Guardrails–a book about chaos and order in discipleship

guardrails-book

Those familiar with church planting and missions probably have several books on their shelves about movements in church planting (CPM) and making disciples (DMM). However, I had not read a book that I felt capable of successfully communicating the principles of multiplication to the broader evangelical community. Alan Briggs’s Guardrails: Six Principles for a Multiplying Church may become the first to do so. Briggs is director of Frontline Church Planting and multiplying pastor at Vanguard Church in Colorado Springs.

Movements are somewhat controversial. Many assume that movements are out-of-control incubators of heresy where leaders are left ignorant of the Bible and its doctrines. I have another book about this subject on my shelf that I bought used. The previous owner filled it with the notes revealing that he approached the subject with skepticism at best and antagonism at worst. Through Guardrails, Briggs challenges those negative assumptions and shows that in reality, a movement benefits from a structure that keeps it on the right path of expanding God’s kingdom.

Briggs begins with the concept of chaordic: the idea that a movement is a combination of chaos and order. Providing order to the disciple making movements are six principles if what discipleship must be. It must be simple, holistic, adaptable, regular, reproducible, and positive. Missionaries and church planters will be familiar with many of these.What I Appreciated

What I Appreciated

Briggs focuses on principles and not methodology. Too many church planting and discipleship books focus on methods that work well only in certain contexts. Another debate common among those who make disciples is the balance between obedience based discipleship and information based discipleship. Briggs achieves balance by not emphasizing one and discounting the value of the other. Briggs sees discipleship with emphasis on both but is clear that formal discipleship that occurs in a classroom type setting must translate into practice. I also appreciated Briggs repeated statements that one must follow the Spirit in their context.

What I Wished Had Been

I wish Briggs had fleshed out the principles more, particularly by showing how they work in practice. Briggs avoided this for the sake of preventing the book becoming about methodology. However, I think he could have avoided it by giving a variety of examples from different settings showing that people apply them in diverse ways.

Conclusion

I highly recommend this book to church planters and church leaders. We are in need of Disciple Making Movement in our world today. This book provides guardrails guiding our path toward it.

(Full Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book through Tyndale Blog Network. I was under no obligation to give a positive review.)

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Understanding the Shame: A Review of “Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures”

honorshameNow and then I run into a book that I wish I had read years ago. Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures by Jayson Georges and Mark D. Baker is one of those books. Reading it has explained and helped me to understand some of my experiences while ministering and living in Latin America and Central Asia. Both Georges and Baker are well qualified to write on the subject. They have lived in such cultures, made mistakes, and adapted to the reality. They have the academic credentials to look back, to study, to analyze, and to teach the rest of us.

What Is In The Book

The authors divide the book into three parts. The first part is Cultural Anthropology. It describes honor-shame cultures and points to the challenges they pose for Westerners. They explain the communal and relational nature of morality in these settings where “…what is best for relationships and honors people is morally right; what shames is morally wrong.”

Part two examines the Biblical theology of honor and shame. This section is very helpful. Western emphasis on judicial guilt before God and aversion to shame may blind us to the Bible’s teaching on these themes. That blindness is particularly concerning when we remember that cultures in the Bible were likely honor-shame cultures. The atmosphere of the Bible is one of honor and shame, and we miss much of the meaning when we miss these themes.

Part three deals with practical ministry in honor-shame cultures focusing on spirituality, relationships, evangelism, conversion, ethics, and community. While it may be tempting for the cross-cultural worker desperately seeking answers to jump to this section, it is best to do the work of understanding. Too often we skip to best practices without understanding the reason for the practice. The book concludes with three appendices dealing with pertinent Biblical passages, Bible stories, and recommended resources.

Who Should Read It and Why They Should

The Good News is that Jesus takes away our shame as well as our guilt. This book should help Christian cross-cultural workers. It is useful for them no matter if their focus is evangelism, church planting, discipleship, or humanitarian relief. This book will help them to understand and to adapt to their host culture. As I wrote earlier, I would have loved to read it 20 years ago. Besides this audience, I think anyone working cross-culturally in an honor-shame based culture would benefit. It would also be helpful for pastors and mission leaders in the United States leading churches to engage the immigrant communities around them or to send short-term teams around the world. This book is one of the most importantly practical books that I have read in the area of missiology. This

(Full disclosure: I received an advance review copy from InterVarsity Press in exchange for a review. I was under no obligation to give a positive review.)

Do This In Memory

It was a couple of Sundays ago as we were leaving the church when we got the word. A friend of ours, one whom we had worked closely with in Argentina, had died suddenly of a heart attack. His name was Oscar Chapo. He was pastor of a small church in a small town in one of the poorer provinces in the country. He was not famous. He did not hold a degree from seminary. Chances are without reading his name above; you would not know him.

He had something more than all the things that he lacked. He was faithful, and he was beloved by the people and community whom he served as a pastor. He died doing what he loved: telling children about Jesus in a mission church that his church had planted. That was how I knew him. We had worked together in planting churches in northern Argentina. I would train church planters, and his church cooperated with us in training and planting churches.

Though I was the supposed expert, I learned so much from him, particularly about being a servant leader. He did lead by “lording it over others” or by intimidation. The only time I heard speak critically was of a leader at another church whose leadership style had caused church members to follow out of fear. Oscar was an encourager, not the kind that makes you feel shame for not doing something. He saw your gifts and abilities and made you feel like you could do more as long as you did so with God’s power. As a colleague said, when Oscar prayed, it was as if he could look into your heart and soul and see your greatest need and pray precisely.

As the day passed those two Sundays ago, I thanked God that He had brought my path to intersect with Oscar’s path. I wondered how God could bring someone from a small town in Georgia to meet someone from a small town in Argentina.

In the evening service at our church that night, we celebrated the Lord’s Supper. As I looked at the grape juice in the small cup in my hand, I thought about the blood of Christ. I remembered his sacrifice for my sins. I remembered that the only thing that could have brought Oscar and me together was the blood of Christ. The blood of Jesus, His gospel, stirred my wife and me to leave our home country. The Good News moved Oscar to pastor a church and to plant churches in the small villages around his small town. The blood had brought us together as brothers. Jesus’ sacrifice is what enabled Oscar to step straight from serving the Lord into eternity to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” The blood is why we will see one another again someday.

A Review of Steve Addison’s Pioneering Movements: Leadership That Multiplies Disciples and Churches

Pioneering Movements

Steve Addison is a well-known expert on Christian movements. He has written two other books on the subject, Movements That Change The World and What Jesus Started in which he described the nature of dynamic movements and how Jesus’ ministry began a movement. In this Pioneering Movements, he looks at the present day people known as the pioneers of church planting and discipleship movements. Steve Addison leave MOVE, an Australia-based ministry that seeks to multiply disciples and churches.

Addison explains that movement pioneers do what Jesus did: they see the end, they connect with people, they share the gospel, they train disciples, they gather communities, and they multiply disciples. Addison describes the vision of the leaders with the phrase, “No Place Left.” This phrase means that they leaders have a vision for a people group or geographical region to have no place left that someone has not shared the Gospel. The book expands on these themes through explanations and case studies. The organization and structure of the book are typical of missiological texts on movements. Principles are described and demonstrated through case studies.

There are no glaring weaknesses in the book. In my opinion, Addison does not overstate his case, which is an easy trap to fall into when writing about movements. Addison is a good writer who knows how to structure sentences and paragraphs.

Addison’s work will be useful to church planters, church planting team leaders, and pastors. The book is not just focused on church planting, but on disciple-making in general as well. As such, it has practical application in any local church, both traditional and non-traditional. The book contains simple and reproducible strategies for connecting with people and involving them in obedience-based discipleship and Bible studies.

Addison’s book point to significant implications regarding the types of leaders that church planting teams need and the kinds of leaders they should seek to develop. His observation that most movement pioneers are cultural insiders rather outsiders trying to be insiders, highlights strategic decisions regarding the appropriate role of cross-cultural workers. Addison also points out several models of movements taking place in the West. Speaking only from personal observation, most church planting models that I have seen in the United States are models that add but do not multiply.

If multiplication of churches and disciples is the goal of your team or church staff, then Pioneering Movements along with Addison’s other books are important ones to read together.

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of the book from IVP for review purposes. I was under no obligation to give a positive review.)

A Book Every Church Planter Needs to Read

JDPayneApostolicCP

Apostolic Church Planting: Birthing New Churches From New Believers by J.D. Payne raises important issues regarding church planting strategy. J.D. Payne, pastor of church multiplication at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, is a respected missiologist who has already written well-known books on church planting and mission strategy. Apostolic Church Planting is a companion to Discovering Church Planting. Payne believes that we have traded the biblical approach to church planting for less effective approaches.

Summary

Payne defines biblical church planting as evangelism that leads to churches. Apostolic church planting finds the disciples in the harvest who become the church. In plain English for those who don’t know church planting jargon, Payne advocates planting a church entirely of new believers rather than planting churches with seed families of believers or similar models. He explains over twelve chapters how apostolic church planting takes place. The chapter headings summarize well the contents of each:

What Is Church Planting?
How’s Your Ecclesiology?
Practice of Team Members
Pathway to Planting
Stages of Planting
Planned Role Changes
Church Multiplication Cycle
Methods
Where to Begin?
Pastoral Development
Strategy Development
Ethical Guidelines

Strengths

My background is that of a church planting catalyst working in South America and leading church planting teams there. So, when I heard J.D. Payne had written a new book on church planting, I wanted to read it.

The greatest strength of Payne’s work is the biblical nature of the approach. As Payne points out, church planting is simpler than what we have made it. That is not to say that it is easy or messy. However, Payne lays out a workable model of apostolic church planting. Going into a community, making disciples, and gathering new believers together is much simpler than finding seed families and planning major launch services with a church-in-a-box.

Another strength is that the book is a quick read. One could easily read it in a day or over a weekend. For busy church planters, this length is a plus.

The chapter on ethics is a must read for all church planters and mission leaders in my opinion. Payne describes choices for practices that lead more people knowing Christ as ethical decisions. If we believe in hell and if we believe Jesus is the key to abundant life now and in eternity, how can we not recognize these as ethical decisions?

Weakness

Payne endorses a team approach to church planting. I agree that this is best. Payne assumes in most cases that these teams will form first and then go to the field, which probably aligns with his experience at The Church at Brook Hills. However, it is not the experience of many currently on the international field, particularly those sent through denominational mission agencies. Many teams form on the field.

I do not know which approach is best. I would like to see more research on the subject. Anecdotally I saw both success and failure with teams formed before they went to the field. In some cases, they were too insulated from those who were already on the field. In other cases, this was not a problem. It depended on the team and its leadership. I would have liked to have seen more in this book regarding teams that form on the field and the challenges they face.

Analysis

I agree with Payne’s belief that apostolic church planting, birthing new churches from new believers, is the most effective means to reproduce both believers and churches. As a church planting catalyst, I saw and worked with different approaches. Those churches that formed with new believers grew more rapidly and reproduced new churches more rapidly. I attribute this to the relationship network new believers had that still touched those without Christ. A new church starting with believers has to work to build that network.

Apostolic church planting has become more of the norm in international circles outside the USA. I hope this book may stir a conversation about its usefulness in the North American context. Personally, I believe that a church planting catalyst working with apostolic church planting teams could lead rapidly to church planting movements in North America. However, even without a church planting catalyst, apostolic church planting holds great promise. I hope that Payne’s book will be read and often discussed by church planters and agency leaders in the coming year.

(Full disclosure: IVP sent me a free copy of this book for review purposes. I was under no obligation to write a positive review.)