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.

 

 

 

Leading With Your Style: a book review

There are two problems with many leadership models. Some are simplistic and formulaic, presenting a one-size-fits-all approach. Other authors on leadership list too many  ‘leadership qualities’ to be of much practical use to someone seeking to sharpen their leadership (Think John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Al Mohler’s twenty-five qualities of a leader in Conviction to Lead or Mark Cuban’s 50 Qualities of a Successful Leader)David Olson’s new book promises an approach to leadership which is simple enough to be useful for leaders, but deep enough to be worthwhile. Simple does not need to mean simplistic!

Discovering Your Leadership Styleapproaches the topic of Christian leadership as a three-legged stool. The legs of the stool are Spirituality ( our relationship with God), Chemistry (our ability to connect with others) and Strategy (fulfilling the mission of God). Leadership is the ‘seat of the stool’–where these three legs are integrated and put to use by each leader.  An free online assessment at sixstyles.org  accompanies the book, allowing readers to identify their strong leg, their intermediate leg and their weakest leg. The unique combination of strengths, has allowed Olson to uncover six leadership styles which he explores in the book.  There are additional reports and team resources available for purchase at sixstyles.org.

The six leadership styles are: (1) the Sacred Leader who is strong in Spirituality with an intermediate leg of Chemistry,  (2) the Relational Leader with a strong leg of Chemistry and an intermediate leg of Spirituality, (3) the Inspirational Leader strong in Chemistry and intermediate in Strategy, (4) the Building Leader strong in Strategy and intermediate in Chemistry, (5) the Mission Leader strongest in Strategy, second in Spirituality, and (6) the Imaginative Leader who is strongest in Spirituality and whose second leg is strategy. Olson’s purpose is not to present a leadership hierarchy, but to honor the unique makeup of different types of leaders. There is a correlation between leadership styles and personality (like Myers-Briggs) or other resources (i.e. Strength Finders, spiritual gift inventories, etc); however leadership style isn’t reduced to a set of gifts or personality. Olson explores the needs, desires, the gifts and the blind spots inherent in each of the leadership styles.

Olson is a religious researcher, church-planting leader and a leadership coach who serves the Evangelical Covenant Church. Part of my own interest in this book, is I have been seeking a pastoral role in that denomination and was eager to see what he had to say. Admittedly the book was a slow-burn for me. I am not sure what I thought of the assessment tool. I took the 48 question test twice and came up with the same results (although as a much stronger leader the second time around). I am a relational leader. As I read that profile I certainly identify with much of it, but I find it odd that an assessment like this would name ‘strategy’ as my weakest leg when Gallup’s Strength Finders names Strategy (and several other elements from the thinking domain) as my greatest strength. I think I agree with Olson’s assessment but because of my unique shape,  I defy his categories a little bit. I also am wary of short online assessments for naming ‘who I am’ as a leader. Reading through the profiles I did see elements of my leadership in other profiles,  but I am not quite a ‘balanced leader’ by Olson’s definition (a leader who scores 60% or above in each category). I can see areas of growth, and the gifts I bring to the leader’s task.

Despite not fitting his profile to a ‘t’ I found Olson’s research interesting and helpful. I think that this would be a great book for Church leadership teams to use because Olson illustrates well how different leadership styles complement each other. He also encourages leaders to develop in all three areas (their strength their weakness and their intermediate strength). Jesus provides the quintessential model of the balanced leader. I give this book four-and-a-half stars

★★★★½

Thank you to IVP for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.