Dr. Warren Langer, Jr.
PARADIGM SHIFTS IN THE CHURCH
By Christian A. Schwarz
I need to first mention that I attended the Natural Church Development seminar in Orlando several weeks before reading this book. The main subject matter of this book was presented in less than an hour in an interesting manner at the seminar. If I did not have to review this book I would have given up on the book and probably have never completed it. This is not a book to get people interested or inspired to do transitional work within the local church.
It was written for seminary students. I believe the academic language often used in the book will consume the attention of most readers and take them away from the main theme of the book.. For most people recommending this book would be equivalent to recommending to a child just beginning to crawl a book on the advanced techniques of sprinting.
Pastors who understand the church transformation process, have implemented many of its principles and can develop a map as well as follow a map may find this book insightful.
The word "Paradigm" was a buzz word in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Its "overuse" led to a quick demise. In this book the author brings a resurrection to "paradigm" by going into in-depth examination of ones paradigm. Ones paradigm does not only how one sees the world, but hears it, touches it, smells it, describes it, etc. The author does a great job of leading the reader into all the factors of how ones paradigm defines ones spiritual realm including the theological language, perception of a faith community, how one relates with God, what God expects from us, etc.
So often the term "paradigm" has been used to present a snapshot frozen in time. The author does a wonderful job revealing how a paradigm is more of a stream always shaping and reshaping its boundaries. If the stream, however, drifts too far from its original course it is very unlikely to ever return to it. A healthy paradigm is a fluid perception that is forever is being re-created but within certain boundaries. To go beyond those boundaries leads it on a path to a stagnant dead end.
There is an important warning in this book. Most of the time when looking around we do so from the perception of our own paradigm. We quickly can identify the superiority of our paradigm over that of someone else. We need, however, to examine the weakness of our own paradigm rather than spend time and energy looking at the "speck" in someone elses paradigm. Each paradigm has strengths and weaknesses.
Suggestion to OCT
I believe the Transitional Church office would do well to develop a video summarizing the important aspects of the book in a 40 to 60 minute seminar than to encourage either laity or clergy to read the book.