Gaining by LosingWhen you ask a pastor about their church, his answer will tell you a lot about what he thinks a church is and what defines a successful one. A lot of pastors, for one reason or another, will mention the size of their church. Size is often a barometer for success but the numbers do not tell you the health of that success. Size can indicate that a church has been successful at bringing people in (attraction) but it does not indicate how successful you have been growing them once in (discipleship).

There are many books on ecclesiology that address why the size of a church does not tell you the health of a church. These books will rightly focus on discipleship development as a more biblical way to assess church health. There are many characteristics of a health church. Its focus on missions is one of those.

In Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches that Send, pastor and author J. D. Greear focuses on the sending aspect of a church as a means of measuring its success in building healthy disciples of Christ. In this book Greear uses the example of his church and ministry lessons as a vehicle for helping churches see that the future growth of the (C)hurch is found in a local (c)hurches focus on sending its disciples out to plant more churches.

As the subtitle indicates, Greear believes that churches which send their resources and people out of their midst are the ones that are contributing the most to the growth of the church. “I believe that churches that give away both their people and their resources are the churches that will expand the kingdom of God into the future.” (17) So a churches ability to grow the kingdom “lies not in your ability to gather and inspire your people at a weekly worship meeting, but in your capacity to equip them and send them out as seeds into the kingdom of God.” (17) This is what we call gathering to scatter.

While the book is chalk full of ministry advice and wisdom, there is one element of the book which is threaded throughout from start to finish: the ability of a church to send lies in its ability to make disciples. It is essentially fulfilling the Great Commission. “The Great Commission,” says Greear, “is not a calling for some; it is a mandate for all.” (80) For example, in discussing the growth of the church in the book of Acts, Greear notes that “the gospel’s most powerful advances in the book of Acts come via the hands of regular people.” (102) God has gifted some people to preach, teach, lead, etc. but they are few in comparison to the rest of the congregation. But the purpose in the gifting of some with those things is to serve and disciple the rest so they can minister as well.

But it is not easy to invest in the lives of people only to send them out. Read the following excerpt to get an idea as to the sacrifice churches and church leaders must be willing to make in order to be a sending church:

I was sitting around a table listening to four church planters for the year give their report on whom they are taking with them to launch. One is planting in Washington, DC; another in Wilmington, NC; and two are planting local;y, both less than twenty minutes from our home campus. One is taking 15 of our members; another, 23; another, 20; and one, more than 50. As they went through their list of Summit-member recruits, I heard the names of elders, big givers, key volunteers, skilled musicians, and personal friends.

As the third church planter started on his list, a small lump formed i my throat. I honestly couldn’t tell if it was a lump of sadness or joy. I think it was panic. Had we really committed to this? When each of the first two planters had gone over their lists, it had felt like two punches ion the gut. Now this third guy was winding up for the knockout blow.

‘Sending’ preaches more easily than it is executed, you see. Our church will look different next year when these men and their teams leave. Their absence will leave significant gaps. (189)

The success of the Great Commission depends on churches sending and scattering from its gathering disciples who are willing to go and make more disciples. These are the churches that will see the size of the kingdom grow and not just their own local body.

Gaining by Losing is a must read for all Christians, especially church leaders serious about fulfilling the Great Commission. Greear will challenge you to think about how your church functions. This book is a call to see a growing (C)hurch through the eyes of sending (c)hurches.

I received this book for free from Zondervan through Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”