Planting for the Gospel

This is, quite simply, the best book on church planting that I’ve ever read.

But that’s not quite as impressive an endorsement as it sounds. I’ve not read a whole load of books on church planting and those I have, I rarely complete. But because this book is only 120 pages and it’s written by someone I know, I got through to the end. Twice!

But before we go any further I need to declare an interest. Not just in church planting (that should be obvious) but in the author. Graham Beynon is a mate. And that shapes what I write. If it helps, my own inclination to ‘big him up’ and plug his book is countermanded by my own jealousy at him publishing the only book I thought I’d ever write! I don’t know whether that makes me objective. But I think it makes me honest!

Graham is a prodigious publisher of books (the man needs to get a hobby). He’s the Free Church equivalent of Vaughan Roberts. Barely a year goes by without him producing yet another indispensable paperback to put into the hands of every adoring and appreciative congregational member. (I’m dealing with it). And deep down under the impenetrable layers of envy lies a kernel of gratitude that he’s written so helpfully on this particular issue.

This book is terrific. And I’m not the only one to think so judging by the experts his publishers have lined up to espouse the valuable contribution this book has made to the Christian scene. Whoever was tasked with that responsibility has covered all the bases. The commendations read like a who’s who of contemporary evangelical leadership. Timmis, Jensen, Scott Thomas and Warnock. Some astute promoting has been going on there. Unless I’ve got it badly wrong that’s the Australian, American and European market covered and blogosphere to boot! And why not. If the book is half as good as they say it is, it deserves to be widely read.

‘Planting for Christ’ is not the definitive volume on church planting. It doesn’t try to be. And I’m not going to criticise a book for not being what it’s not trying to be! That would be absurd. Graham’s aim in this book is much more straightforward. He writes, ‘my simple hope is that this will aid anyone and any church wanting to think about planting a new church’ p10. It does that, brilliantly.

It’s introductory; and so don’t expect it to deal with absolutely everything you want to know on the issue. But it does map out the ground that you’ll need to cover in your planning. It’s brief; it only took me a couple of hours to finish and you may wish for more. But that means that it’s ideal to put into the hands of busy lay leaders who need to support any church planting initiative. And it’s helpful; it stimulated all sorts of productive trains of thought as I worked my way through it.

The book consists of two parts. In part one Graham explores the theoretical issues that confront us in planting. And in part two he provides case studies of recent church plants.

Part one consists of six chapters

  • Chapter 1 deals with the issue of why we should plant churches in the first place.
  • Chapter 2 deals with the issue of what types of churches we could be planting; he provides seven models.
  • Chapter 3 deals with the issue of how we decide which church planting model we choose.
  • Chapter 4 deals with the issue of the consultative process prior to launching a church plant.
  • Chapter 5 deals with the issues that church planting teams need to consider before they plant.
  • Chapter 6 deals with the issue of managing expectations both in those who join the church plant and those who lead it.

Part two consists of approximately 30 brief descriptions of recently launched church plants. They’re grouped under the seven different models of church plants given in chapter 2. This part was hugely stimulating, a little voyeuristic and strangely encouraging. It was striking that few of the UK church plants had experienced spectacular growth. Most were trying to grow through the gospel dynamic of relational Bible teaching and since that’s a deep long-term work numerical growth will take some time. It seems to be different in the States. In fact, those that grew quickest in the UK experienced most of their growth through student ministry. Most church plants started which was encouraging because in my small corner of the evangelical world we continually have to struggle against the perceived wisdom of planting with nothing less than 50, a full-time pastor and three years’ worth of funding. That rules out planting for all but the biggest and wealthiest churches.

If I had one criticism. And I suppose I ought to have one to show that I’m not totally biased. It would be that’s it’s a little too introductory. It’s just a little too lightweight for most church leaders. But at least they’ll read it. It does mean that it’s ideal to give to the elders who’ll be expected to support and finance the proposal. But Graham’s such a good thinker and clear communicator that I wish he’d pushed on for another 100 pages. I know there’s more to download; not only from his own experience of planting churches but also from his reading and thinking.

You can grab a copy here.

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