How to Make Your Church Hum

A Review of the Book by Paul Powell

I recently read a great little book. It isn’t exactly a book that is “hot off the press.” How To Make Your Church Hum was written in 1977, and it came into my possession the same way most of my books do—via a used bookstore. A few years ago I saw this book for sale, and its title caught my attention. It was written by a Southern Baptist pastor named Paul Powell. The book is short (just 92 pages), very readable, and includes lots of great advice. You can see the simplicity of his writing style as well as the direction of the book by simply scanning the chapter titles:

1. Major on the Basics
2. Pray Much
3. Build Spirit
4. Wake Up the Worship
5. Preach the Word
6. Give Dynamic Leadership
7. Plan Ahead
8. Work Hard
9. Involve the People
10. Major on Outreach
11. Minister to People
12. Shape Up the Plant
13. Advertise Well
14. Cut Excess Meetings
15. Develop Good Stewards

All of the chapters were good, but there were several chapters that really stood out to me because of a great illustration or profound quote. Here are three of my favorite chapters and why I like them:

Chapter 1: Major on the Basics

In this chapter Powell uses a powerful illustration about the great football coach, Knute Rockne. He claims that Rockne never had a secret practice. He didn’t mind at all if scouts from their opponents came and watched his Notre Dame team practice. In fact, once when an Army scout missed his train to watch Rockne’s team play and take notes for their meeting later in the season, Rockne mailed him the plays that he planned to use against West Point. He said, “It isn’t the play that wins, it’s the execution.” Powell then goes on to say the following:

“All great coaches agree. Champions are made by majoring on the fundamentals: blocking and tackling. They execute well. A team may win a game here and there by a trick play or a gimmick, but they won’t be a consistent winner that way.

Great churches are built the same way—by majoring on the basics. The spiritual fundamentals for the church are prayer, visitation, and Bible teaching….

If you build a church on the basics—visitation, prayer, and Bible study—and you do the basics well, there is no limit to how long you can stay and how strong the church can become. My conclusion is this: The secret is not in the play, but in the performance. You don’t build an exciting, spiritual, growing church on some newfangled idea that no one ever thought of before. You build it on the basics.”

Chapter 2: Pray Much

In this chapter Powell urges the reader to recognize the absolute necessity of prayer in the church. He uses an illustration to demonstrate the uselessness of being organized but lacking the Holy Spirit’s power. Powell does not discount the value of organization, but rather he says,

“Organization alone is never enough. A cemetery is the most highly organized place in the world. Nobody ever gets out of place there. But a cemetery is also the deadest place in the world.”

Chapter 14: Cut Excess Meetings

In this chapter Powell makes the case that some churches have way too many things going on which ultimately wears down the people. He talks about Mary and Martha, and presents a compelling case for evaluating the purpose behind the various activities and meetings in your church. He says:

“We all fall victim to the Martha mania. We get so involved in the many things that we neglect the one thing—our relationship and fellowship with the Lord. We become like the proverbial river—a mile wide and an inch deep. We’re spread out but there’s no depth to our lives.”

In the midst of this chapter, I came across one of the most thought-provoking questions I have ever heard: “What’s the use of putting more irons in the fire if the fire is going out?” As a guy who is constantly taking on new responsibilities and starting new projects, this was a very timely question for me to consider.

Used copies of this book are available on Amazon, and no doubt other places as well. I would recommend this book for any pastor who desires his church to reach its full potential and be all that it can be for Christ. I am sure that any pastor, no matter the size of his church or his length of time in the ministry, would be encouraged and challenged by this short book.

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