Category Archives: Reading on Church Planting

Mission Shaped Church

Mission Shaped Church book coverChurch Planting and fresh expressions of church in a changing context

Parish churches alone are no longer able to meet the needs of the highly mobile society of today. We need a range of expressions of church to engage with the variety of networks in our communities.

Mission-Shaped Church is a Church of England report, published in 2004. At the heart of the report is the need for a ‘mixed economy’ of parish churches and network churches in active partnership across a wide geographical area.

Most people do not naturally build their friendship circles on the basis of geography, choosing instead to rely on informal networks. In many cases people live in isolation, becoming consumers without community. ‘Fresh expressions’ of church are needed to connect such networks with Christian faith.

‘Fresh expressions’ generally occur outside the normal Sunday morning worship service. Most connect small groups and relational mission and relate to a particular network of people. Examples given include alternative worship communities, café church, cell church, churches arising out of community initiatives, school-based and school-linked congregations, traditional church plants, new monastic communities and youth congregations.

The Mission-Shaped Church report strongly recommends that fresh expressions become legally recognised by the wider church rather than be treated as an interesting experiment or project. Bishops (read Presbyteries?) are urged to broker the sending of fresh mission teams to cultures or areas where mission presence is thin or non-existent. The report pushes for the identification, selection and training of pioneer church planters, both lay and ordained.

Mission Shaped Church is available from Koorong or can be downloaded as a free PDF file from or bought at the Planning to Plant conference in Brisbane, February 15.

Also available: Mission-shaped Church: A Theological Response by John M. Hull, and Building the Mission-Shaped Church in Australia, by Alan Nichols.

Planting New Churches in a Postmodern Age

Ed StetzerEd Stetzer wrote “Planting New Churches in a Postmodern Age”, in 2003, providing ‘an instruction book for planting biblically faithful and culturally relevant churches’.

Ed has planted churches in New York, Georgia and Pennsylvania. He serves as the Missiologist and Research Team Director at the North American Mission Board in Alpharetta, GA (Southern Baptist) and co-pastor of Lake Ridge Church in Cumming, GA. Ed has a useful web site, NewChurches, focusing on church planting.

The book, “Planting New Churches in a Postmodern Age”, has six parts.

Part 1 – Basics of Church Planting

Stetzer deals with common objections to church planting in a North AMerican environment. He provides answers to those caught in a large church mentality, parish church mindset, professional church syndrome, “rescue the perishing syndrome”, and those who believe the “already reached myth”.

Ed continues by making the connection between church planting and missional theology. He contends that two parallel problems keep many believers from engaging with unchurched culture: a focus on techniques that ignores the substance of faith, and a focus on tradition that ignores accessibility.

Contemporary approaches to church planting are grounded by Stetzer in the examples of church planting found in the commissionings of Jesus and the work of the early church founds in the Acts of the Apostles.

Ed provides a few models for church planting, giving Biblical and contemporary examples, analysing the paradigm, principles, pros and cons.

  1. Apostolic Harvest Church Planter
    starts churches, raises up leaders from the harvest and moves to new church
  2. Founding Pastor
    Starts a church, acts as a ‘church planter’ for short time, remains long term to pastor the new church
  3. Team Planting
    Group of planters relocates into an area to start a church. Often the team has a senior pastor.

Part 2 – Basics of New Church Life
Stetzer looks at what it takes to plant a church. He looks at the role of teams, individuals, lay people, agencies and denominations, and churches. He draws on Charles Ridley’s thirteen categories that indicate likely effectiveness.

Ed advises new churches to carefully choose a structure before starting and try and stick to it. Constantly changing approach saps morale, he says. Congregational purpose should shape the leadership structure.

There’s a chapter on the daily responsibilities and schedule for planters, placing priorities on evangelistic outreach, sermon and study preparation, administration and ‘ministry’ that focuses on people who are likely to become ‘reproducing leaders’. He provides a helpful warning about ‘cultural fatigue’ and advises planters to meet weekly with a supervisor.

Stetzer identifies five roles that need to be filled before a public worship service can be launched (based on Bob Logan’s advice). 1. Pastor – charismatic leader and vision caster. 2. Worship leader responsible for a worship team. 3. Preschool Children’s Minister. 4. Assimilation Coordinator – involves church members and guests more deeply in the life of the congregation. 5. Evangelism networker – promotes activities to reach unchurched and assists other leaders in evangelism through their networks. 5. Spiritual Gifts Mobilizer – coaches peopls in identifying gifts and using them. Stetzer also identifies the critical role played by a ‘welcome coordinator’ and ‘financial organizer’. He warns against appointing new leaders quickly – new church plants attract people from other churches with an agenda.

Planting New Churches in a Postmodern AgePart 3 – Understanding Cultures and Models

Stetzer begins this section by identifying the cultures associated with the Builder and Boomer generations. When it comes to the next generations he cautions against making generalisations based on age cohort, choosing instead to lump them all together as ‘Postmoderns’. I’m not convinced about his arguments. True – predictions about future trends are often shown to be inaccurate. However it is helpful to explore the shared experiences and values being developed by emerging cohorts.

When it comes to exploring modernism and postmodernism, Stetzer draws heavily on Millard Erickson. He summarises the movement in the church and wider culture by writing about a shift ‘from text to interpretations’, ‘from Meta-narratives to Mini-narratives’, and ‘from External to Internal Truth’.

Stetzer contends that postmodernism as a worldview is antithetical to the gospel. He qualifies this statement however by distinguishing between ‘soft’ or ‘pop’ postmodernism and ‘hard’ postmodernism. Stetzer is interested in developing churches that engage with postmodern culture while remaining true to Biblical truth, to reach people who are culturally postmodern.
Stetzer asserts that successful ‘postmodern churches’ will be unashamedly spiritual, promote incarnational ministry, engage in service, value experiential praise, preach narrative expository messages, appreciate and participate in ancient patterns, visualise worship, connect with technology, live community, and lead by transparency and team.

Ed includes a chapter on ethnic church planting models, pointing out that in most denominational settings in the United States the majority of church planting is African-American or ‘ethnic’. He also includes a chapter on house churches, noting that some of his book is not relevant to that setting.

Part 4 – Church Planting Nuts and Bolts

This section covers the practical matters of choosing a focus group for mission, developing a core group, running small groups, finding and handling finances, and choosing a name and logo. He includes a chapter on evangelism, combining insights from the Engel Scale and the Gray Matrix to present the Stetzer Evangelism Journey.

Part 5 – Starting Off Right

This section is designed for new churches that head off into ‘launch mode’ with a public worship service. Stetzer writes about finding a meeting place, getting the attention of the media, launching the new church, worship, preaching, assimilation of new members, growth and children.

Daughter Churches

Church Planting The ManualI’m starting a series on models of church planting, using material from Church Planting: The Training Manual, by Martin Robinson and David Spriggs. The book, published in 1995, is out of print.

First post is on three ways of starting ‘daughter churches’, the most widely used model.

The concept of ‘daughter church’ usually implies a relationship of early dependence that may lead to independence or inter-dependence. Daughters usually grow up and leave home. They may share some of the genetic code of their parents but they always take on their own personalities and capacity to make decisions based on their own distinct set of values.

Planting in a surrounding neighbourhood
This model is usually used when a congregation recognises that there’s a critical mass of members who are travelling from a neighbouring area. This would be the most common model of church planting used by the Uniting Church, and the Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational denominations before union in 1977.


  • Easier to evangelise neighbours
  • Allows church to identify more closely with needs of area
  • Area may have strong sense of identity
  • Shared values and assumptions easier to develop with group who already know each other


  • Living in area does not necessarily mean call to join plant
  • Attraction factors for larger church may not be replicated in plant
  • Group may find it difficult to see new area with fresh eyes

New style of worship in same building or nearby
How to Start A New Service I would say that this is the most common model we’re working with today. With an increased awareness of subcultures, we’re getting used to the idea that there is no one ‘Uniting Church style’ for worship. My concern is that we’re still limited to models of worship that don’t mean a lot to the wider community. A useful resource is Charles Arn’s book, How To Start A New Service.


  • Reach a new group of people
  • Avoid unhelpful tensions in mother church
  • Pursue excellence in variety of styles


  • People artificially divided
  • Unresolved tensions transferred to mother-daughter relationship
  • Freezing of development within one church
  • Potential to overlook new people and focus only on style

Reaching Other Socio-Economic Groups
This model has the benefit of helping a congregation look beyond the ‘parish’ or ‘postcode’ mentality. In any given area there will be people who are open to exploring a connection with faith who may not have any affinity with the cultural setting of existing congregations in their area. Donald McGavran, missiologist, is well known for pointing out that people are most likely to explore faith with people in their own cultural setting. The crucial factor here is setting. Gym members and pub punters may never feel comfortable in a ‘church building’, unless it doubles as a gym and a pub.


  • Flexibility in language, music, worship style to reach across cultural barriers
  • People don’t have to leave their cultural group to become Christians


  • Danger of reinforcing barriers
  • Danger of cultural ghetto
  • Numbers may be too small to support a new church

Church Planter’s Toolkit

Church Planter's Toolkit CoverThe Church Planter’s Toolkit by Robert Logan and Steven Ogne, CRM USA. This is a series of 12 cassette tapes or CDs with notes for reflection and coaching, available from Direction Ministry Resources. Or even better, contact Duncan Macleod to borrow a set.

The contents cover

  1. Perspectives on church planting
  2. Verifying roles and mobilising your team
  3. Clarifying your church planting vision
  4. Developing your church planting strategy
  5. Evangelism and core group formation
  6. Facilities, finances and organisational issues
  7. Getting your ministries ready for birth
  8. Dynamic worship that’s seeker sensitive
  9. Expanding networks of cell groups
  10. Empowering leaders and lay leaders
  11. Lay mobilisation and ministry development
  12. Starting churches that reproduce

The Shaping of Things to Come

The Shaping of Things to Come by Alan Hirsch and Michael FrostThe Shaping of Things to Come by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch is an international book on ‘missional church’ written by Australians. Alan and Michael explore what it means to be missional, incarnational and contextualised. They tell good stories about missional initiatives that put these principles into action. In places they take a black and white approach to established and innovative approaches to church. However, they provide a useful prophetic resource for the whole church.

The book can be bought at a reasonable price from Koorong and Word Bookshops in Queensland.

Next Church Now

Next Church Now Book CoverNextChurch.Now by Craig Kennet Miller, United Methodist Church, USA, suggests that the primary evangelistic strategy for the 21st century will be to establish new faith communities – both in existing congregations and in new ones. Using the experience of the New Testament church at Ephesus as a guide, Miller challenges churches at the edge of the new millennium to rekindle a passion to minister with constantly changing groups of people in their community. Miller helps readers consider intimacy levels in group settings, developing a disicpleship system, developing a core team with core values and shared mission focus.

An appendix includes tips for leaders and reproducible tools that can help congregations create healthy, vital faith communities. “NextChurch.Now” concludes with a reflection on how to measure the success of a new faith community, reminding readers that the key to success is keeping the community focused on Christ’s call to ministry. (2000). The book is available from the MediaCom or directly from Discipleship Resources in the USA, and comes with recently updated material and a  CD Rom of resources.

Downstream Magazine

Downstream Magazine is an occasional publication of the NSW Uniting Church Board of Mission for anybody interested in issues facing new forms of church and new mission initiatives in post-Christian Australia. The latest issue was posted at the end of December, during my first week of leave. So this is my first opportunity to write it up.

This issue includes:

1. Why would anybody want to start a new congregation? Aren’t there already enough? A helpful outline of the need for new Uniting Church congregations.

2. “That would never happen in private enterprise.” Rob Hanks on ‘Worship Unplugged’ – an approach to worship that encourages people to start new initiatives appropriate for their context.

3. Brian McLaren, Mainline Theological Education and the Emerging Conversation. Darren Wright writes up Brian’s recent lecture at Princeton Theological College.

4. John Thornton writes on planting a new church

5. Conrad writes on how he starts new things.

6. Glen Powell writes a 2 -part article on a ‘new kind of gospel’, with a challenge on the “Frankenstein’ gospel. Definitely worth a read.

7. Glen Powell on starting a movement

10. Darren Wright on lessons from Steve Jobs.

The online zine has some great cartoons from Chris Morgan.