It’s not every day that I would review a fifteen year old book, but Paul Borden’s Hit The Bullseye: How Denominations Can Aim The Congregation At The Mission Field, is as timely, or even more timely, than when the author penned it.
The former Executive Minister of the American Baptist Churches of the West, renamed “Growing Healthy Churches” (GHC), Borden speaks prophetically from cover to cover. His take-no-prisoners communication style is alarming to some but probably appropriate, given the circumstances.
By “the circumstances” I’m referring to the oft-repeated statistics about church and denominational decline in the US. Unlike so many of us, Borden has not only written about the problem; he’s done something about it. Something dramatic, as a matter of fact.
To say that the author is critical and blunt (which he is) is to miss the point. God used Borden to achieve a Nehemiah-sized turnaround and his books (Hit the Bullseye is one of four) tell the rest of us how it was, and can be, done.
So how was it done?
- The process began with the judicatory itself changing its perspective from an organization which should be served by the churches to a group of servant leaders serving the churches by aiming them at the mission field.
Borden insists that the local church is God’s primary instrument for making new disciples; every other Christian organization exists to assist churches in their mission. In GHC, the judicatory became an instrument to equip pastors and churches to fulfill their missions and achieve their dreams.
- The turnaround also involved a significant change in mentality and attitude on the part of the denomination, from passivity and complacency to an expectation of victory and the implementation of individual, accountable, leadership.
Here’s what individual, accountable leadership looked like in the real world of Growing Healthy Churches:
- Borden set goals for himself and expected to be held strictly accountable for achieving them.
- Pastors who did not or could not lead their churches to growth were not given lateral transfers within the district, nor were they promoted to leadership positions in the denomination.
- Pastors were no longer rewarded for their longevity with the leadership of pastor cluster groups.
- Pastors who led their churches to great commission effectiveness were no longer isolated within the denomination but were called upon to help other pastors improve their leadership skills.
- Pastors who desired to lead their churches to great commission effectiveness – making new disciples of Jesus Christ – were mentored in high impact cluster groups by mentor-leaders with track records of effectiveness. These groups involved covenants, homework and the sharing of statistics.
- The churches represented by these pastors invited judicatory leaders trained by Borden to do comprehensive consultations, to help the lay leaders to embrace change in their pastors and in their churches.
- Denominational leaders conducted training sessions in these congregations to help re-educate their leadership teams.
- The GHC (denominational) office became a resource center for pastors and churches; a great source of books, videos and other materials to help their churches flourish.
There’s no question that Hit The Bullseye has been a slap in the face to many of us who have read it, but sometimes a slap in the face is just what we need.
The fact that the author is now teaching other denominational leaders (in various denominations) how to bring about the transformation he saw in northern California is downright exciting.