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Surprising Insights From The [Hardcover]

By Thomas Rainer (Author)
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Item description for Surprising Insights From The by Thomas Rainer...

A first-of-its-kind comprehensive study of the formerly unchurched explodes some common myths as to what it takes to reach people and provides insight into how the Christian church can develop effective approaches to reach the growing number of unchurched in North America.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Zondervan
Pages   288
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.3" Width: 6.2" Height: 1.02"
Weight:   1.175 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Aug 31, 2001
Publisher   Zondervan Publishing
ISBN  0310236487  
ISBN13  9780310236481  
UPC  025986236489  

Availability  0 units.

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1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Evangelism > General

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Books > Church & Ministry > Church Life > Evangelism & Outreach

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Reviews - What do customers think about Surprising Insights From The?

Church Growth Remains Elusive  Jun 30, 2006
With more research and "How To" books than any other time in history the American Church still seems to be on the decline. In this volume Thom Rainer, Dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth, takes his best shot at the problem. Is his "best shot" good enough? It's certainly helpful, but probably not a home run.


This book reiterates solid leadership principles.

This book insists (thankfully) that traditional conservative churches can grow without becoming "odd".

This book paints a vivid contrast between effective and ineffective pastors.

This book actually goes to those recently converted to Christianity and asks them why they converted.

This book was written by someone who knows what he is talking about.


The research sample is too small and biased. Rainer studied 350 new Christians, 350 Christians who transferred to a new church, and 100 pastors - ALL from conservative evangelical churches! This is circular logic. That is, if you asked all of the new people who came to my church why they came to church, they would mostly respond that they liked particular aspects of my church. This only shows that my church has the ability to attract new persons, not that my church has the only way or even the best way. NCD (Natural Church Development) has interviewed more churches of more types on more continents than any other study. Do not overlook NCD material when researching this subject.

This book accepts national statistics that are no longer universally accepted. This book "assumes" that Conservative Evangelical and Fundamentalists Church in American outgrow liberal and mainstream churches. 10 years ago this statement could have been made as a fact. This is no longer the case. Recent studies have shown that conservative churches are also in decline at about the same rate. The reasons are heavily debated, but the results are that church growth is isolated in all Christian movements.


This book is a must read, if for no other reason, it reinforces that churches CAN be effective without being out of balance. But this book should not be viewed as the final word on the matter.

Insights From Culture But Few From Scripture  Jan 22, 2006
Programs, church growth books, church growth conferences. Everytime you turn around there is the latest method on how pastors can build "their" churches. Rather than seeking to be biblical, most church growth "experts" and books tend to rely on charts, polls, and the latest methods of the business world in order to reach people with the gospel. In the midst of it all, God's sovereignty in salvation (Jonah 2:9; John 6:44) and sound doctrine are lost (1 Timothy 4:16; Titus 2:1).

I was sent this book by a clergy. In the book he put a note on how this book had changed his life and he wanted the same for me. I read the book but my life was not changed probably for several reasons.

First of all, I am not a part of the clergy-laity system that Rainer teaches. His exaltation of the pastor fits into the scheme of the book. While I do believe pastoring is biblical (1 Peter 5:1-5), no-where in the NT do we find one man shows or CEO's as in today's churches. In fact, the Bible never calls anyone Pastor as a title (Eph. 4:11-16) but exalts only Jesus as the Head of the Church (Col. 1:15-20). Rainer puts the growth of the church on the shoulders of the "pastor" but leaves no room for God's power (Acts 2:47).

Secondly, the lack of biblical content. While Rainer filled his book with stats, charts, and polls on the "unchurched" he never dives into Scripture to show biblical church growth. Disciples making disciples is God's plan (Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 1:8; 2 Cor. 5:20-21) but he places the growth of the church on programs, methods, and the church "service." In this book you will find less than 10 passages of Scripture and no exegesis of those passages.

Third, he presents the "unchurched" as seekers. The Bible says there are no seekers (Romans 3:10-11). In fact the Bible presents us as haters of God (Eph. 2:1-3). Man, by nature, is not seeking God but is seeking how to be a god (Genesis 3). Rainer presents American society as "seekers" of God and we need to only find the need and fill it. It is our duty to preach the cross (1 Cor. 1:18) and to leave the results up to God (1 Cor. 2:1-5; 3:10-15).

Fourth, Rainer never discuesses discipeship and what it truly means to be a Christian (Acts 2:38). He simply assumes that if the church claims to be evangelical and is growing then it must be biblical. He never points out the radical demands of Jesus (Luke 9:23-25; 14:25-35) or what it truly means to repent (Luke 13:5; 24:47; Acts 3:19; 17:30; Romans 2:4). He never discusses baptism into Christ (Gal. 3:26-27; 1 Peter 3:21-22). He simply assumes that to believe in Jesus makes one a Christian. How sad! Many growing American churches are full of people who do not know the Saviour nor His work on the cross (Romans 6:1-4). They claim to know God but by their actions they deny Him (Titus 1:16).

Overall I must say that my clergy friend missed the mark on this book. While it offered insights from our cultural church in America, it did little to offer a biblical view. If you want to find books on church growth try reading and praying the book of Acts. In fact, try living the book of Acts! They turned the world upside down with their preaching (Acts 17:5) and yet we look to the world for solutions on how to read them. May we repent and return to the Sovereign God who is able to do more than we can ever imagine (Eph. 3:21-22).
Rainer's Best Yet  Aug 23, 2005
Having read nearly all of Rainer's other books I thought that this one would probably contain lots of redundancy. However, I was captivated from the first chapter. This book really hits the mark on an area way overdue. We have spent so much time looking at the needs / views of the unchurched that we have neglected to explore the obvious arena of the recently "churched" - those who have moved from unchurched to churched. A fascinating read that will affirm many areas we already knew but also provide for some surprises!
Surprising, but not shocking  Sep 15, 2004
Thom Rainer of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has done the church at large a great service in "Surprising Insights from the Unchurched." In what is basically the results and analysis (along with anecdotal evidence) of a survey, Rainer succeeds in identifying the major factors that influence the degree to which a church is likely to grow.

His methodology is both unique and extremely relevent as he surveys over 350 people who have not gone to church regularly for over ten years, then became regular attenders/involved in the ministry of a particular church within the recent past. He later interviews over 100 pastors of rapidly-growing churches. To this reader, an analysis of cold-hard facts based on statistical data and interviews is much preferable to some other books on church growth I've read--many of which offer Biblically-based theory or specific techniques. Rainer's book successfully blends these two.

While Rainer's righting style is machine gun-esque, rapidly firing fact after fact and statistic after statistic at the reader, the anectodal evidence does tend to soften the book, making it readable. However, even if the book read like a dictionary, the information and insights would be well worth the effort. By reading the book, I can readily identify a dozen short-term, long-term, and systematic changes/improvements that can be done to help in attracting more members.

Finally, it should be noted that while reading this book, one can tend to think in terms of "quid pro quo"--if I implement these ideas, then my church WILL grow. Rainer does contend (and I agree) that the ultimate cause of church growth is the Lord. He's the one guiding the process, the effectiveness, and the results. He uses different means and different people, each having different gifts. This book can be read either as a "how to" book or as a description of a series of churches/pastors who have an accurate and accepted knowledge of themselves, their church, and their mission (ie worship and evangelize). Recommended for church leaders and professionals.
Dr. Doug  Jun 1, 2004
Written in the wonderful style of his other books, Dr. Rainer has done it again. Every Pastor interested in reaching the unchurched MUST read this book. This is only the second book I have ever read that when I finished it, I went right to the first page and reread it again.

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