Being “missional” is a buzz word in Church Planting circles and so the very title of this book intrigued me. We in the USA have long felt we were a “Christian nation” (although I personally have difficulty making “Christian” an adjective about anything. Isn’t Christian a noun? A thought for another time) and therefore we send missionaries to foreign fields rather than thinking of our own country as a mission field itself. This is becoming more and more outdated. Some statistics show that nearly 4 out of every 10 Americans are unchurched, that is they have not been involved in a church in 10 years and/or have no faith preference. Thus some of the new leaders are beginning to plant “missional churches” to try to reach these that are far from God. Thus Richard Stetzer, a church planter in his own right, gives a book that expands on the missional perspective. As a former church planter I was excited to get a copy of this and below you will find my review of his book.
Let me give you the “bottom line” first. I found Planting Missional Churches to be a comprehensive book that is theologically sound, biblically based and practically focused for church planting. A friend of mine, when finding out that I was reading this book, called it, “The Bible for Church Planting.” Certainly for those who considering church planting or who are already planning to start a new church, this book encourages them to be theologically reflective and intentional in their methodology.
I found much to commend in the book. First, as briefly mentioned above the book is very comprehensive. If a planter had a chance to read only a few books on church planting, this would certainly be one that should be included. Second, Stetzer supports the need and importance of church planting from both a strong biblical and historical perspective. Third, the book gives an excellent description of emerging postmodern generations and how churches need to think differently to reach those generations. I think this is one of the strong points of Stetzer’s book and makes it incredibly timely. Fourthly, as a church planter I found the book to be highly practical. The book covers pretty much most of the topics that a church planter might encounter. Dr. Stetzer’s experiences that are shared throughout the book show that Planters are not going through the planting struggles alone. Dr. Stetzer gives many “hands on” types of examples and practical advice from his own personal experiences that a new planter could easily apply.
As far as techniques and missiology go, Dr. Stetzer covers a lot of ground, but he remains faithful to this goal, which keeps his book refreshingly Christ-centered. Ed Stetzer has mastered the art of writing to a wide audience, so his chapters are easy to read and comprehend, filled with illustrations and anecdotes. However, because of the breadth of subjects that he sets out to cover, some chapters serve to instill vision, while others explain more mundane tasks like organizing child care and raising money for sound equipment. Understandably, the vision-casting chapters are more memorable while the how-to chapters read more like an instruction manual. Ultimately, this blend of big-picture thinking and nitty-gritty detail makes Planting Missional Churches the kind of book that will be opened at multiple stages of the church planting process.
I found myself fundamentally in agreement with Dr. Stetzer’s approach to church planting, and agreeing with him on subjects such as the need for a plurality of elders in the church leadership (p.93), the need for biblical preaching that is applicable to daily life (p. 270) as well as the need for multiplication to be a part of the DNA of any church plant. (p. 317)
While Stetzer notes the existence of “organic” or “core to crowd” models, the lion’s share of his book endorses more complex “big-launch” models, which require considerable money, multiple staff, and extensive administrative systems. If there was on criticism this reader would have of the book it is to see more coverage given to simpler, ground-up approaches.
All in all I would highly recommend this book and for anyone that is entertaining church planting this is a MUST read.