Book Review: Dirt Matters by Jim Powell

I’m genuinely excited about Dirt Matters, and not because I’m mentioned in it and Jim sent me a free copy.

Finally a book has come out with something new to say about leading your church into vibrancy and effectiveness. No kidding. Most books and organizations out there today that say their focus is church health rather than church growth really are about church health as a means to church growth. The premise typically is: Get your church healthy and it will grow. Dirt Matters is refreshing in a number of ways, one of which is that it avoids such promises.

So what’s the book about? Let me pull some of my favorite quotes from the book to tell you. Jim says…

“I am absolutely convinced that one of the main reasons so many churches are struggling and feel as though they are not reaching their full impact is because they are unaware of one of the basic elements of a healthy, vibrant, and effective congregation—the soil!”

“The issue is that every church has a unique culture that serves as the soil where its ministry occurs. A church’s culture is the somewhat nebulous and complex blend of norms, beliefs, attitudes, traditions, and practices that define the congregation. The culture establishes the environment that often predetermines the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of God’s Word within that body of believers. It influences a congregation’s potential impact more than techniques, programs, or pragmatic changes.”

“Soil directly affects potential outcomes despite what takes place above the surface. As a result, churches need to spend more time enriching the soil, making their environment healthier, and less time looking for external, superficial fixes.”

“My premise is that we have some control over the quality of soil inside the church, and focusing on that is ultimately a higher priority than just tweaking programs, activities, or creative delivery methods.”

“And, contrary to what some people think, the quality of the soil can be changed.”

“There are really only four ways to get good soil. One, we get lucky and stumble upon it. Two, we diligently search for it, and when we find it, we jump on it. Three, God supernaturally leads us to it like He did the Israelites. Or four, we develop it. We take what we have, and we nurture it, enrich it, and transform it into a higher quality. But doing this takes more than a sermon series, a program, a retreat, a class, or a congregational meeting. We must emphasize soil development systematically.”

Dirt Matters provides a systematic approach to enriching the soil of your church. Whether your church is small, large, or somewhere in between, Jim Powell has written a book that will be a help to all who lead congregations.

Part of what I do as a coach and church consultant is to provide and recommend resources that work. With Jim Powell’s Dirt Matters I feel I have a new tool to pass on to pastors and church leaders who want to lead their church into change or are trying to lead their church into change and wondering why it is so hard or seemingly impossible. Dirt Matters doesn’t remove the ‘hard’ but it does remove the mystery.

Check out these Dirt Matters trailers!



Jim Powell is the lead pastor of Richwoods Christian Church in Peoria, Illinois, and director of the 95network, a nonprofit organization focused on encouraging and equipping the 95 percent of church congregations in America that are under 800 people in size.