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October 1972 · Vol. 1 No. 4 · pp. 133–34 

Book Review

Laity Mobilized

Neil Braun. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1971. 224 pages.

Reviewed by Vern Ratzlaff

“Regardless of numerical attendance at worship and the size of the budget, a church which cannot bring into being new congregations of believers in nearby communities is spiritually poor” (p. 93).

How can the church grow? What role does the seminary-trained pastor have? These are the questions which Braun, twenty years missionary in Japan, deals with. Although most of his material and projections relate to the Japanese society, he draws heavily on statistics and illustrative material from other mission fields, and also seeks to relate these to North America. For Braun, the goal of a full-time, seminary-trained pastor for each congregation is an expense that cannot be justified in light of the need for evangelism on a large scale. Instead, he presses for the recognition of several levels of responsibility, including ministers (bishops), pastor-teachers, lay preachers, and elders, thus utilizing the resources of each local congregation. Second, he emphasizes the needs for {134} more congregations; he points out that adding churches adds members, especially in countries such as Japan—that it is generally an error to project congregations of several hundreds in number. He also casts doubt on the emphasis given to building projects. His conclusions are based on comparisons between the growth of various denominations, some of which embody his ideas (e.g. Plymouth Brethren, Pentecostals), others which follow the traditional pattern (e.g. Southern Baptist, Methodist).

His suggestions make exciting reading for the urban Canadian who also wonders about the seeming frozen level of church membership; Laity Mobilized may well point in a needed direction for us—that church growth occurs when the laity are active in teaching, preaching and evangelism.

Vern Ratzlaff
Mennonite Brethren Bible College, Winnipeg, Manitoba

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