When Church Stops Working

A Future for Your Congregation beyond More Money, Programs, and Innovation

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What if the solution for the decline of today's church isn't more money, people, programs, innovation, or busyness?

What if the answer is to stop and wait on God?

In When Church Stops Working, ministry leaders Andrew Root and Blair Bertrand show how actively watching and listening for God can bring life out of death for churches in crisis today. Using clear steps and practices, they invite church leaders to stop the endless cycle of doing more and rather to simply "be" in God's presence. They tell the story of two congregations who did this--and found new life in the process.

When Church Stops Working distills the core themes of Root's critically acclaimed Ministry in a Secular Age series in a more accessible form. Leaders and churchgoers who are burned out and hopeless will experience affirmation, encouragement, and empowerment as Root and Bertrand turn to the book of Acts as well as examples from contemporary congregational life to show what "active" waiting looks like and the saving grace it can hold.

1. Why Your Church Has a Problem, but It Isn't What You Think
2. Busy People, Busy Church--A Killer Cocktail
3. Stop All the Having and Just Be
4. It's Time to Wait, but for What?
5. Waiting Brings Life, Not a Slow Death
6. Forget the Mission Statement--Get a Watchword
7. Out of the Family Basement
8. Nothing Can Separate You


"There are many books written about the state of the church, and they fall into every literary genre: true crime, romance, science fiction, fantasy, and horror. And if they have the word 'crisis' or 'decline,' they can tip into being self-help, business management, and even home improvement. What I value about this book is that it is theology--as it seeks to address where we are by reminding us of who God is and who we are. Because it puts God in the center, it is a profoundly hope-giving book, engaging us all by diagnosing the real crisis of faith and encouraging us to live alertly and expectantly within that. The church needs teachers like this."

The Most Rev. Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury

"Andy and Blair have given us a priceless gift. In the midst of ongoing questions about how to respond to church decline, they peel back the layers and help us face the deeper questions about why we are declining. Resisting the temptation to offer superficial tips and tricks, Andy and Blair invite each faith community and believer to wait and listen for the generative faith God has for each of us and our churches. This book will draw every leader and Jesus follower who wonders what could work today into a deeper, more faith-full relationship with the God who is always working."

Kara Powell, executive director, Fuller Youth Institute; chief of leadership formation, Fuller Seminary; coauthor of 3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager

"There are not many books on what ails the church that I would share with laypeople. This, in fact, might be the only one. Our real crisis--usually misdiagnosed--is that our churches can be great places to hide from God. Root and Bertrand make clear that we must put away our strategies and gimmicks and wait on the Lord all over again. I pray we all would follow this brilliantly antiprogrammatic counsel."

Jason Byassee, senior pastor, Timothy Eaton Memorial Church, Toronto; coauthor of Faithful and Fractured: Responding to the Clergy Health Crisis

"We're all feeling the crisis of church decline and frantically trying to fix the problem. This groundbreaking book proposes that we've misdiagnosed the problem and that our supposed treatment is actually making things worse. Thankfully, Root and Bertrand offer both a better diagnosis and a helpful, human way forward. Finally, a book that guides the church in practical ways through our actual problem (i.e., trusting in our own action to save the church) to teach us once more to wait upon the God we claim to believe is powerful."

Mandy Smith, pastor and author of Unfettered: Imagining a Childlike Faith beyond the Baggage of Western Culture and The Vulnerable Pastor

"Churches across the West are in decline and, as a result, are trying to do something about it. Andrew Root and Blair Bertrand explain why this is precisely what they should not do. Rather than attempting to whip up a frenzy of programs and activity, Root and Bertrand point churches back to the mystery and power of God, back to waiting on him to do the things that only he can do. Rejecting pithy slogans and slick approaches, this book challenges us to think first about God's place in our church and, in the process, rediscover just how beautiful her life might become once again."

Steve Bezner, senior pastor, Houston Northwest Church

The Authors

  1. Andrew Root
    Caroline Yang

    Andrew Root

    Andrew Root (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary) is Carrie Olson Baalson Professor of Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is the author of more than twenty books, including Faith Formation in a Secular Age, The...

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  2. Blair D. Bertrand

    Blair D. Bertrand

    Blair D. Bertrand (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary) is a lecturer at Zomba Theological University, teaching consultant with Theological Education by Extension Malawi, and adjunct lecturer at Tyndale University, Toronto. He has served various Presbyterian...

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"A well-written, accessible, refreshing entry into the field of congregational development. Its focus on spirituality, relationship, and God certainly speaks to me and the challenges and opportunities I see in my parish, diocese, and church. This could make for an excellent book study for clergy groups, parish councils, or entire congregations. I hope that this book will be widely read and its ideas discussed by people in every order and ministry of the Church."

Andrew Rampton,

Englewood Review of Books