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Book review – Church Different: Unleashing the Church to Change the World

Reviewed by Andy Smith
Andy Smith is OMF’s International Coordinator for Evangelization. He completed an MA in missions at Columbia International University. His most recent book, The Majesty of Jesus, explores what the Gospel of John says about Jesus and about belief.

Church Different: Unleashing the Church to Change the World
By Ron Dotzler
Exponential Resources, 2019.
Mission Round Table Vol. 15 No. 1 (Jan-Apr 2020): 9​​​​​

When Ron Dotzler, an American pastor, realized that his church was failing to connect with unbelievers he sought to understand why. He concluded that the congregation had no social influence, and he knew that lack of social influence usually means lack of spiritual impact. To connect with the surrounding culture, he needed to learn to do church differently.

Formerly, Dotzler led faith-based outreaches that sought to convince people of the truth of Christianity. He testifies, “I tried to faith people to Jesus…. My lack of success came from attempting to convince people with the truth” (Nook, 29).

After his awakening, he began planning outreaches in which the church showed its love for those around them. He also trained members with “appropriate hopefilled language” (Nook, 64). Those outreaches led to opportunities to serve people in practical ways that opened doors for sharing spiritual truths. By first developing their social influence they began to make a spiritual impact.

Doing church differently means expecting the Bible to “give us a bigger heart, not a bigger head” (Nook, 75). Dotzler urges church leaders to lead their congregations in becoming people of love who are “always ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within us” (Nook, 24). By so doing, they can expect God to use them in leading people to faith.

I found this book easy to read, stimulating, and, at times, convicting. The author’s struggles in evangelism are similar to ones I face. The solution that the Spirit gave him should help many church planters and leaders be more faithful and fruitful in their witness.

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