The Blessed Church by Robert Morris
Robert Morris, Senior Pastor at Gateway Church which has over 20,000 in attendance tells his story in ministry in his new book entitled The Blessed Church. I was wondering as you probably are as you take up this book, how in the world Gateway Church grow to be that large? Part of the message of the book is Robert’s desire to elucidate some principles that have solidified his mission in helping to grow this church. The book is divided up into 34 chapters ranging from roughly 3-8 pages a chapter. The goal in writing is that ‘we might pastor churches that God blesses to be a blessing’ (15)!
Throughout the chapters in the book Robert provided a section called Keys to a Blessed Church that encapsulated some of his bigger concepts. On p.40 Robert writes, “It’s okay to want to grow. It’s part of the way God made us. But we must always monitor our motives and attitudes.” As the church was busting at the seams, Robert desired for more people to come and hear the life-changing message of the good news. Yet, he also knew that just having more members for number’s sake would only lead to pride and conceit, something that was not his goal. So, with a desire to see the church grow alongside a careful attention to the motives and attitudes of our hearts, growth is able to occur. This truth is so hard to practice but very applicable to the everyday road of a pastor.
In the chapter on Writing the Vision, Robert tackles the subject of vision statements and how a church can carry out their primary vision. For Gateway, Robert writes, “Early in Gateway’s life as a church, I asked the Lord to provide a positioning statement that would accurately and attractively present our heart to the community. In response he gave me a simple expression of His heart: We’re all about people. It remains our positioning statement to this day” (61). Very early on the vision for Gateway church was meld into a vision for people. In the next page, Robert includes the mission of Gateway which includes, ‘to see people saved, healed, set free, discipled, equipped, empowered, and serving in ministry’ (62). What I think really resonates here is the active nature of the mission statement, one that has people engaged from beginning (saved) to serving in ministry. Secondly, the vision is crystal clear as to how the process of should work of the maturation of Christians (from faith to healing, freedom to discipleship). Although I think Robert would presume that God is the one who is at work with the church’s activity in this process, I generally think a good vision includes some aspect of Christ and his work.
Robert gives a stern warning to those who are false shepherds and to those who would seek to scatter the sheep. He is right to say that, “The number-one way to spot a false shepherd is a pattern of scattering sheep” (78). Church sizes get smaller and the pastor even encourages people not interested to go elsewhere. The only critique I have here is what about faithful churches who remain planted firmly in the gospel but have a difficult time acquiring new members. In our day and age many people will visit for a time but then vanish for various reasons. Yet, I think that if a pastor is constantly pushing sheep away we need to be on guard of that ministry.
Overall, I think this book is good at telling the story of Gateway Church and what God can do to grow the church. I have various disagreements with parts of the book but was encouraged by most chapters. I hope this chapter builds a fire under pastors to continue the work of feeding the sheep and getting their hands dirty in the work of God’s field
Thanks to Waterbrook/Multnomah for the review copy of this book in exchange for review.