Planting Missional Churches is written by Ed Stetzer, the director of LifeWay Research and missiologist in residence at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, Tennessee. Stetzer has written several helpful books on church planting, and is also an active blogger.
The purpose of Planting Missional Churches is “to inform, to clarify, to encourage, and to persuade evangelicals to embrace church planting,” p. 13.
The added component that the word “missional” adds to church planting needs to be explained. Sometimes “missional” means “incarnational”; in the context of church planting, the church planters and the church should be part of the culture that they’re seeking to reach. “Missional” can also mean “mission-minded”, or caring about missions, especially overseas missions. Finally “missional” can mean actively ministering right where you are. In Planting Missional Churches Stetzer primarily uses the incarnational aspect of missional:
“Establishing a missional church means to plant a church that’s part of the culture you’re seeking to reach,” p.1.
“A church becomes missional when it remains faithful to the gospel and simultaneously seeks to contextualize the gospel (to the degree it can) so the gospel engages the hearers and transforms their worldview,” p. 25.
After dealing with definitions, Stetzer moves on toward describing five objections to church planting:
- Large-church mentality: One large church is more attractive than multiple churches, however newer churches usually reach more people per capita than older churches.
- Parish-church mind-set: One denominational church in a area; however, the number of denominational churches in each area has not kept up with the population growth.
- Professional-church syndrome: Pastors must have buildings and seminary-trained pastors to be legitimate; however, the fastest growing churches of the 19th century (Baptist and Methodist) and more recently (charismatic and Pentecostal) did not require seminary trained pastors. Ideally seminary training should be offered on-site by extension.
- Rescue-the-perishing syndrome: Denominations should first rescue dying churches before planting new ones; however, saving dying churches is more difficult and costly than starting new ones. Ideally, both efforts should be made.
- Already-reached myth: That the US and Canada are already evangelized; however, many churches are dying and the US is the fifth largest mission field on earth.
Stetzer describes the Biblical basis and motivation of church planting and then mentions at least three models of church planters:
- Apostolic Harvest Church Planter: Like Paul who started churches, raised up leaders from the harvest, then moves to another church.
- Founding Pastor: Like Peter, started a church and then remains as pastor of the new church.
- Team Planting: A group of planters relocates into an area to start a church, often has a lead or senior pastor.
The book ended with the practical details of a church start: developing a launch team, small groups, finding and handling finances, name and logo, meeting place, advertising, worship, preaching, spiritual formation, children’s ministry, legal issues, and starting new churches. Each of these could have been a book on their own. Stetzer did a good job introducing the topics and then referring readers to other helpful resources.
Planting Missional Churches is worth reading for everyone who is interesting in starting new churches in North America or wants to learn what it takes to start churches. Stetzer is a knowledgeable and experienced church planter as well as a prolific writer. Check out his blog here.
I also have reviewed Ed Stetzer’s: Book Review: Transformational Church: Creating a New Scorecard for Congregations by Ed Stetzer and Thom S. Rainer, 3 Stars