“How did church planting become such a spiritual crapshoot?” asks Ben Arment, author of Church in the Making: What Makes or Breaks a New Church Before it Starts
. According to Arment, church plants tend to fail, not in the early years, when they’re still receiving lots of support and attention, but in years four or five when they’re out of the incubator. They disappear, and hardly anyone notices.
Church in the Making attempts to uncover the mystery of church planting. It “doesn’t have to be as difficult as we make it out to be,” he writes. “Church planting, it turns out, is remarkably organic.”
Three things are necessary for a strong church plant:
- Good ground – A church needs to begin in fertile soil. If the soil isn’t fertile, you need to cultivate it before you plant.
- Rolling rocks – You need momentum on your side. Church planting is not only a spiritual phenomenon; it is also sociological. A planter must identify where God is already bringing people, funds, and other resources together for his purposes.
- Deep roots – A vision isn’t imported; it’s birthed in the community. Effective church planters have a strong connection to their communities, and are committed to planting the church that the community needs, in community with others.
This all sounds so pragmatic. I’m convinced, though, that Arment is doing us all a favor. He is not opposed to planters who want to move into areas that have tough soil rather than good ground. He just wants us to have our eyes open. “What I’m saying is to be aware of the soil conditions in which you are planting,” he writes. “Knowing this could save you from the discouragement and depression that so many planters experience.”
I really appreciated the strong doses of realism in this book. It’s helped me identify some of the challenges I have ahead of me that I’d otherwise have missed. I didn’t always enjoy the realism, but it’s better for me to learn now through a book than later through hard experience. Even if you don’t agree with everything, any planter would benefit from reading this book.
I especially enjoyed the chapters on shaping vision and systems. It helped develop some of my thinking on how to shape a church beyond the passions and personalities of the individuals who are at the heart of a church plant.
It must be frustrating to watch church plants die needlessly. If we’re wise, we’ll learn all that we can so that we don’t make potentially fatal mistakes. Church in the Making reminds us that “successful church planting is not random. And it doesn’t have to be mysterious.” Cultivate good ground in the community; develop the social network around you; and plant deep roots in a local community. It’s not a formula, but it will give you a much better shot at seeing a church start that will thrive and bear much fruit.
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