Pastor Lambert and I met some years ago in an online group for pastors of small churches. We have dialogued often about the issues facing small churches across the nation. Since our initial meeting online, we have also been able to be together at some conferences for small churches and enjoy fellowship over a meal. I greatly admire his commitment to the small church. He is one of those pastors that could easily serve in a bigger church but has the passionate calling to do something for the Lord in places that others have neglected.
After years of service to small churches, Pastor Lambert reveals to us in his latest book, Why Is My Church Dying?, many truths he learned about small churches through his study of the Word and his practical experience. The book is easy to read, with short, but potent chapters. I particularly like the discussion questions at the end of each chapter that help the individual reader reflect deeper on what was read, but also make the book usable as a training tool for a leadership team in a small church.
Though the chapters may be short and easy to read, the truths presented will not always be easy to respond to. For example, in chapter 11 Pastor Lambert hits the reader with a convicting question, “Is your church dying with money in the bank?” We all know the answer to that, but we like to apply the answer to everyone else’s church, not our own. Pastor Lambert forces us to ask that question about our own church. Not all readers will like the answer, but it is something we need to wrestle with. Readers can expect hard hitting questions like that all through the book.
I was recently blessed to interview Pastor Lambert about his book and you can find that interview below:
TERRY: Russell, you have been a pastor for a long time. Your background clearly would allow you to lead a much larger church, but you have chosen to serve smaller congregations. Why have you made that choice?
RUSSELL: I made the choice to serve in smaller, rural churches back in 1992. I had run from the call to ministry for 13 years and when I surrendered and asked for forgiveness, I told the Lord if He could still use me that I would serve Him in out of the way places and congregations that no one else wanted to minister to. To honor that commitment the Lord has had to grow my faith by leaps and bounds.
TERRY: In addition to serving the local church, you have also impacted the larger church through your writings. Can you share with us 2-3 key things you hope people will gain from the materials you write?
RUSSELL: I hope that what I write will encourage church leaders to take on the challenges that are set before them instead of just ignoring them and hoping they will go away. I want people to think about what they are reading and hearing from God's Word; not so much in a theological sense, but in a heart-felt life changing application and then take action based on that.
TERRY: Your most recent book is entitled, “Why is My Church Dying?” That is a question many people are asking in our nation today. Can you give us a synopsis of the book and tell us why you choose to write this particular book?
RUSSELL: Most churches are troubled churches. If you do not believe that, just ask their pastors. Far too often, when pastors are offered solutions, they are one-size-fits-all answers which never truly address root problems. I knew the Bible would have the answers to the root problems of troubled churches if we would only ask the right questions. That is what I have tried to do in this book.
TERRY: Who do you hope will benefit the most from this book and why?
RUSSELL: I think that this book will be a benefit to anyone who is asking the question, "What is wrong with my church?" It will give them a place to start, and hopefully they will do it in concert with others in the congregation who are of like mind and opinion. Of course the danger in that is they might find out that they are part of the problem. This book is not for the faint of heart and is a serious self-evaluation that has enough in it too make us all uncomfortable. Sort of like being told the reason you have cancer is because you have been smoking all these years. But if we will read it with an open mind, it might just help us keep our church from dying.
TERRY: What is the main thing you would like people to walk away with after reading any of your writings, but especially this book?
RUSSELL: Solomon told us generations ago that "There is nothing new under the sun." I want my readers to realize that the struggles they and their congregation are facing are not unique in the history of the church. We must trust in God, have hope, and be willing to change; but not in the ways we might be thinking, but in conforming ourselves and our congregations to the Word of God, to be the church He wants us to be, even if that means serving in a small out of the way place that needs a vibrant and alive church.