Bob Bouwer, Senior Pastor of Faith Church (RCA) in Dyer, Indiana led his congregation through a U-turn experience in 1994, shifting the church’s focus from personal preferences to biblical principles. Under his leadership and by God’s grace, the average weekend attendance has grown to over 5,000 worshipping at six different locations. Bob has a heart for reaching the spiritually disconnected, encouraging struggling church leaders and supporting third world missions. He has recently written a book with Kevin Harney entitled U-Turn Church, The: New Direction for Health and Growth. Bob and his wife, Laurie have four children and two grandchildren.
KW: What led to the writing of The U-Turn Church?
BB: Stories help. Starting a church is very exciting but is also difficult and hard. With the vast majority of churches in America starting over 50 years ago (sometimes going back hundreds of years), it is safe to say that most are not what you would consider stimulating. In fact, the following adjectives are probably more accurate: stuck, declining, rigid and depressed. I wrote the book praying that our story may help churches whom these adjectives describe because that was our story.
KW: By looking at 2 churches who experienced significant turnarounds, what are some key principles for a U-Turn?
BB: The book tells the story of two churches, one a suburban Chicagoland church and the other a rural Michigan church, and the process they went through to turn around. God used holy zeal, intense prayer, high risks and the obstacle of overcoming people’s personal preferences vs. biblical truths to achieve this “u-turn”.
KW: How can pastors and leaders ensure that their changes and growth are led by the Spirit, not simply attempts to increase programming and numbers?
BB: Spiritually healthy pastors, leaders and servant volunteers lead churches and ministry where their by-product is fruitfulness. Numbers do matter. Each number is a soul. Each soul is a person Jesus suffered, died and rose again for. If numbers matter to God (He gave numbers in the book of Acts) then they matter to us.
KW: What are some of the challenges along the way of making these changes in a church?
BB: The challenge is change. Change is often treated like a four letter word by Christians. Any close analysis of the gospel displays change. Where there is change, there is emotion. Where there is emotion there may be anger, division and sin. However, change is a good thing. Change can bring health. The key is to change well. Address church change with the fruit of the Spirit, not the fight of the flesh.
KW: Can you share some stories of lives and communities changed in these examples?
BB: A great story: We recently launched a church site in Highland, Indiana. This was a church that was declining and stuck. They invited us to take them over (enfold) them. On the grand opening, a little boy about 6 years old came running up to an outside greeter. The greeter shook his hand and commented how nice the little boy, who was in a suit and tie, had looked. The little boy responded how this was his very first time at a church. You see, his mom and 2 brothers lived for years across the street from the church. She saw all the buzz changes going on around the facility. She thought she needed to give God a try. Just recently she professed her faith in Jesus Christ and she and her boys were baptized!
KW: What’s your latest insight God is teaching you about His Church?
BB: If it’s alive it multiplies! I believe from Genesis to Revelation God’s physical and spiritual plan for the Church is to multiply. This biblical principle is meant for individual Christians, ministries and churches. Whatever God is blessing, reproduce it. Reproduce disciples, ministry leaders, churches, prayer, etc. It’s endless when Christians get this!