Book Review: Discovering Church Planting: An Introduction to the Whats, Whys, and Hows of  Global Church Planting by J. D. Payne.

The book is “an introduction to the Whats, Whys and Hows of Global Church Planting.” The most noticeable theme is Kingdom expansion through disciple-making in the apostolic church, which is basically the multiplication of disciples, leaders, and churches through Kingdom growth (Payne, 2017, p. 76). The early church heavily leaned on the expression that the church is a part of the Kingdom of God (Payne, 2017, p. 9), which is no longer followed in North America. The church planters in North America confess the Holy Spirit with their lips, but deny him with their practice (Payne, 2017, p. 62), they prefer to lean on models and strategies. The greatest challenge to the church planting effort in North America today is the unhealthy ecclesiology that focuses on cultural preferences and pragmatism (Payne, 2017, p. 21) rather than biblical and healthy ecclesiology that contextualized the targeted people group (Payne, 2017, p. 21) which results in reproduction, growth and multiplication itself throughout the world (Payne, 2017, p. 35). Answering “What is the church? and What are the functions of the church?” (Payne, 2017, p. 18) reveals the biblical mandate that a church planter is a missionary who is engaged in evangelism to gather new believers to form a local church (Payne, 2017, p.4) and raises pastors and elders from within the congregation (Payne, 2017. p. 70). 

Critique 

This book does not claim to be the be-all end-all answer to all the questions and challenges that church planters are facing in North America, but it exposes the reader to the missiological hypocrisy of church planters (Payne, 2017, p. 62), and argues that “they have erred on the other side of the issue by practically denying the work of the Spirit in missionary activity (Payne, 2017, p. 62). One of the greatest strengths of this book is its simplistic, direct and practical approach as it evaluates the current church model and offers advice. For example, “Biblical church planting is evangelism that results in new churches” (Payne, 2017, p. 4). The book acknowledges the good in several different church models (Payne, 2017, p. 315-323), but also gently rebukes the church planter for using “complicated methods based on sophisticated training or Western culture” (Payne, 2017, p. 35), and insists that the church planting itself is “both a method and a strategy of fulfilling the Great Commission” (Payne, 2017, p. 6). It says, “A Great Commission theology supports the missionary practice of church planting (Payne, 2017, p. 14). If a church plant includes the missio dei, the incarnation, and the kingdom of God (Payne, 2017, p. 14), then it is a biblical church and a church planter is essentially a missionary (Payne, 2017, ch.12). 

Therefore, as missionary a church planter should be equipped with theology and missiology and must contextualize the Gospel according to the needs of the community. Contextualization deals with communicating the Gospel effectively while teaching obedience to the new believers “as the new kingdom citizens live out the kingdom ethic in their communities” (Payne, 2017, p. 184). Such a church planter follows the apostolic pattern in which missionaries labor to plant churches and raise pastors to shepherd those churches, which goes against the norm in North America which is “if someone is going to plant a church, they will also pastor that church (Payne, 2017, p. 381). Furthermore, contextualized or indigenous churches are the biblical model of church planting, which are “shaped primarily by the cultures of the peoples, rather than the cultures of the missionaries… such churches are to be self-governing, self-supporting, self-propagating, self-teaching, self-identifying, self-expressing, and self-theologizing from the moment of their births” (Payne, 2017, p.189). A biblical church plant is the work of the Holy Spirit from its birth (Payne, 2017, p. 25), and the church planters who are biblical missionaries “must realize and embrace this ecclesiology” (Payne, 2017, p. 25). This also means, “If the church-planting team seeks to plant biblical churches, then local churches should be indigenous from the time they are planted (Payne, 2017, p. 25). The only perceived weakness of this book is that it does not endorse any of the existing church models because the house church model is very similar to the biblical church. It is more organic, less institutional; more simplistic, less structural; more communal, less acquaintances; more ministers, less minister; more participation, less passivity (Payne, 2017, ch.3).

Evaluation

The book definitely contributes much value in its larger academic context as a rebuke to some of the ill practices in the church planting movement in the United States and Canada. This book counters most popular books on church planting that tend to validate one or more of the existing church models in North America. It presents an option that does not rely on complicated methods or strategies for planting a church, but rather follows the Great Commission (Payne, 2017, p. 3). It fills “a significant gap in the literature in an attempt to develop a biblical understanding of the Spirit in the advancement of the Gospel” and argues for “the Holy Spirit’s role in the birth of churches is absolutely essential” because “there is little contemporary discussion regarding his role in this process” (Payne, 2017, p. 59). The book argues that there is no command in the Bible to plant churches, but by following the Great Commission a church planter who is essentially a missionary enters into the process of disciple making (Matthew 28:19-20) birthing disciple making movements rather than church planting movements (Payne, 2017, p. 9), which is the planting of local expressions of the body of Christ (Payne, 2017, p. 9). Therefore, biblical church planting is fundamentally evangelism that results in new churches which are reproducing disciple making churches built on the missio dei, incarnation, and the kingdom of God (Payne, 2017, p. 14). 

Bibliography

Payne, J. D. Discovering Church Planting: An Introduction to the Whats, Whys, and Hows of  Global Church Planting. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009.