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Church Planting Is for Wimps

The book Church Planting Is For Wimps is not, as you might guess from the title, your typical approach to the topic of church planting.  As his subtitle notes, the author, Mike McKinley, admits that he is a messed-up person.  Immediately, the (honest) reader can relate.  McKinley served on the staff of Capital Hill Baptist Church, Washington D.C.  In 2005, God called him to revitalize Guilford Baptist Church, Sterling, VA.  This book is a recounting of how God used McKinley to accomplish this feat.

McKinley writes openly and honestly, with humor and insight.  He has a knack for keeping the reader involved in the story.  Of course, the title communicates much sarcasm since the book is the story of a church revitalization as opposed to a fresh plant; but McKinley in no way communicates disdain for church planting.  The book is a must read for those praying about church planting or revitalization.  While there are plenty of wisdom nuggets to be found in the book, I want to share the following three:

1)  Beware of contextualization: while certain aspects of contextualization have their place, it does seem to be the newest catchphrase for the “homogeneous unit principle”–you know, the “pick your social demographic and appeal . . . to them” (p.20) model.  This form of contextualization is problematic for at least two reasons: it caters to the flesh rather than the spirit, and it steers God’s people away from a gospel-centered unity.  As McKinley noted, “People favor people who favor them.  They favor goods and services tailored to their tastes and how they want to perceive themselves.  Niche marketing works.” (p.17).  But, as he went on, “if you look at what the Bible says on this subject, you’ll see that one of the glories of the gospel is that it reconciles people that could never be reconciled without it.” (p.18).

2)  The preaching of God’s word must be central: McKinley reminds us that if we fail to preach the word of God, then we fail altogether.  He wrote, “the one thing that Christians and non-Christians need is the Word of God.  It is alive and powerful, and it’s what our churches need.” (p.53).  He encourages the church planter to never allow the the preaching of the Word to be decentralized by a plethora of pragmatic and administrative details.

3) Beware of “obessing over church size”: McKinley spoke plainly on this point, “Let me be straightforward.  The obsession with church size is killing many church planters.  I used to drop in occasionally on a gathering of local church planters.  There was a running tension in the group–everyone either subtly bragged about the size of his church (while trying to seem like they weren’t) or made excuses for it.” (p.107).  He warns us of the clear and present danger of numberitis.

While these three points fall short of all that Church Planting Is For Wimps relates to the reader, they do serve as a launching point for those interested in further helps in the arena of church planting and revitalization.

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta

9marks, church growth, church planting, contextualization, nine marks

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