The thesis of this book is to teach church planters to plant a biblical church in a local culture. This is essentially what he means when he uses the word “missional” throughout the book. In the preface he actually defines missional as “taking the approach of a missionary – being indigenous to the culture, seeking to understand and learn, adapting methods to the mission field – but winding up in the biblical form of a church.”
The rest of the book simply unpacks the above thesis and definition. Stetzer walks the readers through the church planting process and all along the way he explains how to be a “missional” church planter. He explains how to understand the current culture and some of the different church planting models. One of his key points is to understand the difference between an attractional church plant and an incarnational church plant. Therefore, all of his suggestions about how to go about the church planting process have this distinction in view. Missional churches “desire to show the love and care of Jesus Christ in [their] contexts and be Jesus there” (162).
Evaluation & Application
This book has a wealth of helpful information and advice in it that I could even imagine it being useful for church planters who prefer the attractional methodology to church planting. That is because there are some great chapters on some of the basics of church planting and its biblical basis. Stetzer has access to all sorts of helpful and informative research about church planting in North America that any church planter should find interesting. Much of the book is even practically helpful for church planters who might be at various stages. Whether they are still discerning their call, putting together a strategy, developing a launch team, dealing with administration, or looking for a meeting place there are a lot of helpful thoughts and suggestions.
I personally found the book useful in clarifying the model that I would prefer to use and it helped me see more clearly what kind of planter I probably am. It was also generally helpful in guiding my mind through the church planting process and thinking through the various aspects of leadership, administration, spiritual disciplines, and many other issues related to those first few years of planting a church. I see myself coming back to this book and re-reading some of the sections as we walk through the church planting process in Chicago these next couple years and I want to be refreshed about a particular idea or suggestion Stetzer gave in this book.