“Real Churches” is an excellent Practical Theology textbook. I’ve always seen the original languages and theology as the backbone for a seminary education and practical theology is something that should be learned prior to seminary in discipleship with a pastor or can be learned after seminary as an associate pastor. However, most churches are not able to afford an associate, so most pastors must jump into the lone-pastor role. This would be a great tool for the seminary student, but also for church leadership is grappling through the many challenges of church ministry.
At first glance at the table of contents, “Real Churches” seemed like it would be another average run-of-the-mill books on churches and are there not enough of those? However, Thompson assimilates both his experience as pastor, missionary, district superintendent and seminary coursework to outline the best of the best counsel and advice for what makes a real church.
Several chapters are summaries of fundamental approaches to church leadership from other authors and teachers that make this a handbook on how church should function without the requirement to consume those resources. Thompson has done the work for you. For example, in chapter six he summarizes the work of Christian Schwarz in the “Natural Church Development” and the eight universal proven principles for church growth. In chapter eight, he borrows from Will Mancini’s book, “Church Unique,” to describe the importance of vision or Rick Warren’s spiritual acrostic “SHAPE” to cast vision on how each person can press ahead in church ministry.
Thompson focuses on twelve necessary ingredients that make healthy churches. These would be good topics to cover at Elder meetings, Elder training for potential candidates, seminary students, or church leadership. They are what make a great church and must be addressed lest the church plateau or go into decline.