Church Planter: The Man, the Message, The Mission is the latest book from the Re:Lit branch of Crossway Books. Written by Darrin Patrick, VP of the Acts 29 church planting network, it is essentially a church planting primer, or a boot camp in a book, or a field manual for those already deployed, depending on your current situation.As the subtitle suggests, the book is broken down into three parts that focus on what Patrick considers to be the key elements of planting and leading a church.
Before we even get into the main material, it is worth mentioning the introduction to the book. Here, the culturally sensitive issue of gender exclusivity in church leadership is raised and handled, in my opinion, very well. Though it would be nice if everyone agreed on all matters of Christian practice, that is not going to happen any time soon short of Jesus returning. As such, we need to handle our differences with grace. Darrin holds to a complimentarian stance, whereby the office of elder is held exclusively by biblically qualified men. He has existed both literally and intellectually on both sides of the debate and offers his position with grace and conviction – no easy task! Unlike some who hold similar positions, he does not exclude women from acts of ministry themselves, only from the office of elder. Women are free to prophecy, pray, serve, even teach, but not to lead as elder:
There is absolutely no indication in Scripture that gender plays any role in God’s sovereign distribution of spiritual gifts. (p.15)
I believe women can use any gift that God has given them in the church and that only the office of elder is reserved for men. This may seem paradoxical, but I think it is biblical. (p. 15)
The argument on teaching, briefly, is that the majority of teaching will be done by elders, therefore men, and that all elders are meant to be capable of teaching, but not all teaching must be done by elders. Elders are to oversee, shepherd and guard, so non-elders can do the same ministry actions (e.g. teach), but elders are responsible and ultimately accountable.
At the end of the day, Darrin makes a good case that, even if you disagree with his position about gender and church leadership, statistics are showing we have a problem to face about men in general and men in the church specifically.
The key points are that men are staying boys longer in both their actions and attitudes, and that older men are not mentoring these “Bans” (boy/man) to raise them into godly men quickly. As such, we have a dearth of biblically minded, gospel-orientated men and something must be done. So whether you’re in agreement with Darrin, or whether you think he’s wrong, the reality is that something must be done to not only retain, but to train men to lead effectively in the church. It’s a pretty compelling argument for reading the book regardless of doctrinal position on this point. For the sake of this review, I will be sticking with the use of ‘he’ when referring to the elder/pastor/undershepherd.
The Man - Ministry is more than hard. Ministry is impossible. And unless we have a fire inside our bones compelling us, we simply will not survive. (p.30)
The first section of the book deals with the church planter himself, and the kind of person he needs to be both in terms of qualification and potential success. If balance between theology and practicality is highly favored, this first section is the most likely to please you (theology gets the main drive in The Message and The Mission gives it all some legs, though none of the book is lacking in both elements). Patrick deals with the type of man, the confirmation and testing of his calling, his character and his ability to lead/shepherd well. It is a high standard that Patrick holds to and a thoroughly Biblical one at that. For anyone considering their calling to pastoral ministry, stare long and hard in this mirror and make sure that you are really called!
The Message – He went from the God of heaven out there to being the Lord of earth right here. God took the theory of his love for his people and wrapped it in skin and blood and gristle and bone. (p.107)
In the second section, the central message of the gospel is unpacked and its implications for p (more…)