Since my college days, I have been fascinated with the idea of church planting. This is true pioneering in an age when many churches are dying out or slowing being made irrelevant by their own instance on tradition and man-centered theology. So, I was excited when I was asked to join the blog tour for Planting for the Gospel.
My first thought after completing this book is that the title is a bit misleading. When I read, "Planting for the Gospel" I expect some treatment of the gospel. That is missing in this book. The message of the church is not covered within these pages. That was unfortunate.
However, while this book is certainly not a comprehensive guide to church planting, it is a worthwhile read to anyone considering get involved with a church plant or even thinking about the topic in general. Chapter one lays out a great Biblical motivation for churches to be about the business of planting other churches. The remainder of the first half of the book gives you several possible models to follow and options to consider while planting your church. Mr. Beynon does not give much in the way of opinion as to his thoughts as to which model is best.
The second half of the book fits nicely with the first half as we are allowed to watch each of these different models at work in actual situations. Beynon shows us case study after case study of church plants both in England and here in the U.S. However, these are very short case studies without a lot of information. Yet, a church website is given at the end of each study in case you would like to follow-up and receive more details.
Some various points of agreement and disagreement:
Pages 49-50 - It seems as though the need for a written Constitution is downplayed. In an age where anyone is a plaintiff, it seems unwise not to have a church Constitution as early as possible. I would think as soon as the church begins to meet regularly and expand, a written constitution containing office doctrine, policies and membership requirements should be adopted as soon as possible.
Page 52 - When considering where to plant your church the author writes, "There can sometimes be nervousness about stepping into another church's â€˜patch'. We should be respectful and communicate well, but we must also remember that there are so many people around who need to hear the gospel we are very unlikely to cramp each other's style." I could not agree more. Amen!
Page 55 - Many small churches struggle in the area of children's ministry. As one who has been on staff of two small churches, I have witnessed first hand how some families will never consider a small church without a thriving ministry for their kids. But, this book reminds us of "_the prime responsibility of parents in teaching and training their children." In other words, this should not prevent one from joining a church plant. Again, a hearty Amen!
Page 56 - Does a young church need a pastor? Beynon says no. "_There is no need for a pastor. What there is, is a need for leadership, teaching and pastoral oversight. The key question is whether or not those things are in place, rather than assuming they need to be delivered through a paid staff member." I agree with the sentiment behind this, but with great caution. Yes, I don't believe a new church plant needs a full-time, paid pastor or leader, but leadership should be established early. Elders are apart of a healthy church. This, of course, depends on the model of the church plant. If this is one church planting another, then at the beginning the mother church my assume much of the leadership responsibilities. But, at some point, a clear distinction between mother and daughter churches much be established and that would be through the leadership.
Overall, the book is short and divided into easy-to-read chapters that make it an enjoyable read. The information is valuable and thought-provoking but not comprehensive.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.
Thinking back to my Bible college days, I don't remember hearing a whole lot about church planting. That was some fifteen years ago, but today church planting seems to be everywhere. If you search for the term "church planting" on Amazon.com, you'll end up with a list of six hundred plus books to consider. In addition to the abundance of church planting books available today, there are numerous church planting conferences, seminars and even church planting networks. It is probably an understatement to say that the church planting movement has gained some momentum since my college days. If like me, you are new to the church planting scene, you may not quite know the best place to get started. In many cases when I am looking to learn a new skill or gain some new information, I will seek out a book that promises to deliver what I need. In the case of church planting, a book that may be a useful resource to introduce you to church planting is Planting for the Gospel: A Hands-on Guide to Church Planting by Graham Beynon (Christian Focus, 2011).
Planting for the Gospel explores core issues related to planting a church. The book is divided into two sections. Section one introduces the many considerations that must be made when planting. Chapter one explores the various reasons a group might have for planting a church. Ultimately, each group striving to plant a church must answer the question, "How can we best grow both in quality of discipleship and spread of the gospel?" (p. 19). Chapter two introduces seven different models of church planting:
*Start Up Church - "This is the formation of a new church in an area 'from scratch'." (p. 21)
*Mother-Daughter - "This is where a church in one part of a town or city starts a new church relatively nearby." (p. 22)
*On-Site Plant - "One of the most common tactics when a church is growing too large for its meeting space is to have multiple services." (p. 23)
*House Church - "House churches are by their nature much smaller in size-they need to fit into someone's house!" (p. 24)
*Multi-Site Church - "A multi-site church has a number of congregations meeting in different locations but which remain united as one church structure." (p. 25)
*Network Collaboration - "Some churches are part of a network of churches across the country or in a specific city or area." (p. 25)
*Re-Start Church - "This is where a group of people move to an existing church to 're-start' or reinvigorate it." (p. 26)
Chapter three focuses on how to decide on which model will best suit your particular situation. Beynon offers a three-part formula for picking an appropriate church planting model:
1. Our beliefs about what Scripture says constitutes a church and what we think church actually is will influence the model.
2. The decided aim and purpose of the church plant will influence the model.
3. The context of the plant (geography, community, social dynamics, church planting network, etc.) will influence the model.
Chapter four expands on what was covered in chapters two and three, relating the three-part formula to the various church planting models. Chapter five looks at some of the key issues faced by the leadership of the church plant, touching briefly on forming and managing a core group, leadership and vision, constitutional issues, legal considerations, youth and children's ministry, and staffing / leadership. Chapter six brings section one to a close, outlining some of the challenges planters are likely to encounter during the early days of the new church plant.
Section two offers numerous case studies that are organized around the seven models of church planting that were introduced in chapter two. The context for the case studies is both UK and US. Of the different models represented, the breakdown of case studies is as follows:
*Start up - 8 case studies
*Mother-Daughter -7 case studies
*On-Site Plant - 2 case studies
*House Church - 2 case studies
*Multi-site Church - 1 case study
*Network Collaboration - 6 case studies
*Re-start Church - 5 case studies
The final few pages of the book offers a list of web / ministry resources and books for further reading.
While Beynon has quite a bit of experience with and is passionate about church planting, he by no means claims to be the be all, end all expert. If you are on the lookout for a detailed tome on church planting, this is not that book. However, if you are looking for a book that will give you a high-level introduction to the practical ins an outs of church planting, this is just the book you've been looking for. Planting for the Gospel will be a great help to those readers who are just getting started with or are completely new to church planting.
Graham Beynon has experience of church planting having planted the Avenue community church in Leicester. He is currently studying a PhD and acting as Course director for 'Team' (Training for East Anglia Ministry) and involved in church ministry in Cambridge. He is married to Charis and they have three children.
This book was provided by the Christian Focus Publications for review. The reviewer was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.