by J.D. Payne
IVP Books, 2015
—Reviewed by Dr. Pam Arlund, global training and research leader, All Nations Family
J. D. Payne has written a book that is neither too long, nor too short, but just right for new practitioners of church planting. It is not written for an audience that is merely seeking inspiration, nor for an audience of missiologists who want to ask and answer every theological question related to church planting.
The main contribution of this book is for people who want to actually go out and start a church-planting movement and perhaps do not have a coach or trainer in this area. More ideally, however, would be to use the book in an ongoing church-planting coaching relationship or alongside (or before) a church-planting training.
The book is short, which is to its advantage. It seems that too many books on church planting urge practitioners to make sure that methods are reproducible and as simple as possible and then write long, difficult to read books on the topic. These books simply reinforce that church planting is only for the highly trained and theologically advanced among us. Church planters from all educational backgrounds could make good use of this book. The chapters are short enough (on average nine pages long) and practical.
The only part of the book that might turn off budding church planters is the second chapter, which uses the word “ecclesiology” in the title. It’s a shame that the book didn’t use a simpler word to make the topic more approachable, but overall it’s a great way to begin the book. If users of the book can’t agree on the definition of a church, then the rest of the book will go to waste.
From the beginning, the book offers helpful advice for every stage of church planting, from forming teams to picking locations, to entering into a church-planting cycle. The book is designed to be used in any context of church planting, but does assume a North American audience. For everyday questions about specific application of principles, church planters will still need an ongoing coach beside them, but the book still spells out helpful principles for all.
Payne correctly asserts that the number one obstacle to church planting is missionaries who get sidetracked onto other nice ministries but give up on church planting (p. 114). To me, using specific chapters of this book in an ongoing coaching relationship with a church planter would be both useful and practical to help pull ‘wandering’ or ‘lost’ church planters back on track.
I suspect many missiologists might feel the book is inadequate, but Payne consistently refers to his other lengthier works if people have more questions. This book is practical and not theoretical. So for everyday church planters, it strikes just the right balance of biblical insight, a few stories, and highly practical advice.
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