In the United States alone, nearly 4,000 churches are planted each year. On the flip side, approximately 3,700 churches in the United States shut their doors each year. In Guardrails, author Alan Briggs explores the idea of what would happen if, rather than planting new churches, we revitalized and grew existing churches. Briggs cites discipleship and evangelism as the primary means to church revitalization. Throughout the book, he draws upon six principles of discipleship which are fundamental to creating a culture of growth in the church.
In part one of the book, Briggs discusses the foundation that is necessary for healthy church growth. The item of first importance is a strong theological foundation for the church to grow from. Unless you have a mission and vision for the church, that is founded on He emphasizes the need for churches to train up leaders, not to only rely on the existing leadership. At some point, your church will need a new pastor or worship leader or children’s ministry director, and it is important that there are young leaders that have been trained up, and are ready to step in as needed. In chapter four, Briggs discusses the importance of apprenticeship, and the various ways an apprentice can grow, including relational learning and formal education.
As the reader gets into the second part of Guardrails, they will get into the main part of the book and explore the six principles discipleship ought to be centred around. The author argues that all healthy church growth must be an out-pouring of discipleship within the church. The six principles Briggs discusses are that discipleship must be: simple, holistic, adaptable, regular, reproducible, and positive. While many of these principles may not be new to most readers, Briggs unpacks them with clarity and practical application, which is perhaps the most helpful part of this book. The author concludes this second section of the book with two chapters that discuss applying the six principles, and how to overcome roadblocks and other obstacles.
This book is simple, but effective. The six principles for discipleship that Briggs lays out in Guardrails are helpful. While each of these principles are nothing new, Briggs unpacks truth from each of them in a way that is understandable for the reader. While the concepts are simple, the author challenges the reader to really wrestle with the truths they are reading, and consider how it is applicable to them. At the end of each chapter, Briggs offers a few questions for discussion, that are helpful to applying the concepts that have just been explored. This is perhaps one of the most helpful parts of Guardrails, as it gives a way for the reader to discover how to apply what they’ve learned.
The author clearly has a great love for the Lord, and a passion to see healthy churches. This is evident throughout the pages of Guardrails, and I really appreciated his openness and transparency in these areas. While I wouldn’t rank Guardrails at the top of my list for favorite books on discipleship, I think it was helpful and deserving of a place on the shelf of any leader who is seeking to revitalize or plant churches, or wants to grow a culture of discipleship within their own church.
Briggs, Allan. Guardrails: Six Principles for a Multiplying Church. Colorado Springs: Nav Press, 2016. 166pp. Paperback, $14.99.
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Thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for the review copy!