Church Planter by Darrin Patrick

Church planting has been a trendy thing to do in the American evangelical world. We want to be founders: people who have built their own success. However, let’s not mistake what church planting truly is: the work of expanding God’s kingdom on earth. It is not about building our own kingdom, nor climbing the church “corporate” ladder.

Patrick’s book is well structured: the man, the message and the mission. Each part is divided in short chapters. I have decided to summarize each chapter by using quotes that reflect best the heart of each chapter.

The Man

  • A Rescued Man

“Many people make a tragic assumption that pastors and church planters must certainly be Christians. This assumption, however, overlooks the fact that it is possible, and for some remarkably easy, to fake the requisite gifts for ministry. A person can be a very gifted communicator, counselor, and leader without ever truly knowing Christ.” (p. 21)

“Sometimes a church’s view of the pastorate has been so influenced by the bottom-line, grow-at-all-costs American business model that there is little or no emphasis on finding someone who has been called by God.” (p. 23)

A rescued man is a man whose love for God is growing holistically—in his affections, in his thoughts, in his motives, in his passions, in his duties, and in every area of his life. He is also a man who demonstrates a growing love for other people by sacrificing himself for others and laying down his life for their good. In short, a rescued man is growing in genuine love for God and neighbor. (pp. 25-26)

  • A Called Man

“Being a called man is a lonely job, and many times you feel like God has abandoned you in your ministry.” (p. 30)

“Pastoral ministry is a calling, not a career. It is not a job you pursue just because you like attention, or because your mom thinks you’d be good at it, or because it does not involve heavy lifting. I am continually shocked at how many men are trying to do ministry without a clear sense of calling. Please hear this: If you don’t feel a sense of calling to ministry, then please, find another vocation!” (p. 30)

“An aspiring pastor/church planter who is seeking to test his sense of calling should look for confirmation in at least three areas: heart confirmation, head confirmation, and skill confirmation.” (p. 34)

“In a heart-call, a deep inclination in the soul says, I must do this or I will die. The called man cannot imagine going into another vocation: he daydreams about ministry, he talks about ministry, and he cannot wait to be in ministry.” (pp. 35-36)

“A man who is truly called may doubt and struggle with his calling at times, but ultimately he will not be able to walk away from it.” (p. 36)

“The man who is experiencing head confirmation is thoughtful about his own philosophy of ministry, his own ministry style, his own theological beliefs, his own unique gifts, abilities, and desires. In short, there is uniqueness to the way he wants to do ministry. Unlike many young men who know much about what they are against and little about what they are for, the man who is experiencing head confirmation thinks through very carefully and deliberately, What am I for with my life and ministry? What are my specific burdens for the church? How can I best serve the church in these areas?” (p. 37)

“Inevitably as the church examines the skill of the man, that man’s call is refined. The church not only helps answer the question, Am I called? but also the question, To what am I called? In this way the church serves as both a valuable filter for distinguishing between a true and false calling as well as a guide for pursuing a true calling. In short, the church helps the man discern specifically what ministry to pursue.” (p. 38)

“There are two ditches that church leaders can fall into as they help confirm a man’s calling to gospel ministry. First, they can make it too easy to be affirmed in gospel ministry. […] Many times this approach produces a man who relies on his gifts and fails to develop his character, which all but ensures future disqualification. The other ditch is when the church makes it too hard to be affirmed in gospel ministry. Such churches set the bar too high with regard to skill development (being a great preacher) or with regard to education (a candidate must have finished seminary).” (pp. 38-39)

I want to nuance the author’s idea about calling into pastoral ministry and church planting. Though I agree with the need to feel the desire inside, I want to be cautious about its motives. When I read “I must do this or I will die” (p. 35), I wonder if the driving force really lies in a desire to display God’s glory. It seems to me that “I must do this or I will die” are words we would say when we are the center of our calling. Those words may reflect that our identity is placed in our vocation. If things go sour, would we rebel against Him? Unfortunately, fame and power can also lead us to say “I must do this or I will die.” I believe more clarity comes when we surrender our greatest desire for our own lives to what God has: “I must do this even if I die.”

  • A Qualified Man

“There are a few different lists of qualifications for eldership in the New Testament, but the most extensive is 1 Timothy 3:1–7” (p. 44)

“What sets elders apart? Elders are not a higher class of Christians. Rather, as D. A. Carson notes, ‘what is required in some sense of all believers is peculiarly required of the leaders of believers.’ […] One of the reasons it is essential for elders to be godly men is that when elders are not godly, it is very difficult for the people to become godly. As John MacArthur has written, ‘whatever the leaders are, the people become. As Hosea said, ‘Like people, like priest’ (4:9). Jesus said, ‘Everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher’ (Luke 6:40). Biblical history demonstrates that people will seldom rise above the spiritual level of their leadership.’ “(p. 45)

“For all of us, wherever we are in our calling, these qualifications are a challenge to seek holiness and blamelessness in our personal lives, in our relationships, and in our public office. Ultimately none of us are qualified before God to serve his people. As the apostle Paul asks, ‘Who is sufficient for these things?’ (2 Corinthians 2:16). Our hope is not in ourselves but in Christ who calls us, purifies us, equips us, and qualifies us.” (p. 57)
  • A Dependent Man

“Our effectiveness in ministry depends directly on our dependence on the power of the Holy Spirit.” (p. 59)

“Baxter is reminding us of something that we often forget but that should be pretty obvious to us: our people can tell when we are close to God—and when we are not. It will come out in our sermons, our prayers, our leadership, and even our conversations. As Moses’ face shone to the Israelites after he had been with God, so our lives will radiate his presence when we have been with him.” (p. 61)

“Here are some questions we can ask ourselves to help us discern the orientation of our hearts:
1) Which do I want more—to know God or to achieve for God? Some verses to meditate on: Philippians 3:10; Exodus 33:13; 1 Timothy 4:6–10.
2) When was the last time I experienced a prompting of the Holy Spirit? Verses to meditate on: John 4:7–19; Acts 16:6–10.15
3) Am I consistently being convicted of sin in my life? Verses to meditate on: Hebrews 12:5–11; John 16:7–8; 1 John 3:9.
4) Am I consistently accepting my acceptance by God through Christ? Verses to meditate on: 2 Corinthians 5:17, 21.
5) Where do my thoughts go when I am not forced to think about anything? Verses to meditate on: Psalm 63:1–4. If your mind goes immediately to your fantasy football team, something is wrong!” (pp. 64-65)

  • A Skilled Man

“Being a pastor/church planter requires three basic skills: leading, teaching, and shepherding.” (p. 67)

“To be the lead pastor in a church plant, however, you have to be able to lead—to cast vision, to create energy, to motivate, to inspire, and to build systems.” (p. 67)

“Functionally, elders in the local church do three main things: 1. Guard the teaching ministry of the church. 2. Ensure the spiritual care of the church. 3. Oversee the direction of the church.” (p. 69)

“This spiritual direction is not to be done only by the pastor, but the pastor must take the lead for modeling this kind of spiritual care. The pastor is to be the main community-building encourager of the flock.” (p. 73)

“Elders ensure that the church is led well when they are able to reproduce themselves.” (p. 73)

“Leaders have two characteristics: first they are going somewhere, and second they are able to persuade other people to go with them.” (p. 74)

  • A Shepherding Man

“No doubt God’s priority is to provide excellent shepherding for the precious souls in his church. ‘I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD’ (Jeremiah 23:4). It is God’s church, not ours.” (p. 82)

“The reality, though, is that there are too many sheep to shepherd. The average pastor can shepherd about seventy-five people, which (not coincidentally) is roughly the average size of a church in North America. Therefore, unless you want a church of that size or less, you must learn how to set up systems that promote pastoral care in your local church.” (p. 85)

“Here are some essential questions for a good shepherd to consider: Are the people under your care loving God both privately and corporately? Are they taking ownership over connecting other people into the church community? Together, are they mobilizing toward the mission of God to transform the world?” (p. 87)

“Ultimately, to shepherd well you must apply the gospel you preach to others to your own heart.” (p. 91)
  • A Determined Man

“In many ways, your influence in ministry will only be as deep as your grace-empowered determination before God to persevere.” (pp. 93-94)

“The only way you will endure in ministry is if you determine to do so through the prevailing power of the Holy Spirit.” (p. 94)

1 Corinthians 15: “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (v. 58).

“We are loved apart from our performance and moral record. More than that, we are loved and delighted in because of Christ’s work and his record. This reality must be recalled again and again if we are going to prosper as Christians, let alone persevere in ministry.” (p. 95)

“Living in the light of the resurrection of Christ means that we can trust God to do miracles in our ministry, that we can have hope even when all seems bleak, and that we can look to a power greater than our own.” (p. 96).

Pastoral ministry is simply not worth it unless you factor in heaven. Unless heaven is real, let’s forget the church and go play video games.” (pp. 96-97)

“To survive the long haul, you must have people around you who do not work for you, do not need your approval, do not idolize you, and are willing to love you by telling you the truth.” (p. 100)

The Message

  • A Historical Message

Evangelion is the announcement of what God has done objectively in history, not just the subjective experience of one person. The gospel, then, is fundamentally an announcement: it is not just about who God is or what he might do, but about what God has done in history.” (p. 111).

“As Tim Keller writes, “So the gospel is news about what God has done in history to save us, rather than advice about what we must do to reach God. The gospel is news that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection in history have achieved our salvation. We do not achieve it, only accept it. Jesus does not just bring good news; he is the good news.” ” (p. 111).

  • Salvation-Accomplishing

“In a real sense, then, when we speak of the gospel we speak of Jesus. The gospel rises and falls on the person and work of Christ. Without Christ there is no news concerning a change in our status before God. Without Christ there is no “good” to speak of, because there is no rescue from the slavery of our sin. Without Christ there is no gospel, because the gospel is not just about Jesus. Jesus is the gospel.” (p. 129)

  • Christ-Centered

“As Anthony Thiselton states, “The New Testament writers see Christ as an interpretive key for the interpretation and understanding of the Old Testament [and] the Old Testament as a frame of reference for understanding Christ.” ” (p. 133)

The Bible is not Christ-centered because it is generally about Jesus. It is Christ-centered because the Bible’s primary purpose, from beginning to end, is to point us toward the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus for the salvation and sanctification of sinners.” (p. 134)

“Jesus is first a Savior, and then he is our example. Practically this means that we must recognize our need to be saved from our sin before we can follow his example. […] So it is no surprise that much contemporary preaching is basically an attempt to get hearers to ask the question, “What is God doing in me?” My point is that the power for responding to what God is doing in me in the present is understanding what God has done for me in the past.” (p. 135)

The indicative is what is true about us in Christ. We are loved and accepted because of what Christ has done on our behalf. The imperative is what we do in obedience out of love for Christ. The key to the Christian life is to live out of the reality of who we are so that we can do what God has revealed in Scripture.” (p. 137)

  • Sin-Exposing

“At the heart of sin is the feeling that God’s commands are a burden to rebel against rather than a blessing to be obeyed.” (pp. 147-148)

“Sin is when we love something or someone more than we love God and others. Sin is when we fail to love God with everything we are. Sin is when we are more passionate about anything more than God.” (p. 150)

“The goal of sin-exposing preaching is to help people turn from their sin to the joy and forgiveness found solely in the gospel.” (p. 153)

  • Idol-Shattering

“Because the human heart was made to worship someone outside itself, it continually seeks a place to rest.” (p. 159)

“Whatever we look to, whatever we pursue, whatever we are faithful to then drives everything in our lives. This is why the Bible doesn’t treat idolatry as a sin like gluttony, lust, or lying. It treats it as the only alternative to worshipping and loving the one true God. Sin happens because we treasure our idols more than we love our God.” (p. 159)

“This is the essence of what it means to be a follower of Christ: to repent and believe the gospel. This is the key to removing idols from your life and installing Christ in the center of your being.” (p. 167)

The Mission

  • The Heart of Mission: Compassion

“Being on mission means having open eyes that are looking for the hurting […] To open your eyes is to risk losing your life and living with a broken heart for the sake of the lost. As C. S. Lewis reminds us, the alternative to a compassionate heart is a dead heart: ‘To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to be sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.’ ” (pp. 175-176)

The enemies of compassion:

  1. Busyness: “One of the first signs that busyness is threatening to kill joy is a lack of compassion for those God has placed under a pastor’s care.” (p. 176)
  2. Hurriedness: “There is a difference between simply being busy and being hurried. Being busy is about the things you have to do. Being hurried is the spiritual, mental, and emotional state that you are in when trying to do the things you have to do. You can be busy without being hurried.” (p. 177)
  3. Self-righteousness: “The horizontal form of self-righteousness is one of the main reasons people don’t forgive people close to them, much less be compassionate toward people not close to them. As Miroslav Volf, who witnessed his family and friends being murdered and raped in the Balkan wars of the 1990s, astutely says, “Forgiveness flounders because I exclude the enemy from the community of humans and I exclude myself from the community of sinners.” ” (p. 178)
  4. Self-protection: “If your heart is clogged up with protecting yourself, you are unable to enter into the loves of other people because all your energies will be consumed with avoiding their pain.” (pp. 178-179)
  • The House of Mission: The Church

This chapter quickly explains what the church looks like, where it came from, what it does and list a few models. Nothing extraordinary (thankfully). The passages that were relevant are:

“A church needs to be as formally organized as is necessary to get on and stay on mission, and no more.” (p. 190)

“This humble confidence50 is very attractive to those outside the Christian community. Those peeking over the fence into Christianity look on these people, who are like them but not like them, who are confident but not judgmental, who are humble but not depressed. Disciples like this are attractive because they don’t exude an “I am better than you” persona but just the opposite—an “I am probably worse than you, but God saves bad people like us” persona.” (p. 191)

  • The How of Mission: Contextualization

“Contextualization is a word that was originally used by missionaries to describe the process of taking the gospel to different cultures. Contextualization is the church’s gospel-response to culture.” (p. 193)

“The attractiveness of contextualizing the gospel is that we actually listen to the questions that people are asking.” (p. 195)

“Contextualization shows the attractiveness of the gospel, but it also reveals the offensiveness of the gospel. We enter the culture to listen, but we don’t give our answers—we give God’s answers, which most of the time, as Keller notes, are not what people want to hear!” (p. 195)

“Gospel-sharing and preaching must engage the values of the person in culture. This involves entering into the heart-values of people. A good missionary will examine the things people orient their lives around—how they are investing their time, money, and energy. They will look into the questions that the culture is asking, what they rally around, and what things transcend normal social barriers.” (pp. 198-199)

“Every culture has a story, a plot, and an answer to these questions:
1) How are things supposed to be? 2) What has gone wrong? What is the main problem with things? 3) What is the solution and can it be realized?” (p. 199)

  • The Hands of Mission: Care

“Notice that Jesus is calling the church to point people to the gospel before doing anything regarding their behavior.” (p. 210)

“To observe all that Jesus commanded is primarily going to look like loving God and loving people.” (p. 211)

“It’s tempting for churches to focus on either social justice or evangelism. After all, Christians naturally lean toward one or the other as a primary expression of the gospel. But the gospel promotes both; it is evangelism and social justice. It is loving God and loving neighbor. That’s a hard line to walk.” (p. 220)

  • The Hope of Mission: City Transformation

“To build a house is to choose to be a neighbor to people in the city.” (p. 227)

“Could it be that one of the main ways we could influence our city is by having more kids? And not just more kids, but God-loving and city-serving kids?” (p. 229)

“Being a blessing to the city means that we don’t adopt the culture and simply resemble the city lifestyle.” (p. 233)

“Being a blessing to the city means we take seriously the problems of the city. The gospel does not just need to be in word but also in deed.” (p. 234)

“What if God’s people realized that the role of the pastor is to equip them to do ministry instead of doing ministry for them? How many nonprofits would be started by God’s people to address the broken areas of the city?” (p. 237)

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