Book Review: “The Leadership Ladder – Developing Missional Leaders in the Church”

Steve Ogne is a pioneer in developing resources for church planters, and has provided another excellent resource for pastors and planters. In the “Leadership Ladder” the authors provide a meaningful practical tool to develop disciples and leaders who can reach the lost and make mature disciples. One of the great benefits for church planters would be to better understand the issues and develop a culture from the inception of the church that was intentional about leadership development.

We are all aware that there is a crisis in the church in regard to development of mature disciples who are capable of reaching the lost and then making mature followers of Christ. Most proclaimed Christians have never shared their faith [the gospel], don’t engage unsaved people in the culture around them [live missionally], and have no idea how to make mature followers of Christ of new converts. This book is a valuable resource to help change the dynamic and offers a helpful model as a new paradigm.

The authors provide a practical “how to” toolkit that likes the process to a ladder. The sides that support each rung are Biblical knowledge and Biblical character. The book provides practical ideas to ensure these foundational aspects are addressed properly. You’ll likely learn some new skills to ensure that Biblical knowledge is actually being developed in the local church. As Calvary Chapel pastors we can erroneously assume that because we teach the Bible in verse by verse that people in the local church are actually growing in their understanding of theology in a meaningful way. Similarly the need to develop and ensure that the church is growing in Christ-like character is extensively addressed.

The book provides tools to help Christians engage the unsaved people in the culture they live in. The next step up the ladder is the process to make disciples who can make disciples. Once that skill has been learned and applied the next rung is to mobilize Christians for ministry. Then we learn to train those disciples who are mobilized for ministry to effectively lead ministry. The final steps are learning to effectively lead leaders and then to plant churches. Throughout the book the authors provide very practical advice and insights from a plethora of Christian leaders on how to put the principles to work.

I’m blessed to serve at an established church where I believe the majority of the principles have been and are being addressed. Nevertheless, the practical and comprehensive nature of the book has convinced me that this is a must read for our leaders. In the context of a new church plant I believe that it would be especially advantageous to develop this type of process as part of the church’s DNA from the beginning of the church through its maturation. So, I highly recommend this resource to you.

Pastor Bruce Zachary planted Calvary Nexus in Camarillo, CA and is the director of Calvary Church Planting Network. Many of his resources are available for free online, including Kingdom Leaders and the Church Planting Manual. You can follow Pastor Bruce on Facebook and Twitter @BruceZachary.

Book Review: “Spark: Igniting a Culture of Multiplication”

Exponential Director Todd Wilson has a passion for church planting and advancing God’s Kingdom. In “Spark: Igniting a Culture of Multiplication” he provides practical and inspirational insights to help shift the culture from addition to multiplication. Todd helps church leaders to better understand the tensions between their current culture and a desired reality of multiplication. Then we learn how to navigate those tensions to a desired destination.

Todd challenges us to discover what culture we are actually creating. Not the culture you want to develop but rather the real culture leaders create by the thinking, action, and models we pursue. Most new churches struggle to be viable and tend to create a culture that focuses on surviving and avoiding subtraction. The struggle to move from infancy to adolescence reinforces a culture that focuses on addition. The addition culture measures success by accumulating. The metrics include financial resources, attendance, facilities and the number of weekend services and scope of ministries offered. Todd presents a model to shift towards multiplication. We must develop a micro strategy that develops the local church (addition) and simultaneously a macro strategy for multiplying your impact beyond your local context.

The book documents the lack of present day churches focused on multiplication. Less than one half of one percent are actually engaged in multiplication Furthermore our church culture tends to celebrate the fastest growing and largest churches which simply reinforces the culture of addition rather than multiplication. Wilson cites the research of Warren Bird and Ed Stetzer in Viral Churches that there is presently no documented church planting movement that involves the rapid multiplication of churches rather than simple addition.

Wilson addresses eighteen [18] tensions that churches face to transition from addition to multiplication. It’s multiplication that carries the legacy of your church to future generations and beyond the accumulation you achieve in your micro strategy. Todd challenges us: “Bottom line is that we can’t establish a multiplication growth culture without bucking conventional thinking and making some radical decisions. How prepared are you? Are you willing to:

• Plant your first church before building or buying your first building;

• Send your first church planter before accumulating your first two to three staff members;

• Commit the first fruits of your financial resources, tithing 10 percent or more to church planting, even before paying other essentials like salaries;

• Plant your first church before starting your first multisite;

• Come alongside and coach other church planters in your area who can benefit from your encouragement and experience;

• Start or join a church planting network, locally or nationally, to collaborate with others, find accountability for multiplying and building a multiplication culture, and get involved in more than you otherwise could?”

I’d recommend this resource to all church leaders to help us transition from local to Kingdom leaders and ignite a culture of multiplication!

Pastor Bruce Zachary planted Calvary Nexus in Camarillo, CA and is the director of Calvary Church Planting Network. Many of his resources are available for free online, including Kingdom Leaders and the Church Planting Manual. You can follow Pastor Bruce on Facebook.

Book Review: What Makes A Leader Great

Russ Crosson is a committed follower of Christ and president and CEO of Ronald Blue and Co, LLC one of the largest financial advisory firms in the U.S. provides a fresh and Biblical perspective on leadership in the marketplace and ministry. There are a plethora of resources on “How to lead” or “What a leader should do.” There seem to be very few that focus on why we lead. 

In considering why we lead, Crosson suggests a rarely heard clarion cry: we lead in order to replace ourselves. At the end of the day we are not successful leaders unless we have successors. He challenges leaders who are not actively and intentionally preparing the next generation of leaders. The most effective leaders are those that realize their mission is not about them but those that come after them. Those leaders realize that they are dispensable, so they plan ahead by training those who will one day take their place. 

At the end of the day we are not successful leaders unless we have successors.

The book provides a humble narrative with a strong biblical foundation as Crosson describes his journey to discover what makes leaders great. I think it is a particularly helpful resource to our movement in our history. As relatively new movement we are now reaching an age where several leaders and pastors are contemplating leadership transitions. This is a great resource to discover some of the dangers of not being prepared; and a fantastic tool to discover how to be more effective in preparing. In a nutshell the author is recommending preparing today even when one does not anticipate the succession plan to unfold for many years to come. 

In the context of church planting it provides a paradigm for leadership that champions the development of next generation leaders from the organization’s inception. Thus leaders and followers who become future leaders not only discover why but will also be blessed to learn more effectively “How to.” 

I’ve ordered several copies for core leaders at our local church and highly recommend that you read this book as well.
Pastor Bruce Zachary planted Calvary Nexus in Camarillo, CA and is the director of Calvary Church Planting Network. Many of his resources are available for free online, including Kingdom Leaders and the Church Planting Manual. You can follow Pastor Bruce on Facebook.

Book Review: “The Privilege” by Kay Smith

I was gifted this book by another pastor’s wife and I am so thankful! Written by Chuck Smith’s wife, Kay, The Privilege is an eye-opening journey through Kay’s years of ministry and marriage. Reading this book was an incredible reminder that while times and culture change, the Gospel does not. I was a little worried about this book being old fashioned or written in a different time. I was pleasantly surprised. Kay walks through important truths, difficult situations, and Christianity basics which are sure to guide the pastor’s wife in any city.

Reading this book was an incredible reminder that while times and culture change, the Gospel does not.

Kay begins with the basics – our relationship with God and intimacy with Him. While I have heard this over and over again and been hounded on the importance of it, Kay addresses it in a fresh way. She presents the urgency of being near to God – reminding me that I “simply can’t survive in the ministry without a consistent devotional life.” She explores the dangers of counseling “out of your flesh” versus through the Spirit and reminds us that “devotion always comes before service.”My favorite chapter by far was chapter two: Watchman on the Wall. Kay presents prayer in a whole new way which truly changed my prayer life forever. She says if she could inspire one thing in me it would be to inspire me to pray. She says the church “deserves a pastor’s wife who prays for them.” Wow. Deserves! It’s easy to focus on self when church planting – it can be a little crazy. You may be in a new city trying to make friends or you may be pregnant with your first child and sick every day (like I was). You may be worried about finances and figuring out this new season. You may be overwhelmed with meeting the needs of others and don’t have any extra time. However even in that, Kay would say it is my responsibility to pray. I realized how important it was for me to pray for our church and how I was definitely failing in this area. God used this chapter to revolutionize my prayer life.

I “simply can’t survive in the ministry without a consistent devotional life.”

In other chapters, Kay talks about the reality of being a pastor’s wife: phones ringing off the hook, house calls at all hours, real spiritual warfare, lack of closeness with others, the need to have a forgiving heart toward the critics. She shares real stories which are personal and influential. Hearing her share so many real conflicts and how she handled them has well prepared me for what may come.

The Gift of Brokenness chapter was also one of my favorites. She talks of the importance of being broken before the Lord in order to be used by Him. She makes things quite simple when she says “either you control your life or the Holy Spirit controls your life.” I love the way she addresses repentance – that we are to repent the instant we know we are wrong. Instead of waiting or thinking things through, if we know we have sinned, we must repent – to the person and to God. What a simple truth!

This is definitely a book I will re-read for years to come when I need some encouragement or wisdom about a certain situation or even a refreshing of my mind and how I view the church and my role. Kay’s words are simple yet revolutionary, sweet yet convicting, real yet encouraging. She gives great wisdom on how to serve and love our husbands and how to love the church. I’m grateful for Kay sharing her heart and her life – it has made a huge difference in my life and ministry.


Book review by Julianne Gavin

Book Review: “The Adventures of Juan Domingo – The Life of a Missionary”

On Friday I received a copy of Juan Domingo’s autobiography and by sundown Saturday I finished the book. Why did I feel compelled to consume this book so quickly? And why am I recommending this book to our network?

Juan shares countless anecdotes about his experiences as a missionary and serial church planter in Mexico. He was one of the first Calvary Chapel pastors to plant internationally, and today there are over one hundred [100] Calvary Chapels in Mexico – the largest number of CC churches outside of the United States. The Calvary Chapel leaders in Mexico (and beyond) hold Juan in very high esteem. It is understandable in light of his influence and the fruit that has come from his ministry. Nevertheless, the book is void of any self-boasting and reflects Juan’s great humility and desire to give all glory to the Lord.

He was one of the first Calvary Chapel pastors to plant internationally, and today there are over one hundred [100] Calvary Chapels in Mexico – the largest number of CC churches outside of the United States.

The book in not intended to be a practical handbook on being a foreign missionary. So, it does not address issues such as writing support letters or preparing a budget for long-term missions. Instead, it provides an invaluable resource. It chronicles a life of faith – a man who sought to hear God’s voice and respond with acts of obedience and an attitude of dependence. Journey with Juan and discover God’s faithfulness. Be encouraged by the reminder that we serve a Lord who has a heart for foreign missions so that he came into a culture that was foreign and dwelt among them. As Jesus immersed himself in our world, so does Juan in various distinct communities in Mexico. Immersion in language, culture, and customs is all motivated by a burden for people and a desire to reach the lost and make disciples. This perspective is so valuable for church planters regardless of the people and culture you are called to serve.

Immersion in language, culture, and customs is all motivated by a burden for people and a desire to reach the lost and make disciples.

I also greatly appreciate Juan’s pilgrimage to various cities and communities in Mexico. Thus, not holding too tightly to the things of this world, or the apparent comfort or security of ministry success. Throughout the book you will be blessed as Juan recounts his adventure(s) with the Lord in a stream of consciousness that provides sweet water to thirsty souls. In every account I’m blessed that my friend points us to Jesus.

Juan’s book is available through Calvary Distribution and has been made available for FREE to CCPN because of Juan’s generosity (access this FREE resource here). Order copies from Calvary Distribution today and be strengthened by a fellow CC planter’s adventure, and the sober reality that each of us has only limited time to make a difference in this world that will impact eternity.

each of us has only limited time to make a difference in this world that will impact eternity.

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

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.

Book Review: “Community: Taking Your Small Group Off Life Support”

Pastor Jay Fulton in New Jersey wrote this insightful review about Brad House’s book, Community, which focuses on the importance and structure of small groups.


As a church planter I appreciate the wealth of resources that are available to me that encourage, provide insight, or reinforce some things I might already know.  One of those resources is the book “Community: Taking Your Small Groups Off Life Support” by Brad House.  In many ways this book has helped to shift how I think about community groups and the limits I placed on them.  Quite often churches view community groups as peripheral ministry and not as essential—after all, we disciple and fellowship sufficiently on Sundays, right?  Well this was how I viewed community groups too, but the early church knew nothing of such a notion!

The reality is that the concept of Community is central to our experience in Christ and essential for discipleship and effectively spreading the Gospel.  The description of the early church found in Acts 2:42-46 provides a sketch of community that is the basis (or should be) for all that we do as church planters and leaders: “And they continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers…all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need…continuing daily with one accord…breaking of bread from house to house, they ate food with gladness and simplicity of heart.”  Did you catch that?  The early church did “life together” on mission for God.  And the result is that God added to the church.  So why then is this kind of community lacking?

the concept of Community is central to our experience in Christ and essential for discipleship and effectively spreading the Gospel.

I won’t attempt to completely answer that question in this post, but House identifies at least once reason for this result, and that is our individualistic identities.  We tend to value individual accomplishment over group achievement.  But the church should demonstrate a collectivist view of life.  I don’t mean this in a political sense, being a populist.  But it’s how Dietrich Bonhoeffer summed up the notion: “Christian community means community through and in Jesus Christ.”  It is through Christ that we have been reconciled to God and to one another. It is in Christ that we are united together like a family who shares the bloodline of Jesus.  Basically, the witness of community is more powerful than an individual witness.  Loving your neighbor is much easier if you never have to deal with them.  Living in light of the Gospel is much harder in community where people sin against you” (House).

“Christian community means community through and in Jesus Christ.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Having provided a foundation on which to build, House begins to outline two additional major steps for building thriving community groups: [1] redefining community groups by applying the theological and philosophical convictions to the real experience of living life together, and [2] effecting change in those groups which takes prescriptive approach to transforming community groups.

While both of these final two sections provide a detailed perspective and approach to implementing and changing community groups, I will leave you with some quotes from the book that I found to be beneficial.  In the meantime, I recommend adding this book to your reading list in the new year!

 “I have heard many purposes for joining community groups, including but not limited to: belonging, making big church feel small, learning the Bible, pastoral care, fellowship, friends, closing the back door of the church, evangelism, and so on. Each of these purposes has merit and can be argued as essential to the church. I would suggest, however, that these “purposes” are in fact the product of community rather than its ultimate goal.”

“In the case of the church, our goal is to produce disciples of Jesus who worship him and exalt his name. If we aim at a product such as belonging as the purpose of community, we can achieve that goal without pointing to Jesus.” 

“When retaining people becomes our goal, we inadvertently communicate that our purpose is to grow the church rather than glorify God. We become more interested in building the church rather than advancing the kingdom. We lift up the church rather than the name of Jesus.”

“As we prepare to change the direction of community groups in our churches, we must take time to look at what God has called the church to be. Where we have missed the mark, we should follow the example of Josiah and lead our people in repentance.”