing a procedure for governmental involvement and infiltration (pp. 43 ff.).
Consequently, Anderson contends that a church's continuing virility requires that "changes in the community and culture must be identified and addressed. . . . A problem arises when leadership becomes entrenched in yesterday's social structures and practices" (p. 130). To diagnose the issues that confront a church and to chart a course of action designed to generate renewed health and vigor (pp. 139 ff.), the author suggests a series of questions to ask, including, "Why do we exist?" "Who's in charge?" or "Which way do we look? In or Out?" (p. 156). Borrowing insights from management experts, he urges churches to look for "early warning signs" such as excess personnel, tolerance of incompetence, bureaucracy, replacement of substance with form, and loss of effective communication (pp. 158-59). He concludes with excellent thoughts on effective leadership, including the observation that power is often delegated, handed from the top down, while authority is earned from the bottom up through confidence and trust (pp. 190 ff.).
Although one may not agree with the author on all his perspectives, the book offers many excellent insights and helpful suggestions to churches and pastors who wish to be effective leaders amidst rapid change.