Dave Mann. Big Book Publishing, 2019, (p192)
ISBN 978-0-9941396-2-7.

Dave Mann is the inspiration behind the Hope Project, an initiative aiming to impact every home and family in New Zealand

He has drawn strongly on his experiences of travelling and engaging with church leaders while promoting the Hope Project. Initially he looks at the culture of the day, and works to identify the challenges and opportunities before the church. I feel his assessments are illuminating

Dave explores the decline of Christian influence and how that has affected the thinking of the population. His quoting of Malcolm Gladwell and the ‘tipping point’ thinking is slightly suspect, I feel. Gladwell’s premise is that the growth of an idea/belief to (the magical) 10% of the population will lead to significant change in a community or nation.  However, Dave’s belief that the Christian church needs just to reach that 10% is a totally different setting.  We live in a nation where previously Christians were a respected and strong majority. The downward slide in numbers and effectiveness speaks to the once significant place the church held but no longer does. People’s views are affected by the slide they have observed over the years. Confidence has diminished, or is completely eroded.

The book states that “being Christian is considered morally wrong”, a dynamic that has to be faced and worked through. Somehow the church and Christians need to be wiser in how we engage with others.

The second part of In One Spirit looks at minister’s associations, and in particular their role in being the ‘spiritual keepers’ over a city or town. The writer sees church pastors being the ideal ones to lead this, favouring one person being the leader or spokesperson on behalf of all the churches. I feel the view is both narrow and incomplete. Profile isn’t everything. Who is the most well-known Christian in Australia?  No it isn’t Brian Houston; it would be Israel Folau! Wisdom is needed on how we engage with our communities and present our views.

That pastors lead the Christian message and profile is potentially problematic. In many situations they become politicised, both locally and nationally.  Also, with the lack of trust in the church in general, those pastors having a profile might be significant for some Christians, but there may well be no connection with the general public.

What about Christian business leaders taking key roles, or those who head up significant Christian social organisations? The mana carried by, say, the Salvation Army Social Services, VisionWest Community Trust, or a myriad of other Christian social agencies surely already resonates with the unchurched. They have something to say from deep in the trenches of life.  I feel we will do more to promote the Christian message through good and effective works, than church pastors speaking out on moral issues when we have lost the credible mandate and high moral ground to do so.

Pastor groups are necessary and many operate well. However, I don’t feel, as presented by Dave, that they are the answer to the issues highlighted in the first half of In One Spirit. I believe a major key to winning our country would be articulate Christians loving and relating to their neighbours and communities. “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” John 13:35 (NLT).

Review: Ross Banbury

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.