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The author, Malphurs, begins the analysis of advanced Strategic Planning with the identification of certain problems. The problem in study includes endemic among the American Churches. In addition, he brings the life cycle of most of the churches reflected in what he refers to as a sigmoid curve. This curve shows how churches begin well, develop upwards and finally collapse. Malphurs summarizes the problem in such a way that the aim of the lesson of the sigmoid curve shows how both good and bad things all come to an end. This explains why even brand new institutions such as churches and other organizations with time plateau and fade off. Regardless of how an institution is, Malphurs explains that an organization finally dies off. They become brittle with time, and cease to function as it is supposed to, finally expiring.
Therefore, to get a solution to these sad developments in several institutions, the author comes with new ideas. He suggests that the church in particular has to launch the use of new S-curves. This is a process that can only be carried out through the use of strategic planning. In this sense, strategic planning involves the discovery of the core values that either an individual or an institution beholds. In addition, development of a vision, mission as well as strategy and laying down plans to implement them is key in achieving endless positive results.
The ideas presented by Malphurs in the very first pages of the book form the bulk of his achievement in finding solutions to problems of church decline. He brings his ideas and strategies for improving churches. In addition, he elucidates in depth his belief in such ideas as dream planning, vision and mission statements. Moreover, Malphurs shows how to assemble ministry dream team as well as a strategic initiation team.
The book’s title is somewhat overstated. Advanced Strategic Planning is actually the basics of strategic planning. The author’s principles are quite elementary. Should an advanced book be used, it would assume a certain level of higher understanding of the entire process. On the other hand, Malphurs gives his audience a detailed basic coverage on the very subject. Owing to that fact, Malphurs is said to have done excellent work of succinctly outlining the entire planning process. He starts with a discussion of the church and its leadership and its readiness to commit to the strategic planning process. This is then followed by ways in which the plans are stimulated in a creative and strategic thinking manner. In addition, as a prologue to the planning process, he gives details of the dynamics of an organizational development as well as change.
One of the other most obvious strength of Advanced Strategic Planning is the fact that he has his love for the local church steadfast. He has burdened himself with the contemporary church. This he relates with the ship without a compass, wandering pointlessly on the sea. The ship is struggling to remain afloat, rocked by the winds changes and the waves of postmodernism trying to lead the church far away from its course. The advanced strategic planning method is the entire Malphurs response to this crisis. This heart and thirst for the local church shows itself in various ways and places in the entire book and marks it as a text which seeks to be part of the solution, and not the problem.
The second strength evident in the literature is Malphurs’ desire for congregational harmony. Throughout the book, it is easily detected that the author has a genuine desire for the unity and harmony of the church. For instance, in speaking about the relevant communication between the church leadership and the congregation, Malphurs indicates that conducting secret meetings and failing to make general communication of the proceeding of the secret meetings makes it hard to lead the congregation in the right manner. In addition, this makes the congregation fail to gain trust in the pastoral class. Communication is key in achieving the strategic planning process as well as in any other time of leadership. Such pieces of advice show Malphurs heartfelt desire for the unity and harmony of the church. In addition, Malphurs evinces care for the churches that he seeks to support.
The final strength showed by Malphurs in his literature is his focus on theology. He attempts to base his call for strategic planning on biblical teaching. In his layout of the suggested steps in strategic planning, Malphurs begins by issuing an eleven page spiritual principles that are the basis for the entire planning process. He uses simple but most important steps. Each of the steps is grounded on scripture. For instance, Malphurs calls for church discipline, as well as his encouragement to the congregation to totally submit to the leadership of the church. In each of such situations, as the case in others, the author seeks to establish his teachings and the planning process in a biblical principle and a godly manner.
Perhaps the book’s greatest strength is the fact that it challenges the leadership of the church to critically think about the mission and vision of the church. In addition, the author challenges the leadership of the church to critically think about the make up of the congregation, its vision and core values as shared in their mission. The instruments illustrated in the appendix are valuable though they presume a well educated congregation. In addition, the details show that an inner city comprised of high school drop outs living on small wages and in capable of taking care of such rigorous rational analysis.
The main weakness evident in Malphurs literature is his overemphasis on strategic planning. He put excess value on strategic planning. He tends to base his pieces of advice on strategic planning as a means by which struggling churches can get their salvation from dissolution. As much as it is true certain measures of strategic planning are helpful, such as Malphurs exhortation to pastors to think through the identity of their churches and their target group is excellent. With such ideas in mind, the author overestimates the values and importance of strategic planning. This is true because the health of a church entirely depends on the preaching of the word, as well as the church’s exercise of the ordinance. In addition, the excellence of the church is dependent on its cultivation of healthy body life as well as evangelistic outreach and missionary. As much as the church does certain institutional elements, there is a place for strategic planning. Most churches have not had their purpose and missions put down. Such thoughts can be helpful in reviving already sinking congregations. For this reason, it discredits Malphurs point. This is because he focuses more on the church as an institution and not as a family, flock, body of Christ or the bridegroom of God. This over institutional focus leads to consideration of institutional based solutions for church’s problems. As a result, these solutions lead the church away from the biblical means of church growth and development. It is also evident that Malphus tries to avoid a harsh and disenfranchising model of Church government, but one wonders if he has misunderstood the biblical polity and reacted a caricature of it.
The advanced strategic planning shows a heart for the local church. This is an indication that the intended audience for this book is the local church leadership. This is because the church is missing from much of the contemporary literature on the church. The book is innovative and scripturally minded. In addition, it is energetic and aimed for the congregation and leadership of the church. However, it is difficult to conclude if Malphurs’ solutions and strategic planning program has a cure for all the problems the local church has now. Owing to that fact, Malphurs diagnoses of the problems facing the church today are true. Most of the churches in the Diaspora have their biggest challenge as facing decline or despair. Church congregation has become discouraged. With these persistent difficult times, despite having great hope and faith, there is despair in most people’s attitudes and minds. The Lord is sovereign over the entire church. The church is His and rewards those faithful to Him and His word. The fact is God cannot abandon His people in times of great changes and tribulations. This is the confidence that the church has in God.
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