Rethinking the Church

By James Emery White
Grand Rapids : Baker (1997). 141 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Alex Montoya
9.1 (Spring 1998) : 125-126

In the preface to the book, Dr. White states the purpose of Rethinking the Church: "It is the radical redesign of the church processes for dramatic improvement in the fulfillment of the church's purposes and mission. . . . It is not about asking 'How do I do this better?' as much as it is about asking, 'Why do I do this at all?'" (10-11).

The structure of the book follows an outline asking the reader to rethink the basic purposes of the church. Seven chapters revolve around the theme of rethinking the church:

  1. Rethinking the Foundational Questions
  2. Rethinking Evangelism
  3. Rethinking Discipleship
  4. Rethinking Ministry
  5. Rethinking Worship
  6. Rethinking Structure
  7. Rethinking Community.

John Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. He also is visiting professor at several Southern Baptist seminaries and appears to be a voice for the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. White is well read and has included unusually extensive references to other works for a book of this size. The select bibliography lists a number of helps for those interested in church renewal.

The work is commendable for the ease of style with which the author communicates. The ideas are clearly and persuasively presented. There is also a passionate plea for the salvation of the lost and the harnessing of the church's resources to accomplish this task. There is also a passion to do church the right way (versus the Southern Baptist way). This book awakens stagnant and dying churches or at least calls them to take notice.

In all, however, the work is a clone or a condensation of the philosophies of Bill Hybels and Rick Warren. Hybelism, with some modifications, bleeds through most of the chapters. The section on evangelism ends with a dear saint saying, "So if rock 'n' roll is what it takes to get people back to church, all I've got to say is . . . ‘Let's Boogie!’ . . . Besides the church doesn't exist for my needs. It exists to win the world" (52). To which Dr. White adds, "That is rethinking the church" (52).

The church exists to glorify God as its primary purpose. Evangelism and the edification of believers is the means to that end. The author would help the readers by reminding them of this overarching purpose.