As a lot of you know, I’ve been involved in my share of church plants—a few successful ones, as well as a couple unsuccessful ones (that shared one foible in particular . . . more on that later). One of those successful ones started in our home, in fact; and later on, as I went through pastoral ministry training, one of the resources I ravenously absorbed was Bob Logan and Steve Ogne’s Church Planter’s Toolkit. Inspirational, but also “had been there,” and thus reassuring (because before things ultimately went right at said plant, everything went wrong; fortunately, God protects his vision).
Fast-forward some years later, as my pastoral ambitions channeled into the world of Christian publishing—and then, in the wake of a blown-up department, I got channeled into the world of freelancing. As it turned out, one of the first books I would work on in my new situation was The Missional Journey by Bob Logan. It was an honor then, and three books later, it’s an honor now.
And that brings us to this book—which revisits, revises, and refreshes many of the ideas from The Church Planter’s Toolkit for a new generation of church planters. As Bob himself puts it:
[W]hile the principles haven’t changed, a lot of other things have. The world around us and the situations in which we are planting have changed. The possible ways the church can look have changed. The way the church is perceived from the outside has changed. We are now planting churches in a world that isn’t looking for churches. It’s not (usually) that people are hostile to churches; they just have no category for them.
For these reasons and more, church planters need this book more than ever.
Robert E. Logan. The Church Planting Journey. 328p., $17.99, Logan Leadership.
It’s worth noting up front that two-thirds of the book is devoted to what ought to be happening before a church plant’s first service (whether public or private). But that’s not to say that church planters who have already “gone public” don’t have a lot to learn here. We all have blind spots that need to be addressed, if only in retrospect—and since many church planters don’t stop at planting one church, they’ll be that much more equipped for the next go-round, or more importantly, for imparting needed wisdom to first-time church planters.
The first steps before planting a church, of course, are making sure 1) that’s it’s really a God thing; and 2) that’s you’re (especially spiritually) ready for the task ahead. Thus Part 1, “Get Ready: Personal Commitment and Readiness,” focuses on personal preparation, addressing such issues as developing vision and values, confirming your calling, identifying and maximizing learning opportunities, gaining a better understanding of the church-planting process, and preparing for challenges and discouragement.
Part 2, “Get Set: Preparation and Planning,” gets into the nuts and bolts of actually beginning the church-planting process: building a core team, identifying the people you want to reach, designing ministries that will be effective once things get started (because once things start flying, it’ll be too late), establishing financial support, and developing a proposal to present to your sending church/denomination/organization.
In Part 3, “Get Going: Living Out the Mission,” things turn outward. This is where you’re beginning to make the contacts you need to get established, and to actually starting to create a distinct church body: casting vision, engaging the culture around you, making disciples, creating and multiplying disciplemaking communities (small groups, etc.), and finally (if it’s your church’s/group’s focus/intention), launching public worship services. As noted here, the latter chapter isn’t necessary for cell/house churches or for churches meeting in a restricted country, but most of you will have an interest.
Finally, Part 4, “Keep Growing: Ongoing Development and Multiplication” looks at developing the young church, its leadership, and beyond, including evaluating/developing the organization/church structure, strategic planning, navigating change as the church continues to develop and grow, and finally, successfully creating church multiplication.
Each of the book’s 20 chapters concludes with a Journey Guide that can be used individually, or far better, with your core group. Included are checklists to make sure you’ve covered each area of development thoroughly; a specific discipleship focus; strategies and discussion questions; and guided prayers for yourself, your team, and your intercessors (because trust me, if you haven’t got a group of people praying for this effort, it won’t happen).
Implicit in all of this is the need for accountability—which, not coincidentally, was the element missing in those failed church plants mentioned at the beginning of this review. The mechanisms and strategies here, if used properly and faithfully, will eliminate that problem—or at least give you the means to address it promptly, before it takes the entire church down.
In short, this is an essential book for church planters, at whatever stage of development you’re in. And if you need additional guidance, click on that Logan Leadership link above, because I’m sure Bob can help you with that, too.