J.D. Greear’s new book unpacks the interesting–and biblical–paradox of how churches “gain” by “losing.” To be specific, the text is all about a ministry strategy of “sending” members in order to fulfill the Great Commission. Anyone who has read Greear’s writings or heard his sermons knows that he is a wonderful communicator, and gets his message across with humor and simplicity, and Gaining By Losing is no different. Overall, I found it to be a solid book on how churches can impact the world by being “sending” churches, though a point of critique will also be considered.
One strength of this book is that Greear has a knack for being able to provide vivid and memorable illustrations. His jokes are hilarious, but the more serious illustrations are absolutely sobering. I would find it hard to imagine that a reader would consider Gaining By Losing to be uninteresting. In fact, one point of critique is that the personal illustrations may have been a bit overdone. In a sense, this book is partly a memoir on his own church’s experiences. But Greear also attempts to draw from biblical sources to argue his points, and for the most part, does a good job at this. Personally, I would have liked more dedication to biblical theology and exegesis, but maybe that’s just me.
The fact of the matter, however, is that churches in America do not seem to be very good these days at understanding their mission. One point in particular that I was overwhelming grateful for was his expose, so to speak, on “calling.” Most American Christians probably believe that pastors and missionaries are “called” by God to “full-time Christian ministry,” while everyone else is basically left out to do their thing. I absolutely love how Greear says that when he became a pastor, he “left the ministry.” In other words, the people on the ground, those who are employed in secular fields, are “in the ministry.” Literally everything that I have wanted to say on the idea of “calling” is encapsulated in chapter 4. As someone who has moved away from a pastoring career (at least for now) to go into the academic world, I am highly convinced that my work in education is a true, no less spiritual calling than pastoring. And so I am thankful that Greear wrote this chapter, in particular, as it applied directly to my own life rather powerfully.
There is much more that could be said about some of the positive attributes of Greear’s book. But I would also note a point of critique here. While most of what Greear said is great, I’m not sure how “original” this book is, when compared to the other recent church ministry books that have been written. Chapter 3’s motivational message towards missions is good, but certainly has been said before. His perspective on “missional” or “attractional” churches is also fairly common. I thought chapter 10, “Racial Reconciliation as a Fruit of the Sending Culture,” was maybe one of the more fresh contributions–and well needed! Yet, overall, I would be much more likely to recommend to a Christian who is interested in contemporary church ministry something like Tim Keller’s Center Church. At the same time, if someone was looking for a concise, easy-to-read, thought-provoking book on how churches can impact the world for Christ’s sake, then Greear’s Gaining By Losing would certainly be a fine choice.