Friday, January 10, 2014

Book Promo : Dying to Grow by Nathan Lorick

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

ANEKO Press (September 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Jeremiah M. Zeiset for sending me a review copy.***


Dr. Nathan Lorick is the Director of Evangelism for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. His passion is to see the church come alive through intentional evangelism and world missions. He currently serves as a trustee for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). He is a graduate of East Texas Baptist University and Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary where he earned both a Masters of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degree. He also holds an Honorary Doctor of Divinity from Louisiana Baptist University. He and his wife Jenna have three sons and one daughter.

Visit the author's website.


Never before have we seen the church degenerate at such a rapid pace. This is largely due to the church pursuing congregational growth instead of kingdom growth. The church is dying because our growth isn’t based on strategies to reach the lost with the gospel. The time to change is now, we can’t wait any longer. People’s eternities are at stake.

What is your church’s priority? Are you more concerned with filling your building or furthering the Kingdom? This book will challenge you to evaluate just how important gospel-based evangelism is to you and your church, and call on you to restore an intentional evangelism strategy within the body. Hell will tremble when churches once again make evangelism the central theme of their strategy.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99

Paperback: 171 pages

Publisher: ANEKO Press (September 1, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1622451074

ISBN-13: 978-1622451074



I hate to admit it now.

It’s all so subtle; it happens so naturally. Some of it was even driven by good intentions. I was living my life so that I would be considered “successful” in ministry – or, as I say in a later chapter, I was pursuing the ministerial version of the American dream. I wanted plaques and accolades, I desired power and position, I hoped to be the next big thing. I admit it … I was pursuing my own kingdom over His.

And I was a pastor!

I worked tirelessly and went to great lengths to see my church grow. There was nothing I wouldn’t do or at least try, to see the numbers rise. I was consumed with church growth, even to the point of neglecting my own spiritual growth.

There I was, a young up-and-comer, yet I was miserable. I had seen God do amazing things. I had experienced some great moments as a pastor, but at the end of the day all I cared about was if my church was growing. I simply became addicted to the concept of church growth and lost my vision for kingdom growth.

This book is a simple and concise challenge to abandon the desire for church growth and to embrace the heart of growing Christ’s kingdom. We know through the Scriptures that when the King and His kingdom are the focus, the church will grow. Many pastors and church leaders have gone astray from the very thing that caused the church to explode with growth – evangelism. They have chased misguided dreams of ministerial success and in the process have lost the very purpose for which churches exist: to fulfill the Great Commission. In exchange for drawing a crowd of church hoppers and curiosity seekers, too many churches have failed to preach a transforming gospel message of faith, repentance, and hope beyond this cursed creation.

We have good news – the best news ever – and it’s not a mere self-improvement message. It’s so much better than that.

I implore you as you read this book to recapture the zeal for what God wants to do in your church through a renewed strategy and passion for evangelism. God desires to orchestrate providential moments in your community. As you pray and obey, God will do more than you can ask or imagine.

Chapter 1

A Realistic Diagnosis:

Living with an Unknown Disease

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.

– Matthew 5:14

I remember it as if it were yesterday.

I sat with my dad on the tailgate of my truck in a hospital parking lot, staring off at the star-filled sky at 3:00 a.m. wondering what the future would hold. Never expected it, never desired it. It was a conversation no one wants to have. Ever.

Earlier that day, my stepmom Maria went in for a routine checkup. She was experiencing some minor discomfort near her abdomen, not anything to be overly concerned about. In fact, from the outside she was the portrait of good health. The doctors figured her problems stemmed from nothing more than a grouchy gallbladder – which is easily treatable with a simple surgery that would have her on her way in a couple of days. At least that’s what we thought!

Upon examining her and running tests that included everything from blood to ultrasounds, the unimaginable happened: Maria had developed what the oncologists call stage IIIC ovarian cancer, a type of cancer involving one or both ovaries that had spread to the lymph nodes or to tumors larger than 2 cm that had attached to the inner abdomen. It was the most devastating news our family had ever received. In the blink of an eye, our happy and hopeful expectations turned into uncertainty, and our lives were turned upside down.

Maria was a trooper. She fought a long and hard battle with this wicked disease. She trusted in the Lord while at the same time submitting to His plan. On February 4, 2010, she entered into His eternal presence. You see, on the outside everything looked great. No one would have ever guessed that anything was wrong. However, on the inside, this deadly cancer was waging war with her body.

So many churches today find themselves in the condition that Maria did. Everything seems stable and secure, yet because of an exodus from the biblical model of evangelism, the church is crumbling internally. The church is harboring a disease that is killing it but is unaware of the fact. I am not necessarily talking about attendance or giving. I am speaking of the reality that the church is dying in its enthusiasm and burden. It may look like a growing church and appear healthy, but the reality is the church is slumping on a foundation made of sand, and its walls are ready to tumble to the ground.

On the other hand, the church that we see in the book of Acts is a thriving church. We know according to Acts 2:47 that the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. This church was on fire after its experience with the gospel. There was an explosion of people coming to faith in Christ after Peter’s sermon, and this awakening set the course, propelling the early church to turn the world upside down. Out of this movement, missions and organized discipleship were launched, and the world saw the power of the gospel. It was a movement spreading at a rate that churches today could only hope for.

But the reason the church was growing so rapidly wasn’t some new strategy put forth by the apostles. It wasn’t a program designed in the dimly lit upper room. It wasn’t even some model quickly packaged and manufactured after Pentecost. It was much simpler and much more spiritual than these. The church grew so rapidly because of the power of the gospel! That’s it. There is no fancy way of saying it. The church grew because Jesus had just given His life as the penalty for our sins. The gospel was the answer, the method, and the model.

Churches today have incorporated so many models and methods and programs that our dependence upon the execution of those things often overshadows our dependence on God to show up and do something supernatural. We have bought into the lie of the enemy that we must have something for everyone in order to grow. Unfortunately, we forsake the gospel in the process of trying to appease everyone, and in this process, we end up dying in our pursuit of growing.

Churches today need to find their way back to the gospel by ignoring the newest self-help church growth books and following the example of the fastest growing and most effective church that history has ever seen – the church in Acts. We must make the tough decision to forsake anything that pulls our attention and pursuit away from the gospel. What we really need is a realistic diagnosis of where we are.

Statistics tell us that each year 3,500 to 4,000 churches in America close their doors for the final time .  That is about seventy-five churches each week. This should be alarming to believers today who invest their lives into a local body of Christ. This should be excruciating to ministers who selflessly give themselves daily for the church’s advancement. This should be humiliating to the Christian church as a whole, as we have seen a shift in the priority of the church in our lives.

We must wake up and take note. We must see where we are and determine where it is God wants us to go! I believe we see a great picture of this in Mark 10. The story is of a blind beggar named Bartimaeus. He was both physically and financially impaired. Bartimaeus stayed on his street corner day after day, begging for enough money to buy his next meal. On the outside, it looked as if he had no future and no hope. It seemed that his life would never amount to anything more than his current state of being blind and poor. However, this would soon change.

One day on his dusty street corner, he began to hear a rumble. I’m sure he felt the vibration on the ground as a large group of people proceeded through town together. In no time, Bartimaeus heard that Jesus from Nazareth was walking through town. This was the Jesus who had already healed the lame, walked on water, fed five thousand, and even caused another blind man to see. Bartimaeus had to go through this self-diagnosis that we are talking about. He had to walk through a process in his mind and heart before Jesus left the town.

In looking at this story we can understand that Bartimaeus had to go through a three-stage process that ultimately led to him living life in a more fulfilling way than he ever had imagined. This is a great pattern for us and our churches to go through today as well. We will examine these three stages over the next few chapters.

Stage 1: Reality Check

In those brief moments, Bartimaeus had to have a reality check. He had to realize where he was in order to know where he wanted to go. He had to have a difficult discussion with himself, acknowledging his lowly state. I can imagine Bartimaeus reminding himself that he could stay on the same corner every day, continuing to beg for his next meal. I can imagine him thinking through the possibilities his life could have if he could only meet Jesus. But first he had to get real about where he was on that day.

It is really no different for our churches. We must realize that perhaps we are not where God wants us to be right now. We must get to the place where we look past the lights and curtains and realistically see our condition. Our future could depend on our present dose of reality.

This happened in a church that I pastored. Full of incredible people, they loved me and my family and followed my leadership. In fact, they even met in a tent outside for six weeks in December and January while we were remodeling our sanctuary. These are the types of people you would want to pastor.

In my first couple of years, the church exploded in growth. Things couldn’t have gone better. I was on top of the world in many people’s minds. Yet when I laid my head on my pillow at night, I was unfulfilled. I wondered every day how someone in my position could feel that way. I struggled to understand why I didn’t feel like we were doing what God wanted us to do.

Then the day came. The same kind of day that Bartimaeus had. A day of honest evaluation about where we were and where I knew God wanted us to be. We were spending our time planning to attract people, when we should have been out ministering to people. We were investing in programs and methods, when we should have been utilizing our resources to meet needs and share the gospel. I spent most of my time speaking about church growth, when my conversations and sermons should have been about kingdom growth.

This view of reality for me was painful. I didn’t want to change the way I did ministry. I didn’t want to lead my church away from the very things that were causing us to grow so quickly. However, I resolved in my heart that it would be far greater to be what God wanted us to be than what we wanted to be.

This was the heart of Bartimaeus. He knew that he had problems. He knew that there was absolutely nothing he could do about it. He knew that he was all he was ever going to be apart from an encounter with the Master. This is where many churches are today. You are what you are always going to be unless you experience a new vision from God. I challenge you to take a good, honest evaluation and get a realistic understanding of where you are and where you need to be. Once I did this in our church, we began to see where God was leading us.

Church leaders, take an honest, unbiased look at where you are. Look at what you are filling your time with as a church. Look at where you are investing your money. Listen to what you are talking about most among your people. Run the tests and see if you are mirroring the church in Acts. This church was built on the gospel. That was its strategy. That was its model. That was its method. That is why we need to embrace the reality of where we are and look to the future with anticipation.

  Ed Stetzer and Warren Bird, Vital Churches: Helping Church Planters Become Movement Makers (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass-Wiley, 2010).

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