So, I just finished an excellent book on church planting called Church Planter: the man, the message, and the mission by Darrin Patrick, the vice president of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network and the founding pastor of the Journey Church in St. Louis. Anyone considering planting a church, who is currently planting a church, or any pastor who has a heart to multiply and send out church plants should pick up a copy.
The title immediately caused me to take a step away from it initially, in particular Church Planter: THE MAN. I am of the persuasion that men AND woman can lead congregations in the lead roles of pastor/elder. As a senior pastor and a divisional superintendent for my denomination (Foursquare), I am always trying to find ways to empower women who feel called to those roles to rise up in bold faith. Patrick explains his choice for directing the book towards men, for which I agree is a great need: many guys find themselves in an extended adolescence of video games and promiscuous behavior in their 30’s and 40’s. They have lost the understanding (or never been equipped with the understanding) of what it means to be men, and this book is somewhat of a reaction against that…a call for men of God to be men of God…that men who want to lead God’s church need to be….well….MEN! The church’s ability to engage culture with truth will only be weakened when the pulpits are filled by “bans,” Patrick’s term for someone that is stuck in the emotionally developmental stage between a boy and a man, though they should, by all accounts, be men. I appreciated his approach. Though he is definitely of the opinion that only men should occupy the roles of elder or pastor in a local church and though this flavor appears a couple of times throughout the book, Patrick and I agree that the Kingdom of God will only advance as we learn to work together whether we agree or disagree on the issue. So, he says real men need to lead churches; I say real men and real women need to lead churches. And, hopefully together, we’ll see the Kingdom of God advance in our cities. I’m learning how to, as the old saying goes, “Eat the straw and spit out the sticks.” May we as the body of Christ learn to do this more and more!
Now, I didn’t do some chapter-by-chapter write up or review.
(Check out my young friend’s WordPress blog to follow a chapter-by-chapter replay as he is processing through each chapter; it’s worth the read! http://jeffsterwritesagain.wordpress.com).
But, I can say without a doubt that Patrick’s writing was refreshing for me on a number of levels:
1. Patrick brings up the issue of character in his section on “the man.” While no one is perfect, what kind of person can lead a congregation? Someone who has been “rescued” so to speak by Jesus, and KNOWS they’ve been rescued. Someone who has been “called,” an old-fashioned term, but one that makes the difference between whether you tuck your tail and run the first time things get hard, or you stick it out and press through. That call from God will fasten your feet to the floor. How about integrity? Character? Even tempered? So many points to pray over, study over, and in which to expect transformation. Good stuff!
2. He talks at length about the importance of the Message the church planter brings to the community, which to me is number one. My prayer is that churches and church plants would never lose sight of the message of the Gospel and in particular, the preaching of the Gospel. I’ve been labeled old fashioned and out of step with contemporary culture because of my view on preaching. I’ve even heard people say that if they were to plant a church today, they probably would never preach….they would just go out into the community and do good deeds. I am able to sift through what I’m hearing to find the heart behind statements like that: churches should GO, not just warm the pews inside four walls. But, part of what sets us apart from just being another non-profit that does service to the community is that we proclaim a message, and that proclaimed message that informs what we do and serves as a basis for it. Our work goes beyond conscience……it is grounded in THE message that provides what the world needs! We as the church have been entrusted with a message that is like a bank deposit….a wealth we MUST share. If we truly love the people we are trying to reach, we will not attempt to cleverly mask our message and see if they “get it” in an attempt to be relevant or approachable. We will preach the Gospel, foolish as it may seem. I always say that preaching gets a bad rap, but it isn’t because preaching is irrelevant…it’s because there’s a LOT of bad preaching going on!
3. His views on the mission of the church is challenging in that it forces the pastor and/or church planter to look beyond having a church of people that are willing to gather each week. How is the community different because my church is there? That’s a haunting question, but not one that should cause pastors/church planters to shrink back, but run to Jesus for answers, strategy, His plans. It’s where our Message sprouts feet and walks into the community we are called to reach.
So, yeah…great book! I intend to refer to it often…check it out! And may we see more and more alive, impactful, Gospel-preaching churches come to life in every city in America, the heart that I believe is behind the reasons for which Patrick is writing this book!