Many thanks to Baker Publishing for sending me this review copy: Global Church Planting by Craig Ott and Gene Wilson (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011).
This book is difficult to review because it is an in-depth manual that covers nearly every aspect of church planting. I’d love to discuss all the details in-depth here, but the review would be much too long. Instead, I’ll give a summary of the contents and my brief reflection on the contents.
There are four main parts of this book: 1) biblical foundations of church planting, 2) strategic considerations of church planting, 3) developmental phases of church planting, and 4) the critical factors of church planting. There is an appendix which contains a helpful bibliography and topical index but (sadly) no scripture index. I appreciated the many real-life examples of church plants around the world, which helped the authors explain the different nuances of planting. I also liked the charts and helpful diagrams throughout the chapters. The book is well written, concise, and the subdivisions in the chapters make for easy reading. That being said, the book is not really a layperson’s guide to planting; it is a 450 page manual aimed at the serious “student” of church planting. This is the ideal book for a seminary setting or an advanced course on planting churches. In fact, of all the church planting books I’ve read, Global Church Planting tops my list for these advanced training settings. Having been a church planter, I wish I had read this (or something like it) before I did the tough work of church planting (I have a good excuse for this one though, since it just came out a few months ago).
More on the four parts. In part one Ott and Wilson discuss many different biblical texts that deal with missions and church planting. They answer questions that have to do with the church in general, reasons for planting churches, church planting in Acts, and other such topics. Part two is about historical church plant movements and methods, including those of John Nevius, Roland Allen, David Garrison, and movements from countries around the world. In this second part the authors also talk about different types of church planters, contextualization, and church plant methods such as mother/daughter, teams, house churches, and indirect church plants (among others). Ott and Wilson also give historical examples of all these types in this section. I appreciated this because I do believe church planters in our culture, for example, can and should learn from those in other cultures (past and present).
Part three has to do with the phases of church planting – from the beginning to the end. The authors talk about demographics, targeting, commissioning leaders, launching, structuring, discipling, and other issues like these. This part is the longest part of the book because it has to do with the nuts and bolts of what it means to start a church plant and keep the work going until it is an organized local church with leadership structure in place. Part three was outstanding because the authors realized the need to be flexible in growing a church plant – there is not one cookie-cutter way to “do” the church plant process.
The last part (part four) talks in more detail about the church planter himself, including what spiritual gifts are needed. Rightly, the authors noted that not everyone who wants to plant a church is cut out to do so. There is also a chapter which discusses the dynamics of church planting teams (sometimes called the “core group” or even “the steering committee”). Ott and Wilson also give more details in this part about developing leaders in the church plant, as well as partnerships in church plants and the possibility of bi-vocational church planters.
Though my review may make this book sound like a dry technical manual about planting churches, it is not that at all. The authors frequently talk about the main point of planting churches: to preach the gospel and make disciples so God’s name is praised. There is also much emphasis on the fact that the Holy Spirit is the one who does the true “work” in church planting, along with a continued emphasis on the need for church planters/teams to pray without ceasing. Throughout the book there was an oustanding balance between depending on God in the church plant process and being prepared, trained, and ready to do the tough work of planting a church.
I’ve read quite a few different books on church planting, and to be honest, this is at the top of my list. Of course I didn’t agree with everything in the book, and I’m sure most readers will disagree with some things in it, but it is so comprehensive, well written, and helpful that I cannot seriously imagine anyone giving this book a bad review. No matter what historic Christian denomination you identify with, you’ll be able to benefit from this book. If you’re thinking about church planting (or any sort of mission work), and if you want a solid, in-depth textbook in this area, I would highly recommend this book. This is one resource I will be using and recommending for many years. If you get it, be sure to read it with a notebook handy so you can make notes along the way.
By the way, I’d love emails/calls about church planting methods, strategies, and pitfalls, so feel free to contact me about these things any time.