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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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.)