As you might be able to tell from the cover, this is a book that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The author writes in a very conversational, humorous style that is a pleasure to read, while covering some weighty topics and revealing some deep truths about the nature of ministry in general, and church planting in particular.
This book is not a “how-to” manual for starting a new church. Rather, it is a very personal book telling the author’s own story. Mike McKinley did not actually plant a new church. He did something much harder. He went into a small, all-but-dead church to revitalize its ministry. This is where the title of the book originates. Someone once told the author that “church planting is for wimps”, because those starting a new church can set things up however they like from the get-go. Comparatively, revitalizing a dead or dying church is much more difficult.
McKinley makes clear, however, that this is not really his position on church planting. ALL church planters are doing a great work, and though the challenges are different for planters and revitalizers, they are both God-sized tasks that are accomplished through “wimps” who ultimately can do nothing of eternal value on their own. As the author says, “God is more passionate about spreading his gospel than we are. We only need to be passionate about following his lead and trusting him for his provision.”
What I appreciated most about this book was the author’s high view of the church, and the optimism with which he approaches small, “dead” churches. Too often, Christians are content to see small churches with no visible “fruit” in a way that seems content to let them just die. Those with a passion and vision for reaching communities that have no effective witness for Christ usually focus on beginning a new church from scratch. While this is admirable, McKinley shows that revitalizing a dying church accomplishes a double purpose. It not only creates a new, effective witness, but removes a bad one.
He walks us through the difficulties (and they are many) of doing something like this. He devotes an entire chapter to the pitfalls that church planting can have on the wives and children of church planters, encouraging them to find a support structure of other pastors in the area, and to build into their churches a foundation of lay leadership to help bear the burden of ministry.
While this book is geared toward revitalizing smaller churches (the church he lead had twelve attendees when he arrived), many of the specific things McKinley addresses will find application in churches of all sizes… which one might expect from a 9Marks book. His emphasis is first and foremost the preaching of the gospel, but with a strong focus as well on “establishing a clear membership list, adopting a concise and solid statement of faith, and establishing biblical leadership.”
By laying the groundwork for effective church governance, he placed the church in a position to grow (spiritually and numerically) and minister to others without tripping over itself. While church marketing strategies come and go, God’s Word remains the same. Building the Church on this foundation will always bear “real” fruit, which can’t be said for the ideas of men, no matter how brilliant they may be.
The key to all of this working is the cultivation of leaders. McKinley lists five qualities that are essential for men to become leaders in the church:
- He should be godly.
- He should be theologically solid.
- He should do a good job leading his family.
- He should be involved in the church.
- He should understand what makes Christian leadership distinctive.
This book will make a great read for anyone interested in planting or revitalizing a church, someone currently pastoring a small church, or those in ministry who would like to support the work of church planting. Buy it here.