The book under analysis was written by Ed Stetzer and entitled Planting Missional Churches. The author provides valuable insights into the process of planting evangelist churches. Stetzer sheds light on various aspects of the project including finances, location, preaching, worship, spirituality, congregational formation, and so on. The book contains practical recommendations as well as references to holy texts. Stetzer addresses a number of major issues a church planter can face. In the first chapter, the author outlines essential premises for effective church planting. The concepts outlined can be regarded as the major ideas of the book. These central ideas are the church planter’s being missional, spiritual, creative, ecclesiological and theological.1
One of the primary ideas of the text is that the modern society is experiencing “rapid population shifts” and “enormous changes in attitudes, in worldviews.”2 The author stresses that the church should unite people and bring them to God irrespective of their backgrounds, ethnicity, age, beliefs, and so on. The author also stresses that it is vital to be creative when developing relationships with people and encouraging them to get together. Stetzer calls this creativity being “incarnational.”3
Spirituality is regarded as another important factor contributing to the success of the church planting. The author emphasizes that it is not enough to attract people by interesting preaching or becoming a local celebrity, but it is critical to help people see the glory of God through various creative strategies used by the preacher. The author also emphasizes that it is essential to remember that “Bible-based theology is the foundation” for the effective church plant.4
The author claims that there can be no new ways of thinking about basic theological concepts and principles. Finally, Stetzer notes that ecclesiological aspect should also be taken into account as church planting can be successful when major canons are followed. It is important that all these principles are found in the following chapters of the book as they are the foundation of every aspect of church planting. Chapter three incorporates these principles while explaining the biblical foundation for church planting.
The description of these principles is followed by the discussion of more practical issues. Stetzer dwells upon such aspects as church plant models, leadership, emerging cultures, core launch teams, worship, koinos churches and so on. The author pays specific attention to such issues as finding the necessary funding and a proper place for the church. These aspects of the church plant are often regarded as the major obstacles while Stetzer describes ways to address the major difficulties and find the most effective solutions.5 One of the keys to addressing these issues is the use of the right leadership style and the author provides a substantial analysis of that matter. Chapter seven might seem surprising to some people as the author discusses the peculiarities of choosing a name and a logo for the church plant. Stetzer argues that logos and visuals “are worth a thousand words.”6
Chapter 29 is interesting and valuable as it includes brief descriptions and an analysis of some church-planting movements. The author helps the reader consider the most important lessons to learn. The discussion of other people’s experiences can help ensure a successful church plant. The book ends with comprehensive endnotes and a substantial bibliography that contain a lot of valuable and relevant information.
The book Planting Missional Churches can be regarded as a must-read source for those who want to know more on church planting or to plant a new church. It can also be used as a textbook for theological studies as the author touches upon essential concepts and ideas that should be considered by every pastor. One of the major advantages of the book is the author’s analysis of the contemporary practice peculiarities. Stetzer describes the changes that are taking place and argues that a new “church-planting fault line” is emerging.7 The author claims that some pastors and church planters do not follow major principles of church planting and do not follow the primary canons of the Constantinian model.8
Stetzer notes that many church planters try to use a simpler approach, which is beneficial. However, many choose this approach due to their disappointment with the contemporary Church, which leads to the alienation of the new churches from some important biblical postulates. Importantly, the author also addresses the major objections to planting new churches, which is essential as they are often a reason for many pastors’ hesitation.9
Another major value of the book is its comprehensiveness as the author provides an analysis of all the aspects of church planting. His commentaries, stories, and descriptions are sound and valid as they are based on extensive research and, more importantly, practical experience. The experience is earned by the author during his own church planting is provided as “probably a good example.”10 The book also contains experiences shared by other pastors. Another advantage of the book is its simplicity as the author uses simple words and concepts, which makes it helpful for a wide audience.
The author does not use an academic approach to writing as he employs a friendly tone that encourages the reader to learn, question, and explore. All the chapters do not simply contain some dry text, but there are real-life stories and examples. For instance, chapter 29 contains many real-life stories that can help pastors and church planters to avoid numerous mistakes and plant a new church successfully.11 There are also particular questions to answer, which enhances readers’ critical thinking. The questions asked and concepts explained in simple words encourage readers to learn more and try to use the information provided when planting a new church. Each chapter includes a list of helpful readings, which can help new pastors to learn more about different matters.
At the same time, there is a serious weakness in the book. Stetzer tends to focus on big churches planting while the methods used to establish a large church are sometimes inappropriate for planting a small church in a rural area or even suburban and urban settings. The book is not as valuable for church planters who want to plant a small church as there are quite a few practical recommendations concerning small churches plant. This gap is especially vivid as the author stresses that new churches should be planted to address the issues of the contemporary society.12 Nonetheless, this gap can be addressed in a new edition that can contain a chapter or several chapters that concentrate on small churches planting.
This book has become a source of inspiration and new knowledge. First, the major principles and concepts within the contemporary “mission field” have become certain milestones for me.13 I will try to remember about the need to be missional, theological, incarnational, spiritual, and ecclesiological. I believe these should be some of the major characteristics of a modern pastor and church planter.
I share the author’s concerns regarding some pastors’ alienation from the biblical and Constantinian canons.14 I was specifically impressed by the way Stetzer describes the spread of vanity among pastors who often focus on their own leadership and creativity forgetting about the major goal of their preaching. I have seen several pastors who seem to have forgotten that the central goal is to make people amazed “by the awesome God” rather than a “cool preacher” in the church, which cannot contribute to the development of the proper relationships as well as the development of the church.15
The book is also a valuable source for me as it has numerous recommendations and real-life examples that can help in planting a new church. I agree that the contemporary American society needs more new churches.16 This book strengthened my belief, and I feel I can be a successful church planter. Clearly, there are many things to learn, but the book under consideration has become a solid foundation for my further research.
I recommend all believers to read Stetzer’s book as it can help readers understand some peculiarities of the modern church and strengthen their faith. However, the book is specifically valuable for new pastors as it provides important insights into the ministry field. Apart from the major principles to follow (mentioned above), new pastors will learn more about the development of proper relationships with people and various strategies to become a “missional” pastor.17 Of course, the book is also a must-have source for new church planters. Stetzer reveals many peculiarities of finding resources including funding.18 It is quite an important aspect especially in the contemporary American society (with its financial constraints and certain loss of faith or rather trust to the Church).
It is important to add that the author discussed tiny details that can bring the process of churches planting to a new level. For instance, the chapter including the discussion of a logo development has become a quite eye-opening to me and can have a similar effect on many new pastors and church planters. Some may argue that logos and visuals can make the church similar to a corporation rather than a spiritual center. However, logos should be regarded as symbolic representations of the mission in a particular setting (particular area).
In conclusion, it is possible to note that Stetzer’s book has become a valuable source of information and inspiration for me. I will try to follow many recommendations provided In the book, and I will try to remember the major characteristics of a successful church planter and pastor. The book can be an effective textbook since theological students may learn a lot of essential aspects of the ministry field. They will also be encouraged to raise questions and find solutions to the existing issues. These discussions and analyses can contribute to the overall development of the Church in the contemporary society.
Stetzer, Ed. Planting Missional Churches. Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2006.
- Ed Stetzer, Planting Missional Churches (Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2006), 2.
- Ibid., 220.
- Ibid., 236.
- Ibid., 152.
- Ibid., 156.
- Ibid., 6.
- Ibid., 89.
- Ibid., 325.
- Ibid., 2.
- Ibid., 2.
- Ibid., 156.
- Ibid., 3.
- Ibid., 2.
- Ibid., 2.
- Ibid., 220.