Martin W. Bender
Within the first few pages of Ignite, I knew where the book was going to go. Searcy references Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Church by sharing the all too familiar target analogy. The idea is simple: move people from the community into the core of the congregation. This book focuses on how to bring people from the community into the crowd of folks attending so they can later move closer and closer to the center of the target: the core.
The genius of the book is that it has sequels built in. The outline is already set, all one must do is write out a methodology for moving from one group to the next, add some fictitious examples, and blammo! Book deal.
Don’t get me wrong, the book isn’t terrible. In fact, it has some good ideas in it, but it seems like a rehashing of Warren’s uber popular church growth book and I had already read that one. Anywho… let’s get on with the good stuff.
The basic gist of Searcy’s method is to have a big event that is built up for several weeks, supported through marketing channels, executed with a high degree of professionalism, and actively followed up upon. Most ministers know the days where they will have higher than average attendance. Emphasize these days, plan well for them in the preaching plan, encourage the congregation to invite folks, challenge the whole congregation to something greater on those days, and follow up with guests. That’s the whole book.
The best idea to take from Ignite is the idea of consistency in communication. Searcy seems to argue that the best boot to ground measure to take in developing an evangelistic spirit with the congregation is to continuously communicate the need of the people to evangelize. He recommends peppering all the functions of the church evangelism as a value so that people are more likely to engage in the activity. When the people internalize this oft-repeated message they will naturally begin bringing others into the crowd gathering for worship.
The worst part of the book is Searcy’s rather flippant understanding of evangelism. He tends to use the word as if it means inviting people to church. That isn’t evangelism. Evangelism is the communication of the Gospel to the nonbeliever. In the system described, the work of the church member isn’t evangelism, but an invitation to be evangelized by another. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it’s a mistake to call something evangelism that’s really promotion. Maybe I’m just being a snob here, but it seems like a problem to me.
Ignite reads quick and has some good methods for making the most out of big days in the life of the congregation. It heavily relies upon Rick Warren and the Saddleback methodology for church growth. It has been proven effective in numerous locations around the US and may just work in your area as well. There’s nothing ground breaking in the book making it required reading, but it isn’t a waste of time either. If you hate Rick Warren, and I know some of you do, don’t bother with this one.
Searcy, Nelson with Jennifer Dykes Henson. Ignite: How to spark immediate growth in your church. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2009.