The Sending Church: a book review

J.D. Greear is the pastor of the multi-site Summit Church in Raliegh-Durham, North Carolina and the author of several Christian books. While I am generally suspicious of mega-churches, I am impressed by the substance of Greear’s teaching. He is passionate about biblical teaching, discipleship and getting people to live out their faith in risky ways. His new book, Gaining By Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches that Send  unpacks ten kingdom ‘plumb lines’ for church leaders to lead their churches in becoming a sending church.  When Greear took over the helm at Homestead Heights Baptist Church, he relaunched a traditional Baptist church as a contemporary missional church. They went from a congregation of three-hundred to a mega church, to a multi-site church. Greear has a passion for growing missional leaders and releasing them to make a kingdom impact.

At the heart of Greear’s approach is a passion for sending. While other pastors focus on growing their church or movement, Greear and his leadership team do not hold on to their most gifted leaders. They train them and send them out. In this book, Greear shares ‘plumb lines’ –short memorable phrases that he repeats ad nausem to help keep his leadership and congregation on mission. These include:

  • The Gospel is Not Just the Diving Board, It is the Pool
  • Everyone is called.
  • The Week is as Important as the Weekend
  • A Church is Not a Group of People Gathered Around a Leader but a Leadership Factory
  • The Church Makes Visible the Invisible Christ
  • The Point in Everything is to Make Disciples
  • Every Pastor is Our Missions Pastor
  • We Seek to Live Multicultural Lives, Not Just Host Multicultural Events
  • Risk is Right
  • When You are Sick of Saying It, They’ve Just Heard It

While the stated purpose of the book is to get churches to be sending churches (through both church planting and short term missions), the above “plumb lines” illustrate an approach to ministry that is gospel soaked, rooted in the priesthood of all believers, puts a priority on discipleship, and actively cultivates diversity. The church that I pastor is not at sending stage but a small church that needs to pursue growth. Nevertheless Greear has plenty of things to say which apply to my context, and casts a vision for where we can grow to.

As a pastor, I appreciated the practical nature of this book. I  like that Greear is not confused about technique, models and methods. His vision for a sending church is firmly grounded in New Testament faith. Two appendixes give practical insights for setting up an international mission strategy, and developing a strategy for domestic church planting. For my context, many of Greear’s recommendations don’t work, but I still felt myself stretched and encouraged to take Kingdom risks. I give this four stars.

Note: I received this book from Cross Focused Reviews and Zondervan for the purposes of this review.  I also would be remiss if I failed to mention how much the cover evokes 80’s era video games for me. Ah, memories.

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