Planting Growing Churches (Malphurs)

  Last week I did a brief review of J.D. Payne’s helpful book on church planting.  This week I’ll take a short look at Aubrey Malphurs’ Planting Growing Churches (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004).

First, some technical details.  The book is just over 400 pages long and contains a topical index but sadly no Scripture index.  The book is not overly technical or difficult to read.  The structure is threefold – 1) the preparation for church planting, 2) the personnel of church planting, and 3) the process of church planting. 

The appendix includes a detailed church planter’s questionnaire as well as essays on mobilizing the core group, evangelism methods, establishing small groups, contextualization, and understanding postmodernism.  The essays in the appendix bring out some issues the church plant will have to wrestle with from the outset.  One small but important note: since the book is a few years old, Malphurs doesn’t spend much time on how the church plant can effectively use technology such as the internet.

Second, the book does have its weaknesses. I didn’t appreciate the independent approach to church planting.  The book is for independent congregationalists planting independent congregational churches.  Malphurs is basically writing for a person who wants to plant a church almost in a lone ranger style.  To be fair, he does talk about mother/daughter church relationship, but it is not at all a major emphasis.  Being Presbyterian in my ecclesiology, I believe the book is very weak in the area of church polity and ecclesiology.

Another area of disagreement I have is Malphurs’ discussion of worship in a church plant.  His view is, basically, “do what the majority of the people in the surrounding culture want to do.”  He really doesn’t have any principles of biblical worship; of course this is an extension of my first critique.  I suppose this also has to do with the fact that Malphurs isn’t writing from a confessional standpoint.

Third, despite my major disagreements, I do think this book is worth getting for the following basic reason: Malphurs covers the bases well.  He talks about finances, demographics, leadership qualities, core group formation, cultural issues, membership, discipling, outreach, advertising, church planting in teams, and of course, the Great Commission.  I appreciated his section on evangelism, saying that “making disciples” must be at the heart of the church plant’s mission (and onward into the future).  The church planter’s questionnaire is a great worksheet for planters to go through before planting a church.  Though I don’t agree with all he has to say about contextualization, he did bring up some great points for planters to think about.  His sections on vision and mission statements, though quite detailed, were helpful.  Church plant(er)s will benefit from this book simply because it will get them thinking in areas about which they need to think!

In summary, though I do have significant critiques of this book, I recommend it for church planters.  I’d go ahead and tear out the appendix on worship, read up on solid confessional polity, and approach the book as a student of church planting.  Though you might not think it’s the best book on church planting, you’ll most likely be glad you studied it.  FYI – if I had to pick between the two, I would take Payne’s book over this one by Malphurs, though if you can, get both.

shane lems