Planting Missional Churches

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Icon Oct 27, 2013

By Ed Stetzer. On Amazon

Overall thoughts: Presents itself as a comprehensive guidebook to church planting. Although a fair assumption that people reading this book would already be supportive of church planting activity, the first few chapters do a good job of building the theological and evangelical rationale.

Written with a firm North American target audience. Some of the details were a bit specific to that audience, but most of the content overall has broad application. Could do with a firm edit – several ideas and references are repeatedly mentioned. However the benefit of this approach is that it is easy to dip in and out of chapters without needing to have read all the chapters preceding.

I am not sure how I feel about the chapters on marketing and advertising  – firstly, the methods feel a little out-of-date – lots of talk about bulkmail and cold calling. Hardly any mention of online marketing, despite the benefits of geo-targetting and cost-per-click activity which makes it very measurable and cost-effective. Secondly (and more importantly), I think the message starting to feel like ‘use whatever means necessary to get more people to turn up on launch day’. Whilst I don’t think that is the overall argument, I would have appreciated more nuance and balance to the list of tactics that more helpfully promoted the role of personal relationship building and evangelism ahead of secular promotional methods. I am also slightly uneasy about the emphasis on numbers – the numbers at launch day, the ratio of core team/guests, the % and numbers required to be long term viable etc – all begins to feel like a numbers game and not distinct from a secular business. I understand the importance of numbers though, and found it all quite interesting; but these parts of the book did feel a little lost in the mindset of today’s business strategy.

Lots of helpful stuff to think through on vision casting, the predominant importance of prayer and preaching the Word, the concept of prenatal, birth and then after birth stages, systems for follow-up and assimilation… lots more.

Overall a really useful resource.

Totally unedited raw notes from each chapter:

Chapter 1 – basics of church planning

Goal – glorify God, grow his kingdom, develop healthy churches with new converts

  1. Missional – plant a church that’s part of the culture you are seeking to reach i.e. you are not only a church planter but a missionary i.e. this is the posture
  2. Incarnational i.e. being among people
  3. Theology (obviously!)
  4. Eccelesiological (church matters), and
  5. Spiritual – Christ centred, transformed by the gospel


Large church mentality. BUT new churches are more effective than large churches in evangelism

Parish-church mind-set. BUT new churches aren’t being planted to match population growth/changes

Professional-church syndrome. BUT professionals expect FT salaries and MAY be inverse relationship to education and evangelical effectiveness!
Rescuing perishing syndrome. Need to do both – revitalise and plant.
Unchurched myth. We need to assume people lack biblical worldview i.e our neighbourhood is mission field. Christendom has come to an end.

Chapter 2 – redeveloping a Missional mind-set

Recent emergence of megachurch movement, but no suggestion culture has been changed i.e. in being highly attractional, we have lost transformational edge.

Church planting movement gaining energy. Advantage of the edge of Christendom is that the gospel is now distinct from culture i.e. has more cut through

Christ’s metaphors for his kingdom are all modest ones – yeast, salt, light.

Don’t rework programs – rediscover mission – intentional and deliberate about reaching others (great commission)

Steer between staying distinct from culture, and not connecting with culture.

High biblical content with high cultural relevance (Hughes scale)

Become a futurist – look beyond culture now to see what is best for church in the future

Don’t focus on technique. Focus on making disciples.

Good theology should motivate evangelism.

We need to be exegete our culture, like Paul in Athens (Acts 17). What is the worldview, how does this culture view Christianity, what redemptive analogy works best for this culture etc.

The single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planning new churches.

Chapter 3 – the biblical basis of church planting

Church planting was normal in the life of early church – recorded in Acts, explains church growth through Roman Empire.

The biblical church is the one where the cross is the only stumbling block for the unchurched

Seek the unchurched (like Jesus)

Be like Paul (as he is like Christ) – personally prepared, evangelist, entrepreneur, team player, risk taker etc. “Everything to all men”

Chapter 4 – models of church plants and planters

Apostolic harvest – Paul, circuit riders – church plant to church plant

Founding pastor – Peter, Rick Warren – other planters may come from here

Planted pastor

Entrepreneurial planter – build, launch, reach out, move on

Team planting – gift mix, lead pastor

Chapter 5 – What makes a church planter

Patterns in NT

  • Teams
  • Individuals
  • Laypeople
  • Agencies and denominations
  • Churches

Assessment (SHAPE)

  • Spiritual gifts
  • Heart/passion
  • Abilities
  • Personality type
  • Experiences

Chapter 6 – church structure

Church is led by pastor-elders, some of whom teach. Bible full of flock images

Church governance should function like a human skeleton – as necessity for structure but invisible to naked eye.

Nothing can take the place of effective leadership.

Chapter 7 – Planter-Pastor leadership issues

Desperation is normal experience of church planning

Put prayer first

Weekly schedule

  • Outreach – 15hrs
  • Sermon prep – 10hrs
  • Administration – 10hrs
  • Ministry – 15hrs

Don’t focus on those that are available, focus on those who are reproducible

Culture shock in outreach focus – fish out of water

Thinking – need to help people think of themselves as missionaries. If I was dropped into this neighbourhood with the desire and mission to plant a church there in 6mths, how would I act?

Relationships make leaders. Wise leaders create learning relationships

Leadership is essential. Good preparation and support or no, God of eternity is faithfaul.

Chapter 8 – involving lay leaders

Laypeople must be involved before launch i.e. growing in the womb. Operational systems need to be fully functional by time of launch.

Don’t rush filling spots. Get right people. Limit leaders to those who are essential.

5 key systems (lay people ministries) – in addition to pastor:

  1. New member assimilation
    Help people connect and move more deeply
  2. Network evangelism
  3. Spiritual gifts mobilization
    Developing volunteers, match gifts and ministries. Focus on service
  4. Children’s ministry
    Start with preschool as priority
  5. Worship team
    Striving for level of creative excellence that will facilitate an authentic encounter with the creator of everything
  6. Welcome coordinator
    Forced socialised seating, interactions (3mins) etc
  7. Financial organiser

Chapter 9 – understanding cultures and models

Exegete the culture – study the culture to receive guidance for how to live in it

What is distinctive about our culture, our demographics

Chapter 10 – church planting in emerging culture

Focus on biblical faithfulness first, then an expression of that which is culturally relevant

Every cultural thing: either adopt, adapt, or reject

Emerging: no universal worldview. Church needs to reach postmodern people without being postmodern. Not knew – 1st century world was more pluralistic than even now.

We must be missionaries. World will not come to us.

Rejection of meta narratives like Christianity. So people reject Christianity because they feel it is imposing something unnatural on their own mini narrative.

10 traits of impactful postmodern churches (post seeker age)

  1. Unashamedly spiritual
    Generic spirituality that impacts all of life, not just 1hr Sunday service. Popular.
  2. Incarnational ministry – authentic, participatory. Not ‘is it true’, but ‘is it real’
    Don’t hear about Christianity, but see it in action. Therefore being Christian is not a label, but a real way of life
  3. Engaging in service. Volunteering is popular. Where can we make a difference?
    Programs with a purpose i.e. stop trying to impress with a show, but involve with acts of service
  4. Experiential praise. Worship (music) provides a way for people to participate.
  5. Narrative expository preaching. The power of story. People are used to complex stories. (Perhaps more in stories of Jesus than epistles)
  6. Ancient patterns. Connect people to the mystery. Backlash against seeker services
  7. Visualising worship. Not entertainment, but engagement. Not professional, but real
  8. Connect with technology. Use online to enhance interpersonal interactions.
  9. Living community. Church well placed to meet cultural need of community. There is no church without community. Community = love of God manifesting itself.
    Engage and allow spiritual journey to begin before conversion.
    Can’t fake it – reality of relationships. The pagan will not come to Christ until the love of Christ annihilates their worldview
  10. Leading by transparency and team. Participatory culture. Representative culture. Teams are messy and hard, but worth it.

Chapter 11 – Choosing a focus group (who will the plant reach?)

New church evangelism needs to be focused on people group. Church planter focused on everyone.

Focusing acknowledges that people come to Christ without crossing demographic boundaries.

Focusing helps… focus!

Every choice involves excluding some e.g. contemporary music, English language

Whilst evangelism focused, fellowship is NOT (revelation 7:9)

Use demographic data to make decisions


  • Who lives here?
  • Who are the receptive people? Vulnerable, in need, looking for connection?
  • Poll the community. Informal focus groups. Ask and listen.
  • Consider style, values, music, attraction etc.

Start with felt needs, but move to real needs.

Note that new churches attract low socio-economic

Whilst the bible determines the message, our audience determines when, where and how we communicate it.

Understand what the concerns are, objections are, stumbling blocks, and consider how to address them e.g. is church a cult, will it run all day, are the people wierd

Chapter 12 – a church planting fault line

Fastest growing Christian movement is nodenominationalism i.e. churchless Christianity. Fall of Christianity or revolution/reawakening?

A lot of it sounds good i.e. removing the gap between talking about Jesus and walking with Jesus.

E.g. house church, relation-based church, emerging church

A church is not just a meeting of Christians. It has more to it that makes it distinctive:

  • A covenant community. There are those that are part of it, and those that are not. Those that are part, have obligations to each other.
  • Meeting. Face-to-face
  • Biblical leadership
  • Ordinances. i.e. commanded celebrations. Baptism and Lord’s Supper
  • Preaching.

Missional church has overlap of 3 spheres:

  • Christology
  • Missiology
  • Eccelesiology

Abandon model specific vision, and answer the question of what ‘cultural containers’ will be most effective

Chapter 13 – Missional/incarnational churches

Rather than plan to plant a church, answer the question ‘what does following Christ look like’, and that is driving church planting.

The Missional church is about living out ‘who is Jesus’, not about being attractional i.e. ‘come and see Jesus’ rather than ‘come to church’

Sow seeds faithfully in the places God puts you, and pray and wait for the harvest.

411 example. NY city. Prayed and served for 18mths before opening a ‘church service’

Evangelical attractional church is extractional i.e. draw people out from their culture into a church culture

Missional/incarnational churches are slow. Therefore not paid staff. They don’t need strategy, time line, funding – the planters need jobs!

Dangers with this approach are that it lacks ecclesiology and therefore lacks a spine, but if it can find it’s church structure will keeping strong Christology and missiology, then it is good.

Chapter 14 – Koinos churches e.g. house church i.e. face-to-face relationship

Commitment to truly live life together

Note in much of the world, this kind of church is how God works. In USA, often people disgruntled with big church who go looking for this i.e. normal pattern is – when free to do so, Christian meetings grow in size, unless under persecution or difficulty when they shrink.

Koinos models have not proved very effective in breaking through into culture around them i.e. missiology.

Attraction to this model of church comes from it’s simplicity and faith. Church is just when people see themselves as church, and functions as a church.

Chapter 15 – Evangelism in Church planting

Intentionality. Develop a plan. If no plan, it just doesn’t happen.

CRM – prospect list. Record the time and nature of interaction. Takes 3 interactions to establish a relationship

Two way – people invests in unchurched, and the church invests in helping to lead people to Christ

Engel scale – way to measure people in process of coming to faith.
note that people average are moving further back on the scale in the West.

Stetzer Evangelistic Journey

The basic idea is seek to understand where people are in the process, to help them get to next stage.

With few exceptions, people come to Christ after they have journeyed with other Christians

Christian community is the greatest argument for, and the greatest argument of Christianity


  • Understand the worldview issues
  • Address those issues
  • Encourage the listener to consider Christian truth claims
  • Invite the listener to journey with the faith community
  • Invite the listener to make faith commitment

Us all tools at your disposal. The most effective are: commitment, hard work, and spirit-led prayer.

Chapter 16 – developing a launch team

Terminology of ‘launch’ rather than ‘core’ so that launch team don’t have to stay for long term.

Prenatal phase. Crucial for certain systems to be ready to operate effectively from day 1.

Launch to crowd ratio of 1:10.

Don’t dismiss door knocking e.g. 15,000 houses

All sorts of advertising and recruitment ideas – email, phone, mailers etc.

Core team must ‘sign on’ to mission, vision and values

Chapter 17 – Small groups

Acts 2:42-47 – fellowship, teaching/learning, prayer, worship, praise

Include – song, prayer, bible study, fellowship

Goal of 60% of church in small groups

Chapter 18 – Finding and handling finances

See this chapter for an example of a church planing proposal

People give to vision, not to need

You have not, because you ask note

Chapter 19 – choosing a name and logo

The only reason your church has a name is to appeal to outsiders

The only thing people may know/hear about your church is it’s name, so it needs to make a good impression

Name and logo must be inviting. It must ‘give permission’ for unchurched to attend.

Chapter 20 – Finding a meeting place

Schools may be obliged to allow themselves to be used by churches (at least in US)

Chapter 21 – LAUNCH – birth of a new church

Launch day is ‘birth’

Direct mail – will it work for my focus group? Not much competition in ‘church’ market. Great for exposure to local community. Leaflet drop
Design as ‘invitation letter’. Why not doorknock then as well?

Telemarketing – cause the church’s reputation to suffer?

Preview services – up to 3 prior, monthly.

In a postmodern world, is mass communication less effective. Personal relationships are best.

Churches that start big are more likely to maintain larger attendance throughout first 5 years of life. Is bigger better? Only in some ways…

Newspapers – local community paper – Yes! Local billboards etc.

Gather a large group – all people’s friends and family
BUT no more than 10x size of core group.

Chapter 22 – Worship in the new church

In this church age, ours is a mix of the faithful and unbelieving in our gathering.

Need to get the balance right between being ‘seeker friendly’ and edifying for believers.

Example of Willow Creek. Sunday is evangelistic event. Believers are edified in mid week groups

Good worship services should do all 3 (but in this order of priority)

  1. exalt God
  2. edify believers
  3. evangelise

Christ-centred, bible-based, spirit-led worship

Must be comprehensible to seekers, and make them feel comfortable, but not driven/shaped by these concerns

Remember though, the cross is not ‘seeker sensitive’

Effective evangelism takes place when God’s people authentically worship God.

Be clear that we accept, but not approve sin – hard to do.

Anyone can come to church, but coming to Christ requires radical life change.
Love as Christ loved, but call people to life-changing discipleship, just like Christ did.

Music – intense power in engaging spirit and transmitting truth
There is no such thing as Christian music, only Christian lyrics

Engage the heart and the mind.

Chapter 23 – Preaching in the new church

Transform lives with the truths of Christ’s life-changing presence.

Ground preaching in the biblical story of redemption.

Truth > application. Application comes from truth

Let agenda and shape of Scripture determine the message

Expositional – explain the meaning and intent of the Bible.

Don’t make statements and look to bible for support. Bible is central in setting agenda.
(not necessarily verse by verse preaching)

Preaching is a journey:

  • Start by making sure everyone knows where we are going, and why we need to
  • Build tension as to why we need to go there
  • Go to a passage of Scripture that addresses it
  • Stay there long enough till people understand it
  • Talk about what to do about it. application

Preaching in 3 questions

  1. Who is God
  2. Who is he revealed in this text
  3. What are natural inclinations to deny that truth

4 kinds of expositional preaching

  1. verse-by-verse
  2. thematic/doctrinal -a series over weeks
  3. narrative – this will grow. May be best suited to postmoderns. Jesus preached in this way
  4. topical – once off e.g. mothers day. not recommend. hard to capture full counsel of God

In early stages of church, messages will be more evangelical and ‘simple’, without being simplistic.

Purpose of sermon is not education but an encounter with God

The cross is enough to save, to heal, to give hope, to give peace, to give joy, to overcome all.
Get to the cross in every message. You don’t need to know it all, but you need to know and preach the cross.

Chapter 24 – Spiritual formation in the new church

8 characteristics of an incorporate member

  1. list 7 new friends (important that new Christians have 7 or else statistically more likely to leave)
  2. identify their spiritual gifts
  3. involved in at least one task/role/ministry
  4. involved in growth group
  5. regular financial commitment
  6. understand and identify with church goals
  7. regular attendance
  8. identify and take steps towards bringing others to church

Discipleship. Not by accident. Need a culture where this intentionally happens.

Without an intentional plan, the church will become ‘a mile wide and an inch deep’
Note distinction between what is said, and what is observed. What is observed trumps what is said.

Need for membership classes. They can actually be effective in evangelism (don’t assume people Christian)
L.I.F.E course example – takes through some of the steps above

The specific model is not as important, as that it occurs and is relevant and appropriate.

Encourage members to have balance, to do all 6 areas of Christian life

  1. Worship
  2. Ministry
  3. Evangelism
  4. Education
  5. Fellowship
  6. Missions

Note – need a program, and also need specific discipleship relationships

Set high expectations. People want to attach themselves to something bigger and better. People will rise to meet high expectations

Most unbelievers come to Christ during a time of crisis, therefore emphasis Christ as the ultimate stability

God uses disciple makers to sharpen and shape new disciples in Christ.

Chapter 25 – growth in the new church

The day after launch you need to start ‘growing’ – follow-up process is required

Prepare core group for the complexity of growing after launch e.e. some leaving, loss of control, pastor/planter focusing on new visitors instead of core group, risk of mingling with unchurched etc

Involve people – people who are busy rowing the boat generally are not the ones also rocking the boat.

Monthly leadership meetings – focused on recasting of the vision

Weekly need to be casting the vision before the church, in different ways, building credibility and momentum.

Peak-to-peak principle of casting a vision when you are at the top of one experience i.e. max attendance today, but let’s aim for bigger.

Valleys will come

Vision casting is vital – need to secure people’s confidence and involvement

Unlike establish churches whose size projects an appearance of stability and purpose

Chapter 26 – Children in the new church

The importance of children’s ministry – importance of imparting words of Christ, security, impact on parents, fun and educational, peace of mind. Preschool age most important

Chapter 27 – Congregational formation

This is about official (legal) recognition. Not essential.

Church plants from a mother church generally establish a relationship of interdependence

Chapter 28 – church planting churches

This about the role of a church in sponsoring church plants i.e. church planting churches. This is APC.
We want to create a tradition, a legacy of churches being planted.

We have some work to do in APC of casting the vision of church planting i.e. getting people to think as missionaries, seeing the evangelism of church planting etc.

The kingdom best advances through multiplication, not just addition

Disappointed when gifted church planters have not planted again after 3 years.

Need to communicate church planting vision through preaching i.e. through God’s word, not just ‘announcements’

Church must catch the vision, adopt it, and promote it as their own

Although many in the community may not attend a church, your presence represents God i.e. God’s ambassadors

Chapter 29 – Church planting movements – breaking the mold

Prayer, Jesus’ purposes and the spirits presence – the heart of church planting

Prayer, prayer, prayer – the best preparation.

Jesus will build, Jesus will purify: HIS church

Church = the ones who are called out.

Authors personal testimony of his church plant – Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Ps 127.

Characteristics of church planting movement:

  • Prayer
  • abundant gospel sowing
  • intentional church planting
  • scriptural authority
  • local leadership
  • lay leadership
  • cell churches
  • churches planting churches
  • rapid reproduction
  • healthy churches
    • worship
    • evangelism
    • discipleship
    • ministry
    • fellowship

Ephesians 3:20-21. He is able to do more. To him be the glory.