| Discovering Church Planting by J. D. Payne is an oustanding resource for church planters, seminary students, churches involved in church planting, and everyone else who has a vested interest in planting churches at home or abroad. It is comprehensive, easy to read, structured well, and simple to use for reference. Before going into more detail, I want to point out that while I don’t agree with everything in this book (i.e. baptistic ecclesiology), I still think Discovering Church Planting is an exceptional book.
In part 1, Payne discusses the biblical and theological foundations of church planting. He deals with relevant NT passages, the Holy Spirit’s role in church planting, prayer, spiritual warfare, evangelism, and discipleship. Here he also mentions leadership development in church plants. Concerning evangelism, Payne notes how church planting and evangelism go hand in hand (bathed in prayer, of course!). In this part, the discussion of discipling new Christians was also quite helpful, in my opinion.
Part 2 is the section on strategies of church planting. Here Payne discusses the pros and cons of certain strategies as well as the receptivity of the area in which the church plant exists (i.e. ‘hard soil’ v. ‘soft soil’). The section on contextualization was especially helpful in part 2. Though there is more to it, basically church planters or plant teams need to think like missionaries and get to know the customs, cultures, languages, and so forth of the area in which the church is being planted. In this part Payne also mentions the mother-daughter church plant relationship.
Part 3 in my opinion was the weakest section – the historical paradigm section. Payne talked about the Morovian missionaries, the Methodistic church planting in frontier America, and Baptist church planting movements. I would have liked some other examples here, but I realize Payne is writing from a certain perspective, so I can’t be too critical. This was one of the first church plant books I’ve read that had any historical depth, so I am glad he at least mentioned these.
Part 4 is a great section. Here Payne talked about a church planter’s family. He also talks about methods of church planting, objections to church planting (a great chapter!), and urban church planting. I appreciated the section on tent-making ministry (bi-vocational church planters), since this is one thing about church planting with which we should become more familiar. Payne also mentions finances in this section, along with some other modern issues in church planting.
In summary, I honestly can’t recommend this book enough. Again, as with all non-inspired books, it isn’t perfect and you might not agree with it all, but I think this should be required reading for church planters, missionaries, elders, and core groups involved in church planting. Though it is long (c. 450 pages), it isn’t tough to read and there are helpful summaries and discussion questions at the end of each chapter. This could be split up into an oustanding 12 (or so) week training course for elders and church planters. Also, the church planting bibliography in the appendix is very helpful. No matter what theological tradition one might belong to, Discovering Church Planting should be on the shelves of serious Christians involved in planting churches.