Advanced Strategic Planning was written by Aubrey Malphurs and was first published in 1999 with the over-all purpose of providing the church and its leadership a good strategic planning process that will help it them move from a stage of stagnant growth to a period of change and revitalization. The book offers a nine-step strategic thinking and acting models and diagrams that help illustrate concepts. The updated edition of the book has put emphasis on disciple making.
Malphurs, who has authored many books on church leadership and strategy, is a professor of Pastoral Ministries at Dallas Theological Seminary. He specializes in teaching pastors how to think strategically and move their congregation to growth and accomplishment of goals.
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He is also the president of the Malphurs Group, a consulting organization which provides training and consultation services for churches that sees the need for help in the area of church growth.
Malphurs started the book by stating that almost all institutions today, such as churches, go through a sigmoid or S-curve pattern of growth or life cycle, in which a church begins and experiences rapid growth in all areas, achieves a point a comfort zone of routines and programs, and later on declines and eventually dies.
Malphurs, in his book, perceives the S-curve life cycle pattern as a problem besetting most churches by stating that:
“The message or lesson of the sigmoid curve is that all good things (and even some bad things) end… Even brand-new institutions and organizations such as a church will, in time, plateau and then die. No matter what institution it is, organizational “dry rot” sets in. The institution becomes brittle, ceases to function, and expires” (Malphurs 2005, 11).
Given the abovementioned problem Malphurs argues that as soon as the church feels that it now reached the point of staggering growth and plateau, it should in a way re-invent itself through careful planning and adoption of new set of core values (whenever necessary) in order to propel it back to a period of significant growth.
This will mean reviewing and restructuring the various aspects of church life such as its core values, personnel, congregation, prevailing culture, finances, community where it is interacting, among others, through a strategic planning process.
A handful of suggestions on how to carry out the conduct of this strategic planning was provided lengthily and was discussed in an almost detailed manner by Malphurs.
Drawing from a wealth of experience as a pastor, professor and consultant, Malphurs have provided significant and doable ways of carrying out the strategic revitalization process. Perhaps using his personal experience of leading a church, he was able to address a lot of pitfalls and traps that a pastor and church leader should avoid in strategic planning.
His experience and love for the ministry and church transcends all throughout the book, making a pastor or a leader, whose church is going through a period of plateau in terms of growth, reading the book feel that the book was written specifically for him and his flock. Malphurs has a heart for the local church. The strategic planning is simply his response to the problem that he perceives. 
It was also made clear in the book that the pastor or church leaders can’t do the process and implement changes alone, every member of the congregation must be informed properly for them to be involved in all facets of the process. The need to effectively communicate the vision was emphasized and strongly recommended. Malphurs writes:
If you conduct secret meetings and fail to communicate in general what happens in those meetings, you will not be able to lead the congregation because they will no trust you (63).
An unwavering support on the ongoing strategic planning process will only come from a church member who clearly understands the what and why’s of his/her church’s call for a strategic planning.
Although the book is in fact a “how-to” sort of manual, Malphurs succeeded in finding a biblical basis for the conduct of the strategic planning. This makes the book grounded on the godly and biblical principles of leadership.
An obvious strength of the book is the manner it challenged church pastors and leaders to think critically regarding its mission, vision, values, and congregational structure. Provoking questions are injected throughout the book to guide its readers in propelling the church in a certain direction that will eventually lead to the realization of their mission and vision.
Malphurs is very strong in recommending the necessity of adopting a mission and vision statements in churches. To further guide his readers, Malphurs also made a clear distinction between values, missions, and functions.
Armed with the understanding that churches will definitely look different in varying contexts, he stresses the value of injecting professionalism and excellence in all ministry undertakings which is and should be a characteristic of any church desiring to grow.
David Murrow also sees this need when he wrote, “Men appreciate excellence…Excellent doesn’t mean slick, canned or superficial. It simply means everything done well (Col. 3:23).”
Malphurs also tediously provided helpful tools and sample evaluation forms that will help a church start the strategic planning process. He make sure that churches who will decide to embark in the strategic planning process already have the tools, which can be modified if they opt to, to keep the process going and evaluated.
Although well-written, the book still has some few unhelpful aspects and needs thoughtful consideration from a critical reader.
Malphurs have excellently provided a book for strategic thinking pastors but have missed out those who are implementers and dreamers in nature, reality will tell us that there are pastors who see that their calling evolves on activities such as teaching, preaching, evangelism, visitation, etc.
Strategic planning is not an exciting and needed activity for pastors and leaders who fall under these characteristics, for them church growth and dynamism depends on going out and reaching the unreached.
Another important concern that Malphurs alluded is the average period of time it will take for the whole process of defining the church’s mission, discovering their values, catching the vision, and actually coming up with a plan will be done.
He noted that it could take five (5) years just to get everybody on board. Unfortunately, nowadays, a pastoral longevity in a certain church is only 3 to 4 years. George Barna stated: "The average tenure of a pastor in Protestant churches has declined to just 4 years—even though studies consistently show that pastors experience their most productive and influential ministry in years 5 through 14 of their pastorate.” 
The book also failed in considering the value of preaching the Word of God, reaching out the lost, and healthy fellowship among members of the congregation, in spurring growth in the church.
The “Readiness for Change” inventory contains factors necessary for organizational change, but it is interesting to note that Malphurs have missed to include prayer. For any change to take place in a church, the leaders and members of the church should devote time in praying.
Overall much is to be commended in Malphurs’ book. It is a very practical book. The strengths of the book outweigh the weaknesses. The weaknesses stated should not detract a one from reading the book.
Although there are some suggestions made by Malphurs that in one way or another is not supported biblically, such as not putting older men and women in the leadership as opposed to the scripture’s advice to have the older men and women teaching the younger ones, the book still offers sound and helpful principles of strategically leading and managing a church.
The objectives set by Malphurs in writing the book are achieved, he perceived a problem, and he has provided in great detail a solution to the problem. He has skillfully presented a sys aforementioned, his wealth of experience have made every argument he presented convincing and worth trying for.
The book is a valuable reading and tool for young, soon-to-be pastors, pastors, elders, church staff members, and lay leaders, or for anyone who is in one way or another involved in church leadership.
However, a word of caution, one should be very careful in accepting that the book is the cure-all answer to the problems besetting the churches today. It is a guide, a good and helpful guide, but it doesn’t contain all the answers to church issues and problems.
Pastors and leaders of the church should still bear in mind what is stated Proverbs 16:9 says “The mind of man plans his way; But the LORD directs his steps.” The Lord is still the sovereign one, if it is His Will it will definitely happen.
. Owen Strachan, Reviews: Advanced Strategic Planning by Aubrey Malphurs, (9Marks Reviews , 2008) [article available online], www.alliance.net, date accessed July 21, 2009
. David Murrow, How Women Help Men Find God, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2008)
. George Barna, The Second Coming of the Church, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1998), 5.
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