Unlocking the Growth

Review of ‘Unlocking the Growth. You will be amazed at your church’s potential’
By Michael Harvey. Published by Monarch books, 2012. 

Michael Harvey is best known as the man at the forefront of the ‘Back to Church Sunday’ initiative, which commenced in the English diocese of Manchester in 2004, and has become an integral part of the annual evangelistic and outreach endeavours of churches all over the world. As Archbishop Sentamu (York) states in his introduction, ‘this book is about making disciples.’ Interestingly, Harvey begins by saying – ‘I don’t believe in church growth.’ Helpfully, he offers an explanation – ‘What I do believe is that God gives the growth, but we sometimes “lock it down”.’ This easy to read volume sets out to identify the reasons why existing members of churches do not invite their friends (and others) to come to church with them, exposing along the way some familiar blockages and myths – such as, I suffer, I don't want my friends to suffer, it will be boring, I won't know what to say, it's the leader’s job isn’t it? And more. Michael Harvey has obviously heard them all before, and has a ready answer for these objections, and many more. He next addresses the matter of welcoming and makes the (justified) claim – ‘I believe that Christian churches are institutionally unwelcoming.’ There is some good advice for congregants and leaders alike in addressing this – e.g. ‘would you invite someone to your home, speak to them for an hour, and then offer them coffee on the way out?' Harvey reminds those who lead worship that 'it feels awful if you are fumbling through multiple books, not knowing where you are meant to be.’ The real meat of this book are the middle chapters, which give twelve (simple, but effective) steps to becoming an inviting church, explore the reasons why people don't come back a second time, and then address the ‘seven phrases that turn people away.’ Each of the chapters end with ‘some questions to think about’ as a guide towards implementation of the ideas contained within. In many ways, ‘Unlocking the growth’ is telling us what we already know, but that doesn't mean we don't need to hear it! Michael Harvey’s experience with Back to Church Sunday, and his enthusiasm and commitment to making people welcome in churches everywhere, and to making disciples, leap off the page and can't help but inspire. At the very least, this book should convince any leader and congregation as to why they should get on board with Back to Church Sunday this year!       

Review by Bradly Billings