Church Planter (Book Review)

Pastor Darrin Patrick, VP of the Acts 29 Church Planting network and a church planter himself, has written a book for every pastor and would-be church planter.  The book, Church Planter, is published by Crossway in the Re:Lit series.  The author writes in a conversational, informal, yet respectful style, and his audience is obviously male Christian pastors–especially those who are considering planting a church that will make a difference in the kingdom of God.

The book is organized in three sections.  The first section addresses the kind of man that God requires to lead a church plant.  Drawing from the Scriptures, the wisdom of other church planters, and his own experiences in church planting, Patrick describes how the right man for the job must be rescued, called, qualified, dependent, skilled, a shepherd, and determined.

The second section focuses on the message of the preacher (the gospel) and how it ought to be proclaimed in our American post-Christian culture.  Patrick emphasizes that the gospel message is not new (it is a historical message) and is about salvation from sin and death (not primarily from anything else).  That salvation from sin and its penalty is not just a possibility, but is actually accomplished in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  This is why the message must focus on Christ (Christ-centered), otherwise all the benefits which flow or accompany salvation are skewed, come out of focus, and even shrivel up and die apart from the central truth that Christ is the only Savior of sinners.  This message and the “Lord of the message” do not change, but the gospel exposes the particular sins of a culture and shatters the idols that individuals and communities worship.  The preacher and church planter are called to preach a message that confidently exposes sin and throws down the idols of their hearers.

The third section of the book explains the mission of the pastor/planter.  Patrick describes this mission as being a good preacher in a great church, because the mission of God to redeem his creation is accomplished through his work in his Church.  This mission requires heartful compassion on the part of the pastor of the church as he models compassion for others.  It requires contextualizing the message of the gospel but also the ministry means whereby we make the gospel clear to our fallen and broken communities.  This requires community care on the part of the church leader and those he leads, demonstrating the care of God to those inside and outside the church.  The church’s mission is to be a mission–a mission in its city.  Patrick argues that most of the world’s exponentially growing population live in cities, and this trend gives no hint of reversing.  The church has been fleeing the city for decades.  Now is the time to return to the city and serve the people who live their by living alongside them and seeking the shalom (peace) of the city.  Only in this way will church planters and pastors thrive in ministy as they align themselves and the churches they plant and pastor with the will of God for the salvation of the world.

Patrick recognizes that the church in America needs to adapt to the emerging post-Christian culture.  The generations that are post-boomer are either leaving the institutional church in droves or have never been touched by the gospel of Christ.  Church and Christianity are irrelevant to most people, except those belonging to the older generations.  To address the crisis, Patrick writes forcefully and passionately, calling out church planters and pastors to zealous, masculine, passionate, whole-hearted devotion to their calling.  While at times he goes a little overboard by going further than the Bible will allow (e.g., when he writes “an unspectacular sex life would keep a man from being a qualified pastor” (p. 46) and when he offers his congregation’s practice of not meeting one Lord’s Day a month in order to do community service instead (p. 219)), his willingness to think outside the box to solve problems is commendable.

Overall, Church Planter: The Man, The Message, The Mission should be required reading for every pastor and church planter.  You’ll be very thankful for its refreshing reminder of the basics and its informal take on many issues and problems pastors face.  If you are not a pastor or church planter, this book is still an invaluable read because it clarifies what kind of pastor and church that Christians should seek to support and partner with.

Table of Contents:
The Man
– A Rescued Man
– A Called Man
– A Qualified Man
– A Dependent Man
– A Skilled Man
– A Shepherding Man
– A Determined Man
The Message
– A Historical Message
– Salvation-Accomplishing
– Christ-Centered
– Sin-Exposing
– Idol-Shattering
The Mission
– The Heart of Mission: Compassion
– The House of Mission: The Church
– The How of Mission: Contextualization
– The Hands of Mission: Care
– The Hope of Mission: City Transformation

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