Fruitful Church by Andrew Turner

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Andrew Turner’s book Fruitful Church is simply put a must read for anyone who is committed to seeing the gospel spread in vibrant ways.  But it should also be said that this involves challenging our thinking.  The primary topic that Andrew looks at is what makes a church successful.  He quickly analyses the growth and health movements, which have been dominant markers over recent years, before proposing an alternative – the sending movement.  In basic terms this is a Christian commitment to build disciples and then release them into wider ministry.  His focus is on church development and so the key aspect that he looks at is in the area of church planting.  He illustrates this viewpoint succinctly by imaging 2 churches.  The 1st is a church of 100 which consistently grows by 10 people each year for 100 years.  By the end of this period the church now has 1,100 people.  Successful right? The 2nd church also has 100 people and grows by 10 every year but, once they reach 120, they send off 20 to start a new church (each of which are committed to doing likewise). After 100 years the church is still only 100 but its family of churches is 107,000,000.

The primary image Turner uses for the book comes from Matthew 21 where Jesus curses a fig tree because it doesn’t produce fruit. It would be tempting to understand fruit as church planters given the context of the book, but instead Turner sees the fruit of the church as disciples of Jesus who are equipped and released in such a way that they can take the gospel to the world. In other words the fruit that Jesus is looking for is not churches collecting people but rather churches sending out disciples.  This sounds simple and yet it radically changes the way we understand the Christian walk.  This book doesn’t call people to merely sit in church but to be active.  As Turner puts it:

‘Come, meet Jesus, be transformed, and change the world.  The Jesus we are inviting you to meet does not merely want you to become a spectator, but a player.’

The book is divided into 2 sections. The 1st deals with the rationale behind a fruitful church, while the 2nd looks at ways this may be approached.  Here, Turner deals with fellowship, worship and mission as active ingredients of the fruitful church and combines this with the wisdom of allowing fruit to ripen before sending.  He freely acknowledges the dangers that come may arise when such things are focused on without first having a sending mentality. Such is his concern for this that he is prompted to write: ‘When strong fellowship becomes so strong it makes it hard for newcomers to break in, and the called-elsewhere to breakout, the church is not just bound together, it’s bound up.’ 

The big question is, would I recommend this book?  Undoubtedly the answer is yes.  It’s only a small book but its pages are filled with valuable wisdom.  Even though it is more suited to Christian leaders, I believe this book is invaluable to all followers of Jesus.  It offers a fresh perspective on what it means to be part of a healthy church which is constantly looking beyond its own walls.  At times it challenges our thinking and calls us to reimagine what it means to be a fruitful church.  The reason why this book is so important can be found straight from within its pages:

‘For maximum fruitfulness’ we must:

(A)  Increase the number of strong Christians through evangelism and discipleship


(B)  Release many of the disciples we make


We will only do (A) with real intentionality and receptiveness if we are already committed to (B).’

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