What do Tim Keller, Ed Stetzer, Albert Mohler, Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, Larry Osborne, Dave Ferguson, and Mark Batterson have in common? They (and many others!) wrote reviews for Darrin Patrick, Vice President of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network, in his first book, Church Planter: The Man, The Message, and The Mission. Whether or not I thought church planting would be in my future (which I do), the book had to be read on the basis of the wealth of reviews from respected voices!
While Church Planter is not an exhaustive resource, it serves as a fantastic guide for future and current church planters as well as those in pastoral ministry. The book, at 238 pages strong, is a systematic introduction of sorts to church planting methodology, and more than that, the man behind the methods. With regards to the church planting man, Patrick covers an array of topics such as what kind of man it takes to plant a church, how one should understand the call to ministry, what the primary responsibilities for a church planter are, the place and priority for giftings, and more.
Patrick’s heart for the Gospel must not be under-celebrated. It’s so exciting to see a man speak of Jesus with joy, gratitude, reverence, and relevance without softening the message or bowing to polemics. Patrick’s intentions are clear, “Salvation is the first and most important qualification for Christian ministry. Without it, nothing else is possible…” (26).
I thoroughly enjoyed Patrick’s book for a number of reasons. The strong emphasis on the man behind church planting (over 40% of the book) was refreshing, challenging, and eye-opening. Furthermore, I loved Darrin’s approach and voice. Darrin is a no-nonsense guy. He’s been and is still clearly in the trenches of daily ministry. I don’t know if I could stand to read another church planting book by a guy who hides away in the recesses of his office. Where others would put forward theoretical CPM (church planting movement) strategies that may work, Patrick speaks openly, yet confidently about what has worked well and what really matters most.
Content-wise, I wish the value of empowering lay people was mentioned. The book gave appropriate emphasis for the pastorate, and some for delegating as a “relief” strategy, but little vision for empowering people as a massive part of ministry. These days, one of the larger problems church planters face is the issue of becoming the “Pastor Rock Star” (see Stetzer’s article). The pulpit is not the place for an exegetical dunking show, as Steven Furtick says. Now, I know the book could not be exhaustive, but I do wish something could’ve been mentioned about the nature of empowering people. Also, while I enjoyed the story behind Mission: St. Louis, the entire chapter (Chapter 16) was inconsistent with the content of the rest of the book. Lastly, the nearly three page discourse on Patrick’s vasectomy was also a bit unnecessary and distracting.
Overall, get it if you think you’ll be in church leadership one day. Patrick has much you can glean from.
If you’ve thought you might plant a church one day, this book will serve you well. It’s not the be-all end-all church planting book, but it’s undoubtedly a great resource!