by Evert Van de Poll and Joanne Appleton, eds.
Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2015.
—Reviewed by David R. Dunaetz, Azusa Pacific University, Claremont Graduate University, and former church planter in France.
Since the 1980s, evangelical denominations and missions in Europe have heavily emphasized church planting as the most effective way to evangelize the post-Christian continent. These efforts have not always proved successful, often because they were based on methods more appropriate to a North American context. In response, Evert Van de Pol and Joanne Appleton have put together an outstanding collection of articles with the goal of equipping church planters for ministry in Europe. The writers chosen for this project demonstrate how church planting can be carried out in multicultural and postmodern Europe.
The focus of the book is on missionary church planting, specifically, church planting led by a team that has been sent to start a church with the goal of evangelizing the local community, leading to conversions and changed lives which influence the surrounding culture. All of the authors, in a unified voice, argue that this must be done through new churches that are culturally relevant.
The first section of the book addresses the foundations of church planting, emphasizing the central role that the Bible should play. Boris Paschke presents an interesting and novel study of New Testament prayers related to church planting. Dietrick Schindler uses Jesus’ training of his disciples to discuss the importance of the leadership training in the European context.
The central section of the book addresses cultural aspects of church planting in Europe, including chapters on the importance of cultural relevancy, descriptions of tendencies, and common barriers as well as common bridges for communicating the gospel. Johannes Reimer argues for a geographic focus (i.e. towns and neighborhoods) rather than an ethnic focus in church planting. He bases his argument on the belief that ethnos in Matthew 28:19-20 refers to geography rather than ethnicity. A stronger argument might be that cultural expectations for assimilation (rather than multiculturalism) call for a geographic focus to church planting which excludes no one.
In contrast, Ishak Ghatas argues for the need of starting Arabic and Turkish-speaking churches for first-generation immigrants. André Pownall
describes the inevitable necessity of multiethnic churches in spite of the challenges this brings.
Original research presented by Jim Memories indicates most church planters do little to evaluate their effectiveness. Memories argues that, rather than measuring success by the number of people touched by the gospel, success should be evaluated by the church’s cruciformity based on the Nicene Creed. Although his argument seems like a call for churches to be hotels for the holy rather than hospitals for the hurting, it is a fascinating discussion of issues that need to be openly addressed.
The book concludes with Johann Lukasse’s summary of best practices used by successful church planters in Europe and several interesting and diverse case studies. All in all, this is probably the most important book on church planting in Europe to come out in the last decade. All church planters in
Europe should read it. Church-planting teams would especially benefit from discussing it and prayerfully incorporating relevant ideas into their strategies.
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EMQ, Vol. 52, No. 2 pp. 215-216. Copyright © 2016 Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.