Church Planting, Apostolic Style: a book review

Church planting is all the rage lately. You can read books on it, you can go to conferences, attend denominational workshops on it. Is there anything new to say on the subject?J.D. Payne didn’t write Apostolic Church Planting: Birthing New Churches From New Believers to say anything new.  Instead he calls would-be-church planters back to a biblical model of church planting patterned after the Apostle Paul (14).

9780830898909The heart of his model is simple: evangelize an area, gather converts and baptize them, and identify as church (22). Identifying pastoral leaders, celebrating communion, having systems of discipline, good preaching, etc., are all necessary for a church’s vitality and health, but Payne distinguishes between what the church is (a local gathering of disciples) from what it does (the work of the ministry) (26-27). So the four necessary components for church planting are sowers (evangelists), seed (the gospel), soil (a culture, city or community) and the Holy Spirit (19-20). That’s it. Simple right? Difficult to implement, but conceptually simple.

Payne goes on to describe practices of plant team members, the stages of church planting and  implied changes in leadership structures and development,  methodology and ethical guidelines. His discussion of the phases of church planting will help planting pastors and teams Payne is pastor of church multiplication at The Church at Brook Hills, Birmingham and has written several books on church planting. He has a good deal of practical insight on the process.

Throughout the book, Payne stresses two persistent features of apostolic church planting:  (1) a church built from new converts/disciples is the rule, transfer growth is the exception; (2) our models of ministry should be simple enough to be reproducible. This roots church planting in the great commission call (Matt. 28:16-20).

One of the best features of this book is its brevity. He has written a more comprehensive resources on church planting, Discovering Church Planting (IVP, 2009).  This book  distills Payne’s thinking  on planting and answers some questions not addressed in the earlier volume.  But this book is not as comprehensive as the early book, and doesn’t discuss in-depth every aspect of what you need to know in church planting. What you have instead is a short book that is accessible to an entire church planting team (pastors, leaders, elders, etc.). There is enough substance here to be helpful, without putting off the non-readers in your plant team. So I think this is a tremendous practical resource.

I appreciate Payne’s discussion of methodology. He focuses on the simple and reproducible (84-5),  he warns against the dangers of paternalism as we minister cross-culturally (85),  he provides a framework for identifying our focus in the mission field, considering a people group’s needs and receptivity to the gospel (94-99). These are important components in crystallizing a ministry vision and I found it quite helpful.

I read this book as a non-church planter. I have been lucky enough to have been a part of a couple of church plants in my life, and for various reasons feel more drawn to planting a church than I ever had before. Apostolic Church Planting was helpful for me to see, in outline, the process and begin to dream about what it may look like. I give this book four stars.

Note: I received this book from InterVarsity Press in exchange for my honest review.




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