Book review: Apostolic Church Planting

Apostolic Church Planting: Birthing New Churches from New BelieversApostolic Church Planting: Birthing New Churches from New Believers by J.D. Payne
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This short book on church planting is a contribution to the conversation around disciple-making movements (DMM) and Church Planting Movements (CPM). It offers a clear model, a clear pathway and a clear theology for the methods it outlines.

The strongest conviction that the book outlines is that new churches should come from new believers and that where you see groups of new believers come to faith in Jesus they should constitute a church. This lays clear, steady and persistent focus on the call to evangelise and calls church planters to consistent efforts in sharing the gospel. This is important, challenging and right.

JD Payne also keeps his focus fixed on unreached people groups and seeks to steer away primary resources and efforts going towards, let’s call it, renewal church planting in places where there are already plenty of churches. He reminds us that this may not mean leaving a country but could just as easily involve church planting in the same city just amongst a community or people group that is unreached. Payne claims (probably correctly but I don’t have the sources to check) that the majority of church planting efforts & resources go towards the renewal effort not the unreached effort.
So his call to go to the unreached is important, challenging and right.

The basic model is, in essence, that a missionary team would be formed (carefully selected and weeding out the uncalled or ungifted), the prepare and move to their ‘field’ and begin sharing the gospel. As people come to faith a church is gathered. elders are appointed and the team shifts to equipping the church and/or starting more churches in new locations. That’s the plan. Simple. But not easy.

Payne is aware of the trials, difficulties and challenges that church planters encounter and there is no illusions here nor any grand promises of rapid movements that often characterise these books. Payne is also aware and accommodating towards other church planting models but remains insistent that they should be the exception and new churches from new believers the rule.

I had a few observations that got me thinking as I read the book based off how my own personal experience stacked up against the book. Firstly, Payne essentially describes two entities: the church planting team and the new church. Outsiders and insiders if you will. My own experience has been one entity. The church plant. Any team is the nucleus of the new church and expects to be a part of it for as long as God wills. No us & them, just us. Now this might be because none of the church plants I’ve been involved with have been amongst an unreached people (although by Payne’s definition of less than 2% evangelical, then the Swedes may qualify).

Secondly, both teams that I’ve been involved with have taken anyone willing. You’d love more gifts but you don’t appear to have anyone to choose from – a church planting take it or leave it if you will. I appreciate the strengths of Payne’s approach but it just hasn’t matched up with my reality of planting from church to church.

Lastly, I noticed that whenever Payne talked about the church planting team I processed it as an individual and I think that speaks to the challenges I faced with point 2. But Payne does focus on team and that is a definite strength.

This is a short, straight-forward, no frills approach to church planting. It seeks to take the methods of Paul and his band of missionaries (the apostolic in the title) and apply them as straight-forwardly as possible in our modern world. A worthwhile introduction to the topic.

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