Book Review: Global Church Planting: Biblical Principles and Best Practices for Multiplication

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In the last years there has been much attention to church planting resulting in innumerable books, blogs, networks and workshops. With only a few exceptions, these modern resources have separated church planting from missionary work. Craig Ott and Gene Wilson, through Baker Academic, have written Global Church Planting: Biblical Principles and Best Practices for Multiplication. Like the Bible, these two experienced cross-cultural church planters and academics do not separate church planting from missionary work. In doing so, they provide what will likely become a standard resource for the next generation of missionary church planters.

At 464 pages, Global Church Planting is broad in scope. Each of the four sections reads like its own book. Within each of those sections are not only chapters full of suggested methodologies, numerous case studies (including a study of Horizon’s work in Japan), and graphics explaining various views on planting churches, but also and extensive works section for further study if desired.

In the first section, entitled “Biblical Foundations,” Ott and Wilson bring ecclesiology and missiology together to show the planting of churches is God’s instrument to complete His mission to seek and save that which is lost. From that view they explain to readers, “Two aspects of the Great Commission as formulated in Matthew 28:18-20 entail church planting: the command to baptize and the command to teach obedience to all Christ commanded. These are virtually impossible to fulfill outside of planting churches.”

The second section is called, “Strategic Considerations” and is where Ott and Wilson make the point, “Reproduction must be intentional if the local church is to accomplish the full purpose to which it has been called and created.” This section may be the most challenging for those whose default plan and experience is the traditional pastoral church planting methods. The authors use Biblical precedent that church planting should not be focused on the one plant, but multiplying churches through a region. Biblical and recent experiential examples of  the apostolic methods of Paul are used as example of the best methods to reach the majority world of unreached peoples.

“Developmental Phases” is the third section of Global Church Planting in which Ott and Wilson take eight chapters to comprehensively explain the phases of a church plant. They provide much needed insight into the need for spiritual gifts and their place in planting of cross-cultural churches. They provide a concise discussion of the need to understand the intended church planting focus group before the work begins and how to implement it into the missionary team. It is also in this section where Ott and Wilson help define when a church planter or team is finished and should move on to another work. Because missionaries tend to stay too long in a work, the one chapter alone on knowing how and when to release a work is worth the $29.99 ($16.19 on Amazon’s Kindle).

The final section of Global Church Planting is called, “Critical Factors” and is focused on issues like the personal life of cross-cultural church planters, team development and short-term teams in mission. Ott and Wilson begin the section saying nearly three-quarters of missionary attrition is preventable. They then say, “Most church-planting books fail to address the personal dimensions of church planting, but our observation is that planters are just as likely to fall short because of personal inadequacies or an inability to work on a team as they are because of flawed strategy.” The section continues with discussions on spiritual and practical competencies related to church planters.

In Global Church Planting, Ott and Wilson borrowed heavily from the classic works of Rolland Allen and John Nevius from early last century, yet this book is not a ripoff or warmed over version of those tried and true textbooks of old. Instead they provide a modern text to help modern churches reach the final peoples with a Biblical view of church planting based on indigenous leadership.

Because of the scope, this volume will be valuable for church planting teams, church planting coaches, mission pastors and mentors. It will also be informative to those involved with short-term missions and all who would like to see a more rapid and effective spread of Bible based and Spirit led churches that are capable of reproducing Bible based and Spirit led churches. Because Global Church Planting is as much about ecclesiology as missiology and methodology, its best use may be as a church planting textbook, even for domestic planters, to compliment traditional pastoral and theological track studies. For those going to plant in an individual or team setting cross-culturally, it will be a great complement to Calvary Church Planting Network’s Church Planting Manual.

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