Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Stetzer updates Planting Missional Churches

     I used to think that it would be easier to plant a church than to deal with the traditions of an already established one. And by the time a church is five years old, she probably has some pretty firmly established traditions! So if you never want to hear things like "when I was going to Sunday School here back in the XXXX's",  or "But Pastor, we've always done it this way", or "we've never done that before", or my grandmother donated that pew, how dare you let some stranger sit in it?"  then you may be better off planting your own church and settling back and waiting for the traditions to take over.

     Ed Stetzer has an extensive history in church-planting: studying, teaching, doing, consulting and writing about, so when he writes a book on "how to" we need to understand that he speaks with authority.  IN 2006 Stetzer authored the first edition of this book, and now 10 years later, faced with changing  communities, contexts and cultures, he invited Damiel Im to join with him in updating the data. Planting Missional Churches Your Guide to Starting Churches that Multiply ( 2nd edition, B&H Academic, 2016) is the result of their collaboration.

     I frequently read with a pen. I make little notches at the beginning and end of a passage I want to be able to find again or refer back to; and then I write the page number on the inside front over. It didn't take long in this case to have a lot of page numbers written down.  I stopped for a while, but kept finding those nuggets that I want to refer back to, and pretty soon the pen was busy again. 
     With five sections, filled with more information than I could ever hope to absorb, my brain was quickly on sensory overload.  Don't get me wrong, that’s one of the reasons I liked the book, and why there are so many underlined and highlighted passages.

     The sections are fairly basic 1) Foundations of Church Planting, 2) Models of Church Planting, 3) Systems for Church Planting, 4) Ministry Areas for Church Planting, and 5) Multiplication and Movements.
     Stetzer and Im offer their assessments of the various models, movements, systems etc, but the primary focus is being missional: "adopting the posture of a missionary, joining Jesus on  mission, learning and adapting to the culture around you while remaining biblically sound." (P. 1) Right from the beginning the reader begins to learn what it means!

     A church which is not intent on joining Jesus on mission, on responding to the plan that God has for a particular group or location tends to be more of a social entity than a theologically sound church. It's fine to be popular with the people who are already attending, but sometimes we have to step outside of our comfort zones to make an impact on those whom we are trying to reach with the Good News.

      Each section starts with a very brief overview. Don't forget to read them. They set the stage for what is to follow, often by providing definitions, and if you're understanding certain words in ways other than the authors intend, you may end up far out in left field.

     Some of the information may be familiar, some may seem redundant, some may cause you to scratch your head, but just as there is no 'one size fits all formula' for planting, there is no 'one size fits all book'. Some people who read this book have never been involved in planting before, and they need to see the harsh realities. Others have been involved with church plants at various levels before and are looking for ways to do things better, and some have some experience but know that they lack expertise in certain areas, and they  want to do the best they can to further the Kingdom.

     Whatever your reason for picking up this book, you're bound to find something that will help.  (I quickly realized that at this stage of my life and ministry I'm better off sticking with established churches than trying to come up with the energy for a church plant. )

     I received a review copy of this book from the published in exchange for agreeing to write a review and post it on my Blog and on a retail site.


Trying to move your pulpit?

     I promise I have never talked with Thom Rainer. He has never interviewed me, yet several of the stories in his powerful new book Who Moved My Pulpit Leading Change in the Church (B&H Publishing Group, 2016) sounded familiar. He talked about people I know. He described scenarios that I've been involved with over many years, in churches, and in secular organizations. And he did it in simple language that can be understood with having studied Biblical languages and Systematic Theology.

      This is a book for pastors, and for church leaders. It's based on years of experience as a church consultant and researcher. Rainer references Scripture, and encourages prayer.

     To lead change you have to understand change, and be fully aware that almost half of any mixed group, for whatever reason, are going to resist change: some vehemently.  A smaller percentage are going to embrace change, a few eagerly, and others when they hear the reasons, and then there are those who tend to follow whichever side seems to be winning. 

     Rainer uses stories of things that he has personal knowledge of, and shows how different scenarios might or might not work. And offers suggestions  for what the next steps that need to be taken might be.  Although anyone in a leadership position might find it easier than not to focus on the trouble makers, the squeaky wheels; it's important to remember that there are so many people in our churches that do love their pastor, and want to help him, not just make his life miserable.

     But just like a shepherd likes his sheep,  the church leader is called to love everyone in his flock, not just the ones that are always there to help, and never talk back.

     And speaking of called, being a pastor is a calling. There's no other reason why anyone would stay for very long!

     Although I would have gladly bought this book, I did receive several copies from the publisher as part of the launch team. I still have a couple of copies left for the first church or ministry leaders who respond to the blog.


Sunday, May 15, 2016

My thoughts on Krusen's "They Were Christians"

Since I've come to believe that one's personal faith walk is something between God and the individual, the title They Were Christians: the Inspiring Faith of Men and Women Who Changed the World (Cristóbal Krusen, BakerBooks, 2016) immediately caught my attention. How does someone in the 21st century presume to know who was a Christian in the 19th or 20th century? How in fact can somebody in the 21st century presume to know if his neighbor, co-worker, or family member, someone with whom there is daily contact, is actually a Christian.  True Christianity is a matter of the heart, not just a simple declarative statement, and to my way of seeing things, only God truly knows about another person's faith walk.
            Even with the doubtful start, I found the book to be a fairly enjoyable read. As the title suggests, Krusen writes about several people who played an influential role in the affairs of their time. A Secretary- General of the UN, a United States President, a 19th century slave, writers, nurses, doctors and philanthropists, all played a part in shaping the world, and along the way, their writings and actions led others to recognize their faith.
            The author doesn't just give biographical sketches of his subject matter, he ties their stories in with his own. Some of his autobiographical entries deal with his life before becoming a Christian, and some is post-conversion. Somehow he manages to tie it all neatly together.   
            Since the author chose to include some of his own story at the beginning and end of each chapter, I would have preferred to read more of the autobiography.  History buffs will probably disagree and would like more of the biographical sketches about each of the people being written about.
I received a copy of this book from Baker Books in exchange for this review. I was not required to post a positive review.


Saturday, May 7, 2016

Unparalleled by Jared C Wilson

Every once in a while you come across a book that takes a long time to read because you have to stop on a regular basis to underline some nugget that you want to be able to quickly find. Unparalleled: How Christianity's Uniqueness Makes It Compelling (Jared C. Wilson, Baker Books, 2016) is one of those books.
This is part Theology, part commentary, part journal…. I just can't think of any other way to describe it. The subject matter is so deep, that it has to be considered text book material, but Wilson writes with such an engaging personal style, that I felt like was taking part in a personal conversation - and that with a great story teller.
Want to know more about Grace? The Trinity? Evangelism? And more? This is probably a book that you should get. And read. And internalize. And share with your pastor, your church's leadership team, and then recommend it to your friends.
I received a copy of this book from BakerBooks in exchange for a posted review. I was not required to write a positive review.


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

thoughts on the book ALL AUTHORITY

As Christians where do we get our 'authority' to share the gospel?  Joey Shaw makes a compelling argument that it comes directly from Jesus, who was granted "All Authority", which is the title of his recently released book. In All Authority: How the Authority of Jesus Upholds the Great Commission (B&H Publishing Group, 2016), Shaw walks us through Matthew 28:18-20 which includes Jesus' words that are known as the "Great Commission'.
            Jesus got his authority from the Father, and he makes it pretty clear that since he has been given all authority, it is his right to send his followers to the very ends of the earth with the mandate to make disciples.
            Jesus may have been given all authority, but not everyone believes it. If they did, we wouldn't need to be going into the world. And it's not just that not everyone believes yet; we live in a world where there are a lot of opposing forces trying to usurp that authority.
            If you've ever wondered exactly what the Great Commission might mean, then this book is for you. Based on sound biblical scholarship, Shaw breaks the verse into smaller parts and explains each of them in greater detail.
            Although the authority, all authority on heaven and earth, has been given to Christ Jesus, there comes a time when each of us has to submit to it. Jesus delights in being Savior, but He wants to be  Lord of our lives also. As I read through this book, I became more and more glad that I have made the decision to submit to the authority of my Lord and Savior.  Submission might not always seem like a good thing, but in this case it certainly is.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for my review. There was no requirement to write a positive review.