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Whole Church: Leading from Fragmentation to Engagement, by Mel Lawrenz

By Mark D. Roberts | Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Today I’m pleased to be part of a blog tour for pastor and author, Mel Lawrenz. Mel has just published a fine new book called Whole Church: Leading from Fragmentation to Engagement. This book has much to offer for church leaders, including pastors, elders, deacons, and others.

At the core, Whole Church proposes an antidote for the fragmentation of the church, a four-fold engagement with God, God’s people, the community, and the world. I like the sense of the word “engagement,” which suggests something deep and lasting. Engagement is a two-way street of relationship, and it does indeed provide a focal point for bringing together the church (and the life of the individual Christian).

As I read Whole Church, I felt thankful for Mel’s biblical depth as well as his wealth of practical experience as a church leader. Whole Church is a very wise book. Mel, by the way, is the Senior Pastor of Elmbrook Church, in Brookfield, Wisconsin. For years, Elmbrook has been a leading church in vision, mission, and biblical teaching.

As a “stop” on Mel’s blog tour, I had the chance to ask him a question. What follows is my question and Mel’s answer.

My Question for Mel

Mel, thanks for allowing me to be part of your Whole Church Blog tour. I’m pleased to be able to let my readers get to know you and your excellent new book, Whole Church: Leading from Fragmentation to Engagement.

I resonate thoroughly with you when you talk about four kinds of engagement for the twenty-first century church:

• Engagement with God
• Engagement with God’s People
• Engagement with Your Community
• Engagement with the World

I’d like to ask you about a facet of engagement with your community. You say, “Community engagement is possible through any association, service, or function of community life” (p. 82). Then you list thirteen examples of such engagement, including tutoring at a rescue mission, helping at a women’s shelter, helping refugees, etc. I appreciate the way you see these efforts as part and parcel of the work of church, rather than as competition with church programs. This is right on!

But I did not find in your discussion of community engagement something that is close to my heart and central to my work at Laity Lodge. We are committed to the idea that our daily work is one of the major areas of discipleship. In fact, one of our ministries is a website, The High Calling of Our Daily Work. We want to encourage all Christians to see their workplace as a crucial context for ministry. This would certainly include your example of “Robin, an engineer who has received training to be a ‘marketplace chaplain,’ ministering to people in the workplace” (p. 83). But we would also want to encourage Robin to serve the Lord in her daily work, through her excellence, honesty, compassion, creativity, truth-seeking, attitude, and so on. In our view, the workplace itself includes human need that requires God’s resources.

So, my question is: How do you see engagement with the community in relationship to the workplace? In what ways to you envision Christians bringing God’s resources to meet human need in our daily work?

Thanks, again, Mel, for allowing me to help get out the word about Whole Church.

Mel’s Answer

Thanks, Mark, for this question which pushes deeper into the concept of engagement. So here’s my response…

The central proposition of Whole Church is that we see God at work in our world when His resources are brought into contact with human need. There is nothing more exciting than seeing the power of God unleashed in the lives of people around us, and the workplace is definitely a major arena in which that occurs. I argue in the book that Christians often don’t realize how disengaged we are. We talk the talk, but if we don’t close the gap between divine resource and human need, it’s like trying to drive a car with the clutch disengaged. Closing the gap is the key, and in the workplace the gap is closed. The believer is there, deployed in “the world,” situated perfectly to be salt and light. And I put the emphasis on “be.” The believer who shows the Christ life by who he or she is in the workplace–in character, temperament, values–will have a preserving effect (salt), and a revealing effect (light).

Wherever I go in our community I see members of our church. When I visit a hospital, for instance, there is a very good chance I will run into a nurse, a doctor, a receptionist, or almost anyone working there, who attends our church. I am thrilled that so much salt is out of the salt-shaker.

And this is most important: we glorify God in the work itself. Christian witness does not start with the mouth, it starts with the hands. Luther and Calvin spoke of the great dignity of every believer’s work (vocation — “calling”). If being a shoemaker is one’s calling, that is no less holy than the calling of a pastor. Calvin’s views on the inherent dignity of work was a powerful dynamic of like-minded people who settled America.

Bottom line: the Christian has the exhilarating privilege of glorifying God by doing good, faithful work. It is not that one has to run an orphanage or print Bibles in order to have dignified work. The person who works in the payroll department of an office, or who is a clerk at a grocery story, or who runs a small business is serving God by serving other people. And there is great dignity just in the fact of bringing home a paycheck, supporting a family, bringing a generous offering to church.


That answer is spot on. Exactly. Thanks, Mel.

If you’d like to check out the other stops on Mel’s blog tour, here they are:

Greg Atkinson
George Bullard
Kent Shaffer
Sherry Surratt
Todd Rhoades

Once again, I highly recommend Whole Church to church leaders of all stripes.

Topics: Book Reviews |

3 Responses to “Whole Church: Leading from Fragmentation to Engagement, by Mel Lawrenz”

  1. LUKE1732 Says:
    September 29th, 2009 at 10:18 am

    Engagement leads to marriage and marriage is the antidote to selfishness. As long as divorce is OK and thousands of independent “seeker friendly” churches are OK, fragmentation of family and church will continue. Only a radical dying to self and an embrace of the fullness of the truth will heal the Body of Christ. “Whole” means healed and it also means complete, i.e. unified. If we don’t truly hope for one holy, catholic, and apostolic church, then we’re not serious about Christian unity. Not just the partial unity of engagement, but the visible and real unity of marriage as the bride of Christ.

  2. Mel Lawrenz Says:
    September 29th, 2009 at 11:03 am

    I agree that half-way unity is no unity at all. It is very easy to agree with the principle of unity, but unity never happens just by using it as a magic word. It is our true identity in Christ that makes us whole, and that makes it possible for churches to be Whole.

  3. ds r4 Says:
    October 26th, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    Whole Church is one of those books that a reader might respond to with,”This makes so much sense…I’m surprised no one captured this before!”


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