by Dietrich Schindler (Piquant Editions, 2013)
If you are ‘restless’, worried that people around you ‘are living without Jesus and are unaware that they are lost’, you’re a natural church planter!
For Dietrich Schindler, an intentional desire for church planting goes hand in hand with basic Christian discipleship: ‘Jesus’ call to discipleship is the call to learn from him, to live and to work in the same way he did’ (p. 18)…
Part I describes 8 keys to Jesus’ success as a ‘church planter':
incarnational contact: ‘In Jesus, God became a man so that he could be close to people … church planters will do what Jesus did: they will spend time with people. That is incarnational contact’ (pp. 22, 23);
motivating compassion: ‘It [compassion] was what motivated his [Jesus’] miracles, and indeed his entire ministry’ (p. 23);
Christ-Centered proclamation: ‘The content of Jesus’ preaching and teaching was the kingdom of God …’ (p. 25);
liberating Lordship: ‘Faith in Jesus always affects life and behaviour’ (p. 27);
changed identity: ‘In Christ we know who we are, to whom we belong and why we are here’ (p. 29) …‘If people do not grasp the fundamental importance of their identity in Christ, if their life and ministry is not based in this reality, then a church is no different from a club or any other organisation’ (p. 30);
practical discipleship: ‘Disciples who make new disciples is the goal of church planting … [Jesus] wanted transformation (life change), and not a mere transfer of information … ‘ (p. 31);
empowering leadership: ‘Good leaders invest in others so that they, in turn, will be able to do what the leaders had previously done’ (p. 33);
intentional multiplication: ‘Jesus wanted to see sincere recipients of the good news bear fruit … his goal was always enormous … his kingdom to spread to all people of all cultures in every land on earth’ (p. 34).
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Part II applies the same 8 characteristics to us as we seek to live intentionally in God’s kingdom, here and now, always remembering that, ‘The fundamental food of the church planter is intimacy with God the Father’ (p.39). That means being sensitive to temptation in its various forms and cultivating a longing for God, particularly through the practice of spiritual disciplines.
1) The author distinguishes ‘missional’ and ‘evangelistic’ efforts to reach those around us. He suggests practical ways to become ‘a Greek to Greeks’, build networks of people, identify ‘the activity of Jesus in the life of non-Christians’ (p. 59), be ‘people of peace’ and understand the opportunities there are in times of trial. He concludes with an outline of the four phases of a church-planting project, and the parallel four stages of leadership development that is required of church planters.
2) ‘Because compassion was the motive behind Jesus’ behaviour, it must be the primary motive for church planters as well’ (p. 72). The author unpacks what compassion means and how we can ‘get’ it, based on a meditation on the life of Ruth in the OT.
3) Next Schindler discusses 3 worldviews church planters will encounter today: hedonism, materialism and altruism. He encourages proclamation that is exciting, logical, decisive and appealing, and give guidelines on how to achieve that.
4) ‘The church is not an institution but an organism’ (p.105). After looking at the steps involved in becoming a believer, Schindler highlights the role of trust. Putting the liberating Lordship of Jesus into practice start in our own lives!
5) ‘Especially at the start of a new church, keep in mind that this new identity also has a collective dimension. This affects four areass of our life together: our future, our mission, our power source, and our impact on society’ (p. 127). Then he sets out a vision for small groups as places where ‘Christians can live out their new identity in Christ and where others can be invited to experience this new identity’ (p. 128). He highlights the weaknesses in many existing small groups: ‘a sense that God is distant often derives from the inability to build intimacy and openness with other people’ (p. 130), and proposes an alternative structure, one that is: ‘stronger than the people in the group … people are searching for authentic and reliable relationships with others who will offer them acceptance and respect’ (pp. 132, 133).
6) ‘The foundation for spiritual leadership is spiritual discipleship; the secret of good leadership is practical discipleship’ (p. 135). Schindler views leadership as ‘influence’, and that is at the base of his ‘M-model’ with four levels of leadership training: DISCIPLES – COACHES – MINISTRY-AREA LEADERS – CHURCH PLANTERS>.
7) He continues with specific training guidelines and practical help for evaluating training. In all training the principle is that “active obedience is the proof of successful learning” (p. 178).
8) Finally, ‘If we are realistic, the development of the spiritual landscape in Europe gives us cause for concern … Even the planting of individual new churches is hardly going to reverse the downward trend of de-Christianiztion that is taking place’ (pp. 184, 185). We need more than traditional church planting by ‘addition’, we need church planting by ‘multiplication’! ‘The loveliest and most important reason of all for starting new churches is to glorify Jesus Christ … A clear indication of the measure of Jesus’ glory in a church is the joy that the members have: the greater their joy, the more they glorify Jesus’ (p. 200).
Several checklists are included in the Appendix as well as a short discussion of Lectio Divina.