Category Archives: Church Planting

What God is Doing in Byron GA! Please read.

Church-PlantingI have some very exciting news to report to you. After more than five years of prayer and seeking the Lord, Heidi and I both know the Lord has called us to plant a new church in the middle Georgia area, very likely Byron, GA (Peach County). This is because starting a new church, often called church “planting,” is the best way we know today to evangelize the lost.

Why plant a new church when there is a church on every corner already, one might ask? Most Christians are unaware of the fact that nearly 3,750 churches die every year (that’s 72 or so per week!!), closing their doors for the last time, never to reopen. As if that is not bad enough news, solid research shows that nearly 85% of churches in the United States are in plateau or decline, and are winning less than 1 (yes, I said “one”) lost person to Christ each year. Not only that, there are tens of thousands of lost and/or unchurched people in the middle Georgia area, people who are not being reached by those “churches on every corner.” Within just 3 miles of our church, for example, there are an estimated 27,000 lost and over 29,000 unchurched people, and well over 100,000 in our county.

As I (Myke) started my first graduate degree (in church planting and growth [Liberty University]), I remember hearing these statistics for the first time and thinking, “There is no possible way these numbers are right.” I remember my first pastor and mentor, Matt Johnson, telling me the same thing, yet I didn’t want to accept such a hard truth. Yet through time I came to the sad reality that the church is in trouble. Most churches win only 1 convert per year for every 85 current members, and many, many times this new addition, often called a “convert,” is nothing more than “transfer growth,” that is, a person moving from one church to another, as opposed to a person who has just given their life to Christ (compare this with newer churches, which are proven to reach as many as 5 converts for every 75 members). Sadly, many churches are nothing more than lethargic dinosaurs, pre-historic, unfriendly, and on their way to extinction!

Bevins-How-to-Get-Involved-in-Church-Planting-QuoteThe Bible says that if we will delight ourselves in the Lord, he will give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4). The Lord has placed a calling, a burden in fact, in our hearts and lives, a burden to plant churches that are new, refreshing, culturally relevant while holding fast to the message of the faith, and that engage younger generations. Many churches are dying because they have told younger generations, “Do church our way or hit the highway.” Unfortunately, younger generations will not tolerate this type of religious exclusivism and elitism, and are yearning for something more, something new, something they can be a part of. This is the kind of church we desire to start – a new kind of church, yet with a biblically faithful message of hope in Jesus Christ.

So what will this church look like? This church will hold fast to the foundations of the faith, unwaveringly (Catering to younger generations in no way means compromising the faith!). In fact, doing so is a Christ-honoring way of propagating Christianity and “being all things to all people,” as the Apostle Paul so aptly understood (1 Corinthians 9:21-23). This church will teach and preach the Gospel and the whole counsel of God’s Word verse by verse, book by book. It will focus on worship that is vertical, that is, directly unto God, not “about” God, man, or man’s experience. It will place a heavy emphasis on fellowship, evangelism, missions, servanthood, doctrine, the ordinances of communion and baptism. The goal of the church, in fact its very mission, is to make Christ the central point of its member’s lives and of each family within, hence the name of the church, “CentralPoint Chapel.”

church_plantingWell, now for the tough part. In confession, I (Myke) should have written this letter months ago. In my pride and stubbornness, I resisted the duty of asking for money, even though that is an essential task in planting. The only part about being called to church planting that I do not enjoy is asking others to donate their own hard-earned money. However, a new church plant, especially in its embryonic stage when there are but a few members for support, can only survive if God’s people support it. This is where you come in. I want to ask you to prayerfully consider joining Heidi and I in planting this church. Not many people are called to take the exciting yet risky step of planting a new church. However, anyone can become a church planter by helping fund a new church plant (see 3 John 8).

Imagine 10 years down the road, a church where 100s have come to know the Lord through genuine repentance, where 100s are being discipled by verse by verse teaching through the Word of God, where worship is powerful, and were missionaries find support to move out into the mission field. That would be a great church wouldn’t it? That’s the church we dream of!!! You can help make that a reality.

Our goal is to initially raise $25,000 to secure a building, chairs, sound equipment, utilities, insurance, instruments, etc. Some of our specific needs, for which we would love to have sponsors, at the moment include:

Sound system:           $5000
Chairs:                           $6500
Video equipment:     $3000
Advertising promos:$2500
Outreach events:       $7500
Rent deposits             $2000
Church build out:     $10,000
Total immediate needs: $36,500

Will you prayerfully consider helping us by both an initial contribution, and then a monthly recurring donation until the church can be self-sustaining? You generous support will go to work starting a church in middle GA in the next 8-12 weeks. I have no doubt that this will be a successful endeavor, as the Lord never calls people to failure. You have an opportunity to share in the success and the rewards of a new church vibrantly glorifying God, since the “the goal of church planting is glorifying God, growing His kingdom, and developing healthy churches with new converts” (Ed Stetzer, planting expert). I hope you realize something that many Christian leaders refuse to admit – the fact that church planting is needed in order to prevent church decline as well as a decline in the overall Christian population.

The mailing address is listed below. Contributors will be made aware of our progress on a regular basis, and will be notified when the church’s website is online as well. Thank you for your generosity, and for your fervent prayer. May Christ be and remain the CentralPoint of your life!

In Christ alone! Myke and Heidi Harbuck

Send tax-deductible donations to:
CentralPoint Chapel
C/O Northside Baptist Church
1013 Carl Vinson Parkway
Centerville GA 31028

Exponential Church Planting Conference – Beyond the Call session notes/transcript

The passion and love for church planting has been down deep within my heart for many years. I get excited just thinking about being used by God to build the kingdom through planting new churches. My heart bares witness with the heart of Robert Wagner when he says, “There is no better evangelistic endeavor under the sun than church planting.”

While looking for sermons/lectures on church planting, I stumbled upon the Exponential Series, a series of hundreds of hours of wisdom from some of church plantings greatest. What follows are notes from some of the sessions, so that I can glean the most from these valuable resources.

Exponential Church Multiplication

This session: “Beyond the Call, Building a Launch Plans,” By Hal Mayer and Ron Sylvia, Pastor of The Springs, Ocalla Florida.

Church planting is the “extreme sport” of church ministry. It is fun, exciting, adventurous, and it is full of ups and downs.

The Confirmation

Expect a lot of confirmation from the Lord before diving into this extreme sport of ministry. The prospective planter will have a “dump truck” of confirmation if called to plant churches. It will be clear (the call, the vision, etc.).

The Calling

The planter needs MORE than a calling from God – that’s the beginning, not all there is to planting. It is best to have a plan, purpose, values, demographics, core values, etc. It takes more than just a calling to get the plant firing. The calling is just the beginning. It takes a plan, strategy, and leadership, among many other things. The planter should not think he can go into the field armed with just a calling and simply fall into success after success.

Regarding the plan, exercise discernment. Church planting takes discernment, as there are many different, varying, and seemingly contradictory viewpoints on plans, strategies etc. Church planter must be able to discern from God which plan is the right plan within their particular ministry context. There are a thousand different plans out there, and discernment must be used to determine the right one.

Plans take time to develop. There is a long, involved process before the church plant plan ever comes to fruition. Websites such as http://www.nextchurch.com (“Starting New Churches on Purpose” ebook located here) and http://www.newchurches.com (Ed Stetzer) offer examples of plans and other resources for church planters, but his plan must come after a diligent search of the will of God and His instructions for the planter within their particular ministry context.

This lecture is about evaulating the processes to to develop the right plan. If the wrong plan in developed, the chances increase exponentially that failure wll occur.

Church planting is in vogue; everyone wants to start church. Since it is so hip and cool to plant a church (really???), leaders who are not truly called or have not planned accordingly will experience major burnout rapidly. So many have “played the video game of church planting” and think they have everything under control and feel they understand the process fully, yet incorrectly assert that church planting is an effortlessly painless task. They are, then, very surprised once they hit the ground and determine how trying the profession can be.

The importance of the call cannot be over stressed. As a matter of fact if it is at all possible for anyone to “talk the planter out of planting a church,” then it is highly suggested that they do not go forward, because there must be an absolute undisputable sure call or the church will fail as soon as the inevitable tough times approach.

This is very important: “If God has not called the planter to church planting then he will be alone in the venture!!” And if he are alone in such a tough business, he will surely fail. If God is not in the church plant it is impossible to succeed, at least in terms of heavenly success for kingdom success.

The Costs

A major, major principle of this session is “counting the cost of church planting.” Luke 14:28 – 31 says, “For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, after he has laid the foundation and cannot finish it, all the onlookers will begin to make fun of him, saying, ‘This man started to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ Or what king, going to war against another king, will not first sit down and decide if he is able with 10,000 to oppose the one who comes against him with 20,000?”

Church Planting

Planting Churches for Exponential Growth

Some of the costs are marriage and family costs. It has been said, “Previous generations of pastors sacrifice their families for the church. Current generations of pastors sacrifice the church for their families.” That is, pastors of old put too much time into the church, and many current pastors do not put enough time into the church. There should be no sacrifice, but rather balance. While planting a church will not cause one to sacrifice their family, it will, however, cost the planter a lot in terms of his family time.

Since it will cost so much, the planter must ensure that his spouse has been called and is 1000% on board, or there will be trouble. Planting will draw lots of energy that usually goes into the planter’s marriage. It will also cost the planter’s children a lot, as they will lose some of the energy usually reserved for them. So include them as much as possible, so they can share in the exertion of energy.

Another cost is in the area of finances. The planter must do an assessment to make sure they are good with money, because most planters will not be “rolling in the dough.” Finances will be limited and sacrifices will have to be made. Lifestyle changes will have to occur. This is a faith journey.

Another cost is emotional and spiritual costs. Stress levels will be high. Leadership is emotionally draining, especially when the leader is trying to cast his vision and people are not catching it. There will be some spiritual mountaintops, but there will also, sadly, be some emotional and spiritual valleys. Emotional drains will wear the planter out and they will happen frequently. It is a war!!! The planter and the new church will be trying to depopulate hell, thus its leaders are Satan’s prime targets. If the Enemy can take out the leader he can take out the movement, and stop the losses to his evil kingdom. It is a spiritual war and the planter must be prepared for that battle!!

The Clarification

Clarify the Vision. The planter can have a call all day long, but if he has no clear plan, he will not succeed. The planter should clarify the vision and discover clearly what God has called him to do. Saying “God has called me to plant a church” is never enough. God is much more specific than that!! God is a God of organization and planning, and planning is a way to glorify God and show how serious one takes the call to plant. What type of church will the new plant be? What people group is the plant trying to reach? What resourced does the church have, or will they need, etc.

“Vision and uncertainty are inseparably linked,” says Andy Stanley. This means that one will have to lead where he has never been before, into uncertain and chartered territory, thus planning and clarifying vision are vitally important. Vision helps the planter get where he are going. It helps him grow, form the team, and keeps the church on track after launch. It keeps the church heading in the right direction. The better and clearer ones vision is cast in the more likely one is to reach their goal.

Furthermore, vision casting and clarity are never done. The leader is constantly reevaluating and re-shaping vision to ensure that the church is headed in the right direction. Vision must be crystal clear. Continually cast it and find new ways to phrase it so that it is always fresh with people and always crystal-clear, so that all know where the church is headed.

Important: Vision is not found in consensus. Vision is born in a man or a woman. Remember that God has called the planter to lead the church towards the vision God has given him, not towards others’ vision. Vision is not found in the consensus of the congregation or in a controlling few (or a controlling one). Church planters will experience “vision hijackers” in his church.  These people will try to take the church in a direction away from the vision and try to get the planter to adopt a different vision. The problem with this is that this will be a path and vision that the planter does not own and that cannot be defended or supported by him, thus he cannot adequately plan and move people towards a vision that is not his own.

Planters must not let people distract them from the vision God has given them. As Rick Warren has said, “Love everyone, but move with the movers.” In other words, move with the people who own the vision and who buy in, those whom God has sent around the planter to help support them and help them move forward with the vision that God has given him, those who get excited about the visiting God has given them. Don’t move with people who are not moving in the direction of the vision God has placed within the planter’s heart. Love eveyone, even if you can’t move with him. Dont fail to love those who are moving in a different direction. However, don’t let those people influence the movenemt towards the vision.

Wrap Up (Miscellaneous)

God will provide, and God will surprise you at every turn. Paint a clear and beautiful portrait of the vision so that people will want to partner with the planter to be used by God to fulfill the vision.

Try to plant within 6 months of entering a community. Launching is about connecting, and the connections should happen as fast as possible. When launch date is set, keep it. Do not get distracted by the Enemy and let him convince you to postpone the work of God.

Launch with as much money as possible, but do not let a large bank account dimminish passion. It is better to start with limited resources, as this keeps the team focused and faith-filled.

As a potential planter, one is in a wonderful position, as they are about to have the best time of their life. This will be hard, but the planter’s fact will become faith as he see God work in incredible ways throughout the planting process!

Let’s get to planting everyone!

More notes to come as time permits….

Ed Stetzer – A LifeWay Research blog on theology, missiology, missional church, church planting, church revlitalization, and innovation.

Ed Stetzer – A LifeWay Research blog on theology, missiology, missional church, church planting, church revlitalization, and innovation..

Book Review | Family to Family: Leaving a Lasting Legacy | Jerry Pipes and Victor Lee

Bibliographical Entry: Pipes, Jerry, and Victor Lee. Family to Family: Leaving a Lasting Legacy. USA: North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention 1999.

Author Information

Dr. Jerry Pipes works with the North American Mission Board as team leader of the Prayer and Spiritual Awakening Team, and is also president of his own company, Jerry Pipes Productions.  Jerry speaks to millions internationally and here at home in assemblies, crusades, and conferences.  More than 18 million copies of his four books and numerous booklets have been produced.  Dr Pipes completed his M.A. at Southwestern Theological Seminary and his D. Min. at Luther Rice Seminary.  Dr. Pipes is married to Debra and they have two children, Paige and Josh.

Victor Lee ministers to single adults at First Baptist Church in Concord, Tennessee.  He has not only been writing professionally for over two decades, but is also a veteran journalist and minister in the areas of discipleship, sports evangelism, singles ministry, family living, and evangelism.  Mr. Lee is a sports evangelism consultant for the North American Mission Board, as well as a journalist for Sports Spectrum magazine.  Mr. Lee and his wife Judy have a daughter and three foster children.

Content Summary

Family to Family is a book about finding God’s intended purpose for the family.  This book helps families decide what decisions should be made in order to fulfill that purpose.  Pipes’ book doesn’t just tell people what they should do in order to be a family who lives under God’s purpose; it goes a step further by telling them how to go about it.  The book is divided into six short chapters spanning about 120 pages, and includes a conclusion and end notes.

In chapter one, Family to Family describes what a healthy family is.  The authors do this by first showing its contrast – an unhealthy family.  This unhealthy family is a family who is running to and fro doing all of the “activities” of life.  Pipes’ objective in chapter one is to help families discover whether or not they are on the “activity-driven merry-go-round”, or if they are doing their very best for God (p. 1).  Pipes describes many American families today as being “Stretched, stressed, and losing touch with one another” (p. 5).  Pipes intends to help families measure themselves against God’s standard and not fall victim to American culture.  Pipes suggests that readers examine their families to determine how much quality time they spend together, to determine their commitment level to each other in the family, and to discover where their purpose is centered – on themselves or on God.  Pipes then gives seven realities of experiencing God to help families know if in fact their lives, both individually and corporately, are centered on God’s purposes.

In Chapter two Pipes discusses the family mission statement.  Pipes’ goal in chapter two is to help families to realize that in order to get where they are going, they have got to know how to get there. “A family mission statement will serve as a centerline and guardrails for your family on the road through life” (p. 25). Pipes spends about 15% of his book dealing with this one subject, indicating that this subject is indeed an important one.  Families need a stated purpose, goal, and mission and a family mission statement helps them to have just that.  Without it the journey on the “road through life” will be much more difficult and much less fulfilling spiritually.  Pipes begins his section on the family mission statement by telling his readers that family missions begin with the mother and father, and that “the heartbeat of family evangelism is with the parents” (p. 26).  The family mission statement describes a lifestyle – one that is centered on God’s purpose and plan.  Pipes then sheds some insight on Jesus’ stated purposes to help the family know what their purposes are as well.  Some of the examples Pipes gives are seeking after the lost, bearing witness to the truth, serving others, pointing others toward Christ, and many others.  Pipes does this in an effort to help families frame their own mission statement.  Pipes not only suggests a mission statement and tells why families should have one, he also takes the time to tell the reader how to develop a family mission statement step by step.

In chapter three, Pipes discusses passing the baton.  Pipes correctly contends that it is the responsibility of the parent and not the church to evangelize to children and disciple them.  He uses Deuteronomy 6:4-7 as evidence for his case. In this chapter Pipes helps the reader understand when a child might be ready to receive Christ as Savior and gives some signs of possible accountability before God for children.  He also helps the reader learn how to present the Gospel message clearly and concisely, and gives five recommended scripture passages that should be included in any Gospel presentation.  He encourages parents to live a life of integrity and trust so that their children will know that their Christianity is real.  Parents have to be open with their children, and must not displace themselves from the things that are in their children’s culture. Additionally, parents must talk to their children about salvation when the time is right.  He concludes this chapter with pointers for mentoring.

In chapter four Pipes seeks to remind the reader that the world is watching when their family leaves the house.  This makes for a great opportunity for a Christian family to live out their faith in full view of their friends, neighbors, and community.  He then shares tips for family evangelism.  Using the Concentric Circles of Concern model developed by Oscar Thompson, Pipes reminds the reader that there are opportunities for evangelism in every circle of a believer’s life.  He then shares specific ideas for how to reach individuals within circles 2-7.

In chapter five Pipes gives ways in which families can be healthy and on mission by drawing others into churches where they can have fellowship with Christians and mature with Christ.  Family ministry should not be independent of the church, nor should church ministry be independent of the family.  Rather, both the church and the family should be centered, together, on Christ.  Pipes then offers suggestions on how Christian families might most effectively build bridges between the community and the church.  In the final chapter, chapter six, Pipes discusses the importance of family evangelism.  For families to be healthy they must be ready to give a defense for the hope that is within them.  The family must be willing and able to share the Gospel and tell someone about Jesus.  At the end of this chapter he shares some evangelism methodologies to help the novice evangelist carry out his or her task.

At the end of each of these chapters, Pipes concludes with a section entitled “Steps to making it yours”.  In this, he gives family readiness questions, family applications, family building activities, supporting Scripture references, as well as additional resources covering material similar to that chapter.

Evaluation

Evangelism isn’t always for Person X (Person X is a complete stranger, as discussed in Oscar Thompson’s Concentric Circles of Concern). Evangelism is a matter for the home, first and foremost. Pipes does a wonderful job bringing this fact to the surface. So many times those who are excited about evangelism feel that they are to go out into the highways and byways and share with the Gospel with lost strangers – and they should. But there’s a need at home too – a need that should come first. Pipes brings a message to the reader – one about the centrality of the home in evangelism. For that, Pipes is to be applauded!

Many books exist on how to evangelize, yet few books teach the evangelist that his or her first mission field is in the home. Family to Family accomplishes this goal by reminding the reader that they are to be on mission by “intestinally carrying His love and His hope to friends, neighbors, community, and acquaintances out of the overflow of an intimate heart” (p. 10).  Families can and must make a difference in the world by reaching out to the lost. Pipes encourages the reader and challenges them at the same time to be obedient in an area that so many Christians aren’t.

Sadly, families live busy, crammed, packed lives. Families have everything from soccer practice to cheerleading practice to football going on. There is less expendable time in the family now than ever before. It’s an epidemic. But Pipes offers a solution. His contrast of the unhealthy family against the healthy family in the beginning of the book was brilliant. His use of the hectic family most undoubtedly served, successfully, to convict many more than just the writer of this paper. Families don’t realize how busy their lives are until it’s too late some times. Family to Family is an alarm – a wakeup call – to the family. It’s a wakeup call to slow down, relax, and ensure that priorities are in line. This book helps its reader take a moment to evaluate his or her heart to see where they are at with the Lord and within their own family. Are we “stretched, stressed, and losing touch with each other” (p. 5), as many unhealthy families are? Or are we healthy, vital families who are on mission, and following the will and Word of the Lord? Family to Family challenges us to ask those very questions!

Pipes nicely quotes statistics that have led to the epidemic of unhealthy families that is seen in America today. According to Pipes families are too busy for each other. Only 34 percent of American families have enough time to sit down and have one meal together. Beyond this, many fathers spend less than 10 minutes each day with their children. Beyond this, another alarming fact is disclosed. Only 12 percent of families have time to pray together (p. 6). Pipes brings some urgent issues to the forefront. These are all issues that are eroding the family, and are deteriorating the Christian fabric of America.  Pipes is correct. The American family is in trouble. Just in the last 50 years American culture has shifted tremendously, and this has had a tremendous negative influence on evangelism, as unhealthy families almost always fail to evangelize. It is right, then, that Pipes then should begin with a discussion on the healthy family before discussing the families’ purposes.

One of the strongest sections in the book is found in chapter 2, where Pipes discusses the family mission statement. Families need a blueprint as their family builds and moves along the journey called life, just as builders need blueprints to build a building. I would venture to say that 99+ percent of families do not have a family mission statement. Again, yet another sign of the erosion of the family structure. Families that genuinely know where they are going in life know how to get there. A family mission statement does just that. It helps build healthy families by centering their purposes on those of Christ. As families begin to center their lives on Christ, amazing things happen. They become purpose driven, they become missional, they become evangelistic, they pray together, they eat together, and on and on and on. It’s amazing how one simple thing such as a family mission statement can change the entire family dynamic. Pipes does an excellent job of conveying this idea to the reader.

The chapters in Family to Family build upon each other quite nicely. Pipes begin by discussing what a healthy family should look like. Then he encourages the healthy family to be missional, with a purpose. From there, Pipes does an excellent job conveying to the reader the need to be evangelistic and ministry driven. Families miss opportunities every day to reach people with the Gospel. Pipes’ objective is to help the family realize that the opportunities they are missing don’t have to be “missed” at all. Rather, families should be on mission all the time, looking for ways to share, to serve, and to exhibit Christ’s love, and exhibiting any opportunity that may come their way to share Christ and His love. But families can’t do it alone. They must rely on prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit. Christian families have to be strategic in their mission – they can’t go at it with no strategy. Family to Family gives the family who desires to be missional strategies on which they can build upon.

Pipes’ book is nicely divided into 6 small sections, making it ideal for a quick read by either the novice evangelist or the most seasoned one. The sections at the end of each chapter make this an ideal study for a small family group study or a group Bible study in the church. The “Steps to Making it Yours” section is perfectly laid out and evaluates the reader’s recognition of key principles taught throughout the chapter, and serves to reinforce the scriptures references uses throughout the chapter to support Pipes’ premises.

This is a book every parent or future parent should read. This book gives practical steps to help any family, Christian or non-Christian. It helps people realize how important their families are, and seeks to reinforce the idea of the family structure. If nothing else, the reader should glean from this book the importance of spending quality, not quantity, time with their families, as well as the need to be a family with a purpose. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone!

Liberty University, Evan 565, Family Evangelism, Personal Evangelism, Church Growth, Critical Book Review: Family to Family.

Book Review | Concentric Circles of Concern: Seven Stages for Making Disciples | (The Late) Oscar Thompson

Bibliographical Entry: Thompson Jr., W. Oscar and Claude V. King. Concentric Circles of Concern: Seven Stages for Making Disciples. Nashville. Broadman & Holman Publishing, 1999.

Author information

W. Oscar Thompson JR served in pastoral ministry for 20 years before founding the Oscar Thompson Evangelistic Association.   He served as a pastoral consultant for the Cancer Counseling and Research Foundation and as a consultant for the Trinity Valley Hospice Association before cancer claimed his life in 1980.  This book was released posthumously after a revision and update by Claude V. King, who is an evangelism teacher at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and co-author of the top-selling book Experiencing God.

Content Summary

If one were to ask Oscar Thompson what his book is about or what it contains, he would say, “relationships”.  Everything in Thompson’s book, although about evangelism and discipleship, centers on the foundational principle of relationships.  Thompson’s approach toward evangelism is to help the evangelist understand the importance of relationships in every aspect of their life.  It is through relationships that the evangelist can show the love of Christ to their world – their concentric circles of concern.

Thompson begins by declaring that “the most important word in the English language, apart from proper nouns, is relationship”.  Right relationships allow a person to experience the best life has to offer and to experience the very character of God in the Christian life.  Broken or ruptured relationships with people result in broken and ruptured relationships with God.  Thompson correctly contends that ruptured relationships are the cause of most of life’s major problems including broken marriages, broken homes, unsuccessful businesses, divided churches, weak governments, and chaotic nations.  It is imperative that Christians have right relationships with both God and others so that they can experience all that God has to offer and effectively share the love of Christ and the gospel with others in their concentric circles.

Thompson, after discussing the importance of relationships in chapter 1, elaborates further on relationships in chapters 2-4.  In chapter 2 Thompson brilliantly demonstrates how the gospel moves not only through the spoken words of an evangelist, but also through relationships.  Thompson gives several examples of how lifestyle evangelism was successful in the New Testament such as with Andrew and Simon Peter (Thompson, 17), Phillip and Nathaniel (Thompson, 17-18), and Cornelius and his household (Thompson, 19).  “The gospel moves on contiguous lines – on lines of relationship.”   Right relationships open doors and opportunities to share the gospel, and are thus, as seen in chapter 3, a wonderful way in which to share the good news of Christ.

Beginning in chapter 5, Thompson shares the seven stages for making disciples.  Stage one again involves relationships – relationships with God, self, and others.  In order to share the gospel with someone, a person’s life must be right with God and others, as well as themselves.  Thompson urges the evangelist to “Get right with God, self, and others” so that they can be used as a channel to show Christ’s love and to share the Gospel.  When a person has a severed relationship with God, with themselves, or with others in their concentric circles, they “will be limited in their ability to be used by God to make disciples of others”.

Stage two involves surveying one’s relationships.  It is in chapters 10-11 that Thompson introduces us to the “person x” (Thompson, 109).  Thompson invites the evangelist to literally survey and list as many people as possible that the evangelist could share the gospel with.  This includes those who are closest to the evangelist, such as persons in circles 2, 3, and 4, neighbors and acquaintances in circles 4, 5, and 6, and strangers in circle 7.  Thompson reminds the evangelist that they should not forget about those persons in circles 2-6, and skip to person x in circle 7.  Many evangelists will share the gospel with a complete stranger, but will not share with those people they are closest to.  However, Thompson says, “If you are not the channel of God’s love to meet the needs of those in your family, forget about reaching Afghanistan for Christ.  We get concerned about the ends of the earth, yet often we cannot meet the needs of our own families” (Thompson, 98).

Stage 3 involves prayer.  The evangelist is encouraged to work with God through prayer.  Prayer is a powerful spiritual weapon that breaks down strongholds and opens up opportunities to show the love of Christ and share the Good News.  Thompson offers several real life experiences of a sovereign God who answers prayers and engineers circumstances to draw a life to himself.  “When we join God in his work through prayer, the all-present God can touch people anywhere they are and draw them to himself” (Thompson, 120).

Stage 4 involves building bridges.  Thompson encourages Christians to build relationship bridges to create opportunities in which they can be channels of God’s love.  One can build bridges by simply “meeting needs in a person’s life or showing an interest in him or her in such a way that a relationship is established” (Thompson, 135).  Thompson uses 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 where Paul stated he was willing to become all things to all men so that he could reach them.  Building bridges allows the Christian more opportunities to share Christ with others while at the same time allowing them to experience more of the abundant life Jesus came to give.

Stage 5 involves showing God’s love by meeting the needs of people in one’s concentric circles.  Thompson argues that love is not an emotion, nor is it a feeling.  Love is an action by which one meets the needs of another.  Meeting other’s needs allows a person to become a channel for God to share his love with others.

In stage 6, Thompson discusses the importance of making disciples and ways to help them grow.  Introducing people to Christ is only the first step in making disciples.  Christians must share the gospel verbally and not rely on lifestyle evangelism alone.  Evangelists must realize that those around them are lost without Jesus and are headed for “A Christ-less eternity without God in hell” (Thompson, 184). If Christians really care about the lost and value human life, they will share the gospel.  Christians must confront people in order to make disciples.  Christians should be concerned with building disciples and not building “church goers”.  Thompson, in chapter 17, discusses the great commission and its emphasis on the word “disciple”.  When Jesus commanded people to make disciples, he was referring to a person who would have a personal relationship with him, would be totally under his authority, would possess and demonstrate his character, and be prepared to suffer for Christ (Thompson, 191). True salvation is about a personal relationship with Christ whereby someone becomes a disciple and grows in the Lord daily.  Discipleship is not praying a sinner’s prayer with a stranger and leaving them never to return.

In the final stage, stage 7, Christians are reminded that the cycle never really ends.  Christians are to begin again by helping new Christians make more disciples.  “Making disciples does not end with the decision to follow Christ.”  The decision to follow Christ is merely the beginning.  The church should help new Christians grow into fully devoted disciples who will then take part in the church’s commission to make more disciples.  Each time it seems that the cycle ends, the cycle begins again.  Every new Christian should be discipled, and part of their discipleship training should involve making more disciples.

Evaluation

At the core of Thompson’s thesis is the idea that relationships are of the utmost importance in reaching a lost and dying world with the hope of Jesus Christ.  Thompson does an excellent job proving his thesis throughout this book and remaining loyal to the intrinsic idea of relationships in evangelism.  Thompson rightly begins his book with a discussion on the evangelist’s relationship with God.  For if a person is not right with God, how can they encourage anyone else to be right with God?  1 John 1:3 reminds the believer that his fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.  If a person’s vertical relationship with God is broken, that person’s horizontal relationships with others will most likely be ruptured as well thus rendering the person useless and ineffective in the evangelistic task.  The beginning of Thompson’s book was a refreshing call for one to survey his or her relationship with the Lord and with others and immediately repair any damaged relationships in order that the love of Christ may flow through those relationships.

Thompson wasn’t just an author who wrote about evangelism.  He was someone who lived out the evangelistic task each day in his life.  The real life experiences of both he and his colleagues served as a type of “you can do this” pep talk for the potential evangelist.  Thompson was always searching for opportunities to share the gospel, whether it is on the streets, at a family gathering, or on an airplane thousands of feet in the air.

A very strong point in Thompson’s book is the requirement that disciples, not just converts, be produced as a result of the evangelistic task.  So often an individual church or a denomination of churches will carry out an evangelism campaign where x number of new believers are converted and baptized. Sadly, churches are impressed not with the number of disciples that are being made in the church, but rather with the number of professions of faith and baptisms.  It’s no wonder that an alarmingly high number of those converts cannot be found in the church just one year later.  However, if a church were to take Thompson’s advice and be concerned with producing disciples, this would not be the case.  New converts should be taught to observe all of Christ’s commands and should be taught the importance of surrender, obedience, and commitment to Christ.  Discipleship should be the goal of evangelism, not a tally of professions of faith or baptisms.

Thompson gives the reader a glimpse into his personal life, making the book warm and attractive to its readers.  Thompson shares many experiences concerning his relationship with his wife, Carolyn, and his daughter, Damaris. Thompson takes his readers into a seminary class with him, to the streets of Las Vegas, on the airplane with him, and many other places.  He does this undoubtedly to illustrate the success that relationship building has in evangelism and discipleship.  Thompson even takes the readers back to his childhood and gives us a glimpse of his father and the loving relationship which they shared.  With examples such as these, the reader has no means by which to challenge either the success of Thompson’s methodology or his credentials for recommending his methodology.  He offers sound, Biblical advice and guidance as well as practical down-to-earth strategies to reach people in every concentric circle of their life.  This reviewer felt that Thompson was my professor, that he loved me personally, and that he was personally sharing with me ways in which I might reach the lost members of my family.

This reviewer could find very little within the confines of this book that warranted a critique.  After having read “Share Jesus Without Fear” by Bill Faye and “Radically Unchurched” by Alvin Reid, one might have expected to find some specific tools that could be used to lead someone to God, such as step by step evangelism methods.  However, Thompson’s book was more concerned with the overarching idea of relationships and less concerned with specific methodologies for verbalizing the gospel message.  Perhaps Thompson supposed the reader would find more one on one witnessing instructions in other evangelism resources.

Thompson is successful in supporting his thesis that believers should be concerned with building relationships – relationships with God, relationships with themselves, and relationships with others.  Through these relationships, the love of God can flow to others, and God can be glorified.  Every word in Thompson’s book is filled with love and compassion for God, and for those in Thompson’s concentric circles, whether lost or saved.  Concentric Circles of Concern is an excellent tool in the arsenal of evangelism resources for any evangelist.  The love of God and the importance of a strong relationship with him and others permeates through every page of this book.  It is a must have for the library of any Christian serious about evangelism and discipleship.

Liberty University, Evan 550, Critical Book Review, Concentric Circles of Concern: Seven Stages for Making Disciples. Oscar Thompson. Evangelism and Church Planting.

Book Review | Planting Missional Churches | Ed Stetzer

Bibliographical Entry: Stetzer, Ed. Planting Missional Churches (2nd edition). Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Publishing Group, 2006.

Author Information

Ed Stetzer has planted, revitalized, and pastored numerous churches. Of the three churches he personally planted, he planted one directly out of college. He has done planting more than anything else in his ministry life, according to page xi of his introduction. He has spent thousands of hours training pastors and church planters on five continents. He holds two masters degrees and two doctorates (as well as an undergraduate degree), and has written dozens of articles and books.

Dr. Stetzer is a columnist for Outreach Magazine and Catalyst Monthly, serves on the advisory council of Sermon Central and Christianity Today’s Building Church Leaders, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USA Today and CNN. Dr. Stetzer is a visiting Professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and has taught at more than fifteen other colleges and seminaries. He also serves on the Church Services Team at the International Mission Board. He currently works for LifeWay Research as President and Staff Missiologist.  Dr. Stetzer maintains several websites, such as http://www.EdStetzer.com, http://www.lifewayresearch.com, and http://www.newchurches.com, where one can “experience Dr. Stetzer’s passion and love for church planting and missions.

Content Summary

Planting Missional Churches contains 350 pages of invaluable information, in addition to a 12 page annotated bibliography and a 7 page comprehensive index. The book is broken down in to 29 short chapters that are easily read. These 29 chapters are not broken into sections like many other books of similar size (such as Planting Growing Churches for the 21 Century, which has 3 major sections), yet it seems to still follow a general pattern that many church planting books follow, developing ideas based on the natural life cycle of the church: conception, development, birth, growth, maturity, plateau, and reproduction.

In his introduction, Stetzer begins by declaring a sort of thesis statement for his book. His statement, which is different than many other writings on church planting, is that “The term postmodern has lost much of its meaning, (and indeed it has. It now lends itself to an entirely negative connotation). I believe it is better to focus on missional, a broader term which emphasizes the approach rather than the population” (p. xii). Therefore, Stetzer sets the stage brilliantly for a journey on how to be missional – that is, “taking the approach of a missionary—being indigenous to the culture, seeking to understand and learn, adapting methods to the mission field—but winding up in the biblical form of the church” (p. xxi). Stetzer’s book, then, is not about compromise, but about compassion for the lost, and a desire to be missional so as to seek and save that which is lost.

Stetzer begins his first chapter with some basics about church planting, reminding the reader that the goal is not merely to plant churches, but to “plant a church that’s part of the culture [the reader] is trying to reach” (p. 1). Church planting has regained popularity, as more than 50,000 churches were planted in North America between 1980 and 2000 (p. 14). However, that is not enough. Stetzer gives a mission statement of sorts, in that this book is written to “inform, clarify, encourage, and persuade evangelicals to embrace church planting” (p. 14).

After a brief introduction on the basics of church planting, Stetzer moves quickly into the meat of the book, beginning early, at chapter two. Here he argues that North America is no longer just the country seeking to do missions – it is now the mission field itself. Ripe with opportunity, Stetzer contends that the most effective mission methodology for North America, and anywhere for that matter, is planting new churches.

One of Stetzer’s strongest chapters is chapter three, where he lays out the biblical basis for church planting, based upon examples from Paul, as well as four Gospel accounts of Jesus’ commands to be missional. Having laid the case for the biblical basis for church planting successfully, Stetzer moves through the fundamentals of church planting, including church plant models, leadership issues, lay leadership, emerging cultures, focus groups, koinos churches, core launch teams, how to choose a meeting place, worship, church growth, and churches planting churches. Stetzer even includes a chapter on how to choose a name and a logo, yes, a logo, for the new church plant. He includes this chapter because first impressions are important, and therefore the name of a church should be “meaningful and contemporary” (p. 233).

Stetzer concludes his book with a small but interesting chapter entitled “Church-Planting Movements”, where he gives examples of a few previous movements and the lessons learned from these movements, as well as some important aspects of any successful church-plant movement. After the closing chapter, Stetzer gives a detailed end-notes section that is jam-packed with references, additional comments, and web links to church planting sites. Beyond this, there is even a bibliography that is annotated and comprehensive, spanning 29 pages.

Evaluation

Ed Stetzer’s work, Planting Missional Churches, is often referred to as the church-planting Bible. It’s no wonder; considering all of the information contained within this volume. This is an updated (2nd) edition of the 1st entitled Planting Churches in a Postmodern Age and is packed with Stetzer’s personal wisdom, experience, and passion – and every page proves it! This book is one of the most comprehensive works on church planting.

Planting Mission Churches is written as a text, yet doesn’t have the dry, boring flavor of a text book. It is exciting, like taking an exciting venture with leaps and turns that bring new, refreshing ideas at every turn. It is the church planting book. There are questions for reflections and dialogue at the end of each chapter.  Although questions such as these typically serve to add to the dryness of most textbooks, these questions that Stetzer poses help provoke deeper thought and challenge the reader to apply the principles contained in each chapter to not only his head, but his heart as well.  The questions help the reader retrace the primary thoughts within each chapter and are ideally suited for a classroom, a Bible study, or any small group who desires to enhance their knowledge about the topic of church planting.

Another reason why Stetzer’s book is refreshing is his writing style.  Most writers, especially those who are writing text book type material write in a more formal academic style of writing.  Stetzer’s work however is much different.  Stetzer writes in a “conversation” style. As the reader turns through the pages it is as if Stetzer is sitting down at the table talking to the reader.  This makes the book a much easier read than the average text book, and quite frankly, makes for a much more relaxed and enjoyable read.  Although Stetzer clearly has a strong background in academia he writes in a simple and informal style that allows the reader to comprehend most all of what he says and to retain much of it.

Not only is Stetzer’s work comprehensive, refreshing, and conversational, it is also accurate and much needed.  Sadly, there are many in Christian circles who object to church planting.  Stetzer is right on target with the objections that people raise concerning church planting and his claims that their objections, for the most part, is unsubstantiated is valid.  Stetzer’s work will do much to help combat those objections and to help both the planters and the anti-planters to understand both the purposes and the intentions of planting a new church.  One of the common threads throughout Stetzer’s book is that “the goal of missional church planting is glorifying God, growing His kingdom, and developing healthy churches with new converts (p. 5).”  Stetzer realizes something that many Christian leaders overlook – the fact that church planting is needed in order to prevent denominational decline as well as a decline in the overall Christian population.  It is quite encouraging to see Stetzer pouring his soul into such a noble and honorable cause.  This book will equip those with a passion for church planting with the ability to help change long-held objections to church planting that many hold, and will help its readers to teach people that church planting is not about competition, professionalism, or anything else other than using culturally relevant methodology to reach people with the Good News of Jesus Christ for the glory of God.

One of the reasons Stetzer’s work is so successful and so effective is that it is “birthed out of the struggle and failure of church planting” (p.4).  Stetzer hasn’t just studied church planting, he has lived church planting.  As was previously noted, Stetzer has planted three churches, and they all weren’t complete successes.  Stetzer is honest with the fact that he made mistakes along the way and this lends much credibility to the book.  The fact that his ventures at times were not as great of a success as he would have liked, serves as a source of encouragement for others who may be struggling in their church planting venture in light of Stetzer’s eventual success.  His mistakes, and the disclosure of them in this book, may help countless church planters avoid the same.

This reviewer could find very little in terms of critical analysis within this book. A couple of issues, though minor, are worth mentioning.  First, in a volume this exciting it would be nice to see footnotes as opposed to endnotes.  There are many notes in this book and constantly turning to the back of the book distracts from the flow of information on particular topics or sections.  It would be much easier to stay with Stetzer’s train of thought if the notes were footnotes as opposed to endnotes.  Additionally a few of Stetzer’s thoughts seemed a little naieve or impractical.  For instance, he mentions in at least a couple of places the idea of sending out a mailer to prospective new church members in the community as a form of outreach (pp. 12,296).  However, it is not likely that anyone would respond to a mailer without a personal visit. In fairness to Stetzer, however, he does mention personal visits and door knocks on multiple occasions.  Finally, Stetzer seems to focus much of his thought on the large or mega church models which require large up front financial investments, a large staff, and extensive resources.  What about the church planter who desires a small startup in a rural area- the pastor who wants to plant a church but does not have all of the “big church” resources at his disposal. Indeed Stetzer’s experience and success lies with the larger model, however it would have been nice to have seen a little more focus on the smaller, more simple, less structured church plants.

Planting Missional Churches is a church planting manual that every church planter should have on their bookshelf.  Stetzer brings together a wide spectrum of church planting thoughts, visions, and concerns in an informative, culturally relevant way.  Although the term “culturally relevant” is a concern to some because it is often associated with a watered down expression of the gospel, Stetzer’s book is refreshing in that he consistently commands the need for solid theology that is delivered through culturally relevant methodologies.  Stetzer’s book is much needed because Christians need to end their discussions on missions and become missional.  Stetzer’s work encourages people to do just that.  Stetzer’s work affirms the biblical basis for church planting and challenges the reader to search and discover how they can most effectively understand and learn their local culture in order to bring the message of hope to those within the culture. Planting Missional Churches is the book to have for planting biblically faithful and culturally relevant churches.

Key words: Liberty University, EVAN 550, Church Planting, Critical Book Review of Planting Missional Churches

Book Review | Planting Churches Cross-Culturally: North America and Beyond | David Hesselgrave

Bibliography: Hesselgrave, David J. Planting Churches Cross-Culturally: North America and Beyond.  2nd edition. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academics), 2000.

Author information:

David Hesselgrave is a retired professor from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.  He holds a doctorate from the University of Minnesota in Rhetoric and Public Addresswith a cross-cultural communications emphasis.  He has served both as a pastor (for 5 years) and as a missionary in Japan (for 12 years).  Before retiring in 1991, Hesselgrave taught for nearly three decades.  In addition to Planting Churches Cross-Culturally, he has also written Contextualization, Paradigms in Conflict, and Communicating Christ Cross-Culturally.  Hesselgrave brings to this book both his extensive educational ministry and his research background.

Content Summary:

Hesselgrave’s 317 page work, Planting Churches Cross Culturally, is written to convey the importance of evangelistic church planting and missions. Additionally, it seeks to provide a manual of sorts for doing missions and church planting. Each of the five sections and seventeen chapters is filled with information that builds upon the last.

In part one, Hesselgrave devotes three chapters to ‘The Christian and the Christian Mission’. It is here that Hesselgrave states his intended purpose for the book which is the proclamation of the Gospel and the gathering of believers into the church, which is the heart of the Christian mission, according to Hesselgrave.  Hesselgrave also spends much time emphasizing the need to plan one’s work before working one’s plan.  According to Hesselgrave, “Too often [missions] is undertaken haphazardly and without thinking it through”(p.33),  After all, “God is the greatest planner of all”(p. 33) If God inspired and encouraged men of old to plan, why shouldn’t the church planters and missionaries of today plan for the tasks at hand?  Hesselgrave concludes this section with an emphasis on the strategy on church planting, a strategy which can be found by studying the missionary endeavors of Paul in the Book of Acts.

In part two of Planting Churches Cross-Culturally, Hesselgrave devotes four chapters to his section entitled ‘The Christian Leader and the Christian Message’.  Here Hesselgrave emphasizes the need for solid strategic leadership in the mission as well as the need to carefully analyze and select the right target areas for missions and evangelism.  It is only after the right leaders have been selected and the right target areas have been discovered that the appropriate resources can be deployed.  The church should, as a body dedicated to Christ, deploy all of the resources that are necessary for the church planting endeavor, according to God’s will.

In parts three, four, and five, Hesselgrave devotes ten chapters to the development and discussion of “The Pauline cycle”, which is a biblical synopsis and analysis of the church planting strategies employed by Paul in the Book of Acts.  The Pauline Cycle begins with God’s call on the missionary.  Once the missionary has been commissioned (step one), a potential audience is contacted and surveyed and widespread evangelism is performed in order to form relationships that will lead to further contacts and further relationships (step two).  Once an audience has been contacted, the Gospel should be communicated (step three) as clearly as possible in a way that is relevant to the hearers in the target area or community.  Prayerfully, those who hear the Gospel message will be converted (step four) and the believers will be gathered together (step five) where their faith is then confirmed (step 6) and leaders for that congregation are consecrated (step seven).  Hesselgrave reminds the reader of the importance of the newly planted congregation training and selecting its own pastor and other leaders.  In step eight, once leaders are consecrated, there should be “an amicable withdraw of church planters” and “an orderly transition of leadership in the congregation”; a transition that creates a seamless “continuation of effective ministries that have been undertaken by the pioneer” (p.279). Through church fellowships, the relationships that have previously been established should continue on indefinitely.  Since Christian churches have a common bond in Christ, they should encourage one another and cooperate “in the common cause of evangelism” (step nine, p.279).  In step ten, which is the last step, the sending church is convened so that the missionary – evangelist can be relocated to a new target area, thus beginning the Pauline cycle all over again.  “And so the Pauline cycle has been and will be repeated, on and on, over and over, until Christ comes again and the church militant becomes the church triumphant. Maranatha!” (p. 321).

Evaluation:

Hesselgrave declares in his preface that this book grew out of “fifty years of pioneering and pastoring, reading and researching, and learning and lecturing in company with literally thousands of people who have been my instructors and inspiration in service for Christ and His Church” (p.13). As one reads through this volume, it becomes quite evident that indeed the reader is experiencing Hesselgrave’s experiences, and not just a third-party narrative from a novice in the field. Any doubts as to Hesselgrave’s credentials or qualifications are quickly squashed as one begins to delve into this exciting and exhaustive handbook for church planting.

Planting Churches Cross-Culturally is one of the most extensive books on church planning that this review has ever seen, and certainly the most extensive that he has ever read. His is not just a concise overview, but an exhaustive, extensive, and information filled volume. Most certainly the person who said, “Information is knowledge” had Hesselgrave’s work in mind, for the person who reads this book and retains only a percentage of the information contained within its pages has at his disposal a wealth of knowledge on how to plant a church biblically and practically.

An important strength of Hesselgrave’s work is his dire commitment to remain true to the biblical model for church planting, and for basically anything, for that matter. This is a breath of fresh air in a world where liberal theologians freely offer up opinions that are not substantiated by the Word of God. Since the church’s primary mission is to “proclaim the gospel of Christ and gather believers in to a local church where they can be built up in faith and made effective in service” (p. 17), it’s not only a good idea to follow the biblical model for church planting, it’s crucial. Sadly, many church planting ventures fail to take the biblical revelation into account when planning their task, which often leads to their demise. However, Hesselgrave is committed to leading his readers in a journey that uses the Bible as the primary source of revelation and information for the task of planting church, and he should be commended for this! Why shouldn’t a person interested in church planting look to the Bible for planning and strategy? After all, “it is possible…to extrapolate from the biblical record specific aspects of Paul’s overall strategy and specific methods that can be applied to contemporary situation”(p. 38). Hesselgrave gives further encouragement to go to God’s Word as he states, “In planning for church planting and growth, on the other hand, we have recourse to God’s Word” (p. 39).

Specificity is yet another strong point of Hesselgrave’s book as he discusses the many aspects of church planting and the Pauline cycle. He doesn’t speak in broad, generic, nonspecific terms, but fills each section of his book with practical, specific instructions concerning the topic at hand. For instance, he doesn’t just mention the need to pray, but reinforces that need by wonderfully stating that, “The new is replete with exhortations to prayer….Clearly, the selection of the missionary-evangelist candidates should be bathed in payer. The first deacons were commissioned only after prayer…[Prayer] is the continuing force behind the entire program” (pp. 99-100).  Hesselgrave drives home his points on prayer, and everything else, by reinforcing it in such a way that one cannot offer an argument to his view.

Another strong point, one worthy of mention, is the ‘Relevant Research’ and ‘Practical Reflection’ additions to almost every section in his book. Not only does he bathe each section in relevant Scriptures and appropriate theories that support his theses, he also gives research, sometimes scientific, and practical applications that bring the issue at hand to life. It’s as if Hesselgrave wrote this book with a ‘break out all the stops’ attitude for his readers. For instance, in a section on communication methodologies, Hesselgrave, after making his case for the need for clear, concise, biblically based communication in evangelism and missions, gives research data which supports the idea that personal, one on one, close up communication is not always the ideal way to communicate a message. Likewise, sometimes, as science has proven, a message may be more widely received by the receiver if it is given from a distance, as in a public, or semi-public setting. He follows up this idea with practical reflection which stresses thet need for innovation in communication. “If our abilities to innovate are not exhausted in exploiting the potential of biblical models, we can go on to attempt new methods for communicating Christ” (p.156).

This reviewer could find very little by the way of criticism with this book. One small area of critique would be the amount of time and words that Hesselgrave puts into each segment or section. It seems at time that Hesselgrave could have said the same thing with fewer words, possibly half the words, and yet not lose any substance in his points. The verboseness of his narrative sometimes works against Hesselgrave, causing this reader to lose focus on the point at hand. A more concise narrative on many of his topics could have help the reader to comprehend the subject matter much faster, and quite frankly, could have saved a tree or two (with less pages).

This book is a must-have for anyone who purports to be a serious student of missions and church planting. This is a book that won’t sit on a bookshelf and collect dust. It’s a practical, useful, invaluable tool for anyone who desires to learn all they can about both the need to plant churches and the how-to of planting churches. This book is filled with resource after resource that combines to make a sound survey of biblical church planting. It is a scholarly approach to missions and plating churches, yet is excitingly readable by anyone with a desire to be all they can be in the area of church planting.  It’s about missions….it’s about evangelism….it’s about missional theology….it’s about the church…..it’s about so much more. I recommend that everyone who desires to grow their church read this book. This is one book that the reader will be glad he read.

Key search words: Planting Churches Cross-Culturally, EVAN 550, Liberty University, Evangelism, Church Planting