The Interventionist (1997) by Lyle E. Schaller
In The Interventionist, Lyle Schaller has written masterpiece for those aspiring church consultants, ministry leaders, and pastors alike. Focused on helping change agents bring health to a congregation, Schaller advocates the consulting by questions approach and is diligent at “peeling back the onion” of church stagnation issues. Of the twelve chapters in the book, eight of the titles are direct questions to the reader. Though not one of the question titles, chapter three is labeled “The Twelve Questions for the Interventionist” and includes inquiries about a consultant’s role, defining the church’s reality, and clarifying symptoms and problems.
Some of the more pertinent sections I found valuable as a new consultant, include chapter three, as I have mentioned, chapter four “What Do You Bring?” and chapter eight, “Seventeen Syndromes”. Like Schaller I am a church consultant, but these chapters among the others in the book will be valued for the “church champion” interim pastor and itinerant parish worker alike. It is good to be clear with the church on structures of accountability and expected follow through with action plans. An appropriate diagnosis and recommendation can only be made once the right questions have been asked and internal research completed. This is where the intersection of “What Your Bring” encompasses personal experience, an understanding of the surrounding community and interventionist methodology with questions to determine the real issues instead of congregational complaints. If you are consulting a church then there must be a reason why you are there.
Also, having just returned from St. Thomas, an Anglican/Baptist church in Sheffield, England, Schaller’s discussion in chapter seven, “European or American?” was very beneficial. In this chapter, Schaller describes the common differences in theology and methodology of North American churches that are English influenced versus those that are “American made”. Of course there are always exceptions to generalizations and Schaller is quick to admit that. One of the denominations that seem to have transcended both the English and American traditions is the Southern Baptist Convention. Despite having its roots in the New England migration of Baptists from the British Isles, and though considered an exception to the European or American debate by many religious researchers, Schaller discloses his consideration of the Southern Baptist Convention of today as “largely an American creation” (p.95). Having been raised in a Southern Baptist church, I have been able to witness the many transformations the church has undergone to continually reach the city and those in its context.
Schaller’s work is still relevant to helping churches as it was when first published. As an authoritative researcher and church consulting practitioner, there is much wisdom to be gleaned from his experiences and labors in The Interventionist. This is a book that I have already returned to many times, and I am sure I will continue to refer back to it as I venture further along my ministry call.