by Rick Pidcock
Planting New Churches in a Postmodern Age is a very unique book on twenty-first century church planting written by Ed Stetzer. He divides the book into six major parts. First, he begins with the basics of church planting. This section shows the objective biblical principles behind the legitimacy and need of church planting. He says that the approach to church planting in the United States should be a missions mindset, just as one would plant a church in a different country. After studying the Great Commission, he says, “The New Testament points to the fact that new churches and church planting are the direct and inevitable consequences of believer’s involvement in witnessing and proclamation.” After laying out the biblical basis for church planting, he then discusses the major models of church planting that are being used in the church today.
The second part of the book deals with the basics of new church life. Again, these chapters deal with fundamental principles in scripture concerning the church. He discusses what makes a church planter. Then he talks about church structure. After that, he discusses the relationship between pastor and lay leadership in a church planting situation.
The third part of the book transitions into the more controversial topic of understanding cultures and models. He dedicates six chapters to understanding how to most effectively reach the generation in which we live. He says, “Post-moderns need to be reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the current pattern of ‘church’ isn’t reaching them.” He says, “Why should we expect that postmoderns would wish to sit in a service geared toward older adults?” Thus, he proposes that “Church planters who are committed to communicating Christ, who are immersed in the postmodern culture, and who do not feel constrained by the traditional patterns of the ‘old’ church will be the best change agents.” He says that the key values of this type of ministry are, “Being unashamedly spiritual, promoting incarnational ministry, engaging in service, valuing experiential praise, preaching narrative expository messages, appreciating and participating in ancient patterns, visualizing worship, connecting with technology, living community, and leading by transparency and team.”
Part four moves back into less controversial issues such as the basics of evangelism, small groups, church finances, and choosing a church name and logo.
Part five deals with how practically to begin planting a church. He deals with topics such as finding a meeting place, advertising, and launching. Then he discusses issues such as worship, preaching, assimilation, growth, and children in the new church.
Part six concludes by briefly discussing the need for churches to plant churches. The goal of every church should be to plant more churches that can spread the gospel of Christ.
This book is extremely helpful in its objective topics such as the biblical basis for church planting, church structure, church finances, finding a meeting place, and the need for churches to plant more churches. In many cases, he simply shares objective biblical principles concerning church planting. It is also very strong in its push for churches to become more engaged with technology. He shares how the church can use modern technological advances in advancing the work of the gospel. For these reasons, the book is strongly recommended.
My main concern with the book, however, comes in its discussion of the church’s involvement with the culture in worship. He says, “The true objective (of worship) is to enable believers to encounter God in worship and the Word. The purpose of worship is also to allow unbelievers to observe the divine-human encounter and to yearn for their own personal relationship with God.” When first read, this statement may seem biblical. However, the true objective of worship is not a man-centered experience of God. The true objective of worship is to glorify God. We do not primarily pursue our experience or even the salvation of souls in worship. But rather, we pursue the glorious God Who satisfies His children and saves the lost.
He says, “Every church is seeker-sensitive to some degree. If we are worshiping in the local language, wearing local clothing, and singing music in the last one thousand years, we are using a worship style that is sensitive to those who attend…The real question is to what degree we will be seeker-sensitive.” This statement in and of itself is true. But we must remember as well that God’s glory must be our pursuit in worship, not cultural relevance. And as we pursue God’s glory, there will naturally be some cultural adaptation in our expression of worship. But cultural relevance is not our primary pursuit.
Planting New Churches in a Post-modern Age is an excellent book to read for its objective parts that deal with clear principles found in scripture. However, it could have had a more God-centered approach in its use of culture and worship. In the end, I would definitely recommend it for every potential church planter to read.
You can purchase the book online at Amazon.com.