Purpose - This book chronicles the beginning years of Mars Hill Church. Driscoll wrote this extremely transparent book to help others with their ministry. It's not hard to find a book that is extremely honest about mistakes made in church planting. Rarely, though, is the book written by the church planter.
Who will benefit from the book? Those curious about the process involved in starting Mars Hill, or just a church in general. It's very honest regarding the things a church planter has to work through and the challenges that are faced. Those seeking information about cultural changes and different responses to them will find this a helpful introduction. This book is certainly not perfect though (namely because it was written by a human and humans tend not to be perfect). For anyone who has a huge beef with Driscoll already, I was advise against reading this book. You are likely to be jumping on every point of disagreement while missing the good insights the book does offer.
How will they benefit? This book will prepare you for some of the challenges face in church planting. It also will help guide you through the often painful process of reaching people and growing the church for the grace of God.
Where does this book fit into the process of ministry design? God is an infinitely creative God, so it is doubtful that anyone's church planting story will or should look like Driscoll's. The book would be very useful to those starting a church to ensure that they've thought through some key issues. This book would also be useful to pastors who wake up to find that their church is stalled, in decline, or is having a hard time breaking through to the next level. I wouldn't follow this book like a blue print, but it certainly provides some helpful points. If you are desperate or time deprived, then perhaps read a book specifically on the subject. If you want a fascinating book to pull you through the points, then this book would provide that.
Aha Thoughts? "Our church was not the people we had but primarily the people we did not yhet have, and I needed to go get those people. I'm still not sure if most pastors are aware that their churches are comprised of peple they don't know yet."
"With things going so well, I feared we'd get too comfortable, and so I decided it was time to blow it all up, create some strategic chaos, and start over yet again" (please read the book for crucial context).
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
1. Most existing churches aren’t cutting it – Gallup polls from 2002-2005 provide the rather depressing statistic that 40-44% of Americans attend a place of worship on a weekly basis (please note that I do not confuse attending church with repentance and salvation in Jesus. I think it is reasonably safe to assume though that not too many regenerate people sit out of church for years on end). However, David Olson, author of The American Church in Crisis, states that only 17.5% of Americans actually attend a church of any type. Church attendance in 2006 totaled 51,668,200, while the population grew by 51,773,556 people between the years 1990 and 2006! Grab the Prozac! Clearly the American church is not even keeping even with the population growth, much less gaining on it. A noted church planter, Albert Einstein, famously said insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Maybe it’s time for some new gospel-centered churches.
2. Most existing churches are aging – Aging churches are like aging bodies. Eventually they break down. God’s universal church remains invincible and unthreatened, but the local manifestations of God’s church all have a life cycle. 57% of the churches over 40 years old are in decline (Olson, 84). The older a church is, the better the chances are that the church is not fulfilling the Great Commission purposes for which that church actually exists.
3. Church plants reach more people – Yes, new churches are actually better at reaching lost people with the Gospel. Ed Stetzer’s research suggests that a new church reaches 10 people for every 100 members in its first year. Churches that are 15 years old only reach 3 people per year. Seems like existing churches get comfortable, or perhaps a spiritual version of amnesia.
4. Church plants are more focused on Great Commission work – Church planters of gospel churches are inherently focused on reaching people. Why? Because they don’t have anyone except their wife and a couple of snotty-nosed kids (unless they are smart enough to recruit a team, but that’s another tangent). The church planters look at the risk, and take the plunge. All their energies are focused on the power and spread of the gospel. Compare this to an existing church. They fight to maintain their culture instead of striving to promote the gospel. They start sniping at their allies and ignore their enemies. The big focus of the calendar year is making sure that the Christmas party comes off well and that the electric bills get paid. Sure, there are fine examples of churches that keep a Great Commission focus, but it seems too many churches become consumed with their particular breed of Christianity. When a church loses its Great Commission focus, it quickly degenerates into a social/humanitarian club. Church plants don’t have that luxury.
5. Church plants are apostolic, or at least Pauline – Hopefully it’s apparently clear by now the necessity of planting church in order to make disciples of Jesus. Here’s a bonus though. Church planting is Pauline! In Romans 15:20 Paul states “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.” The world needs to be reached. Your neighbor needs to be reached. Paul’s solution…. preach the gospel, start churches.
I’m not here to bash established churches. I love them. I’ve benefitted from them. The question is, “why do you love them?” Is it comfortable? Is it “safe?” Does it have all the established programs to cater to your desires? If your church isn’t focused on Great Commission purposes, or if you can’t focus on Great Commission purposes while there, then it’s time you consider starting a church.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Purpose - The subtitle of this book is "Helping Church Planters become Movement Makers." That pretty much says it all. Stetzer and Bird largely assume that if you are a Christian that you are interested (or preferably involved) in church planting. The purpose of Viral Churches is to "inspire and help you develop a church multiplication movment--an exponential birth of new churches that engage lost people and that replicate themselves through even more new churches" (5).
Content - The book leads you on a mental journey from your status quo (church planting, finers crossed) to the author's preferred reality (church multiplication). Each chapter is dedicated to one specific concept, and the authors have kindly included an example of a church or movement that they believe exemplifies this principle. This book discusses the need for church multiplication, the necessity of evangelism, and the dire lack of leaders in the church. The church needs to actively develop leaders if it is going to have the capacity to reach this generation. Viral Churches also discusses the process of training, launching, and streamlining networks of churches.
Analysis - I loved the fact that they weren't trying to shove one method or one group down your throat. There is definitely room for such books, but it wonderful to read a book that was much more concerned with the destination than the precise path traveled. Chapter 6 demonstrates that proper recruitment, assessment, and deployment all contribute to the viability of a church plant, but shows a variety of way by which each of these points can be accomplished.
Who will benefit from the book? Any pastor or church planter who is concerned about the growing population of the globe and the current inability of the church to keep pace will benefit from this book. Those who already have this burden will benefit greatly from the mechanics and examples that Viral Churches provide.
How will they benefit? This book will radically transform your vision of what God could and desires to accomplish in this world. It will give some practical suggestions for making this possible. It also identifies some pitfalls that will thwart even the best of intentions.
Where does this book fit into the process of ministry design? Any pastor who is looking for what God has called their church to do in this lifetime should consider reading this book. Church planters are more likely to adopt the principles in this book as they are already vested in starting a new work of God rather than maintaining existing works. These concepts might be rather daunting to those in previously established works as it is so far from the realm of their thinking, but if you find yourself in this category, it's probably all the more reason that you should read this book.
- The concept of deliberately building church multiplication into your DNA from the very first day was revolutionary.
- One impediment to church multiplication has been the development of a professional clergy that limits ministry to the ordained.