I’ve been handling publicity for a new book about church planting that I think should be of interest not only to those seeking to and thinking about planting a church, but also to anyone hoping to start something new to advance Christian mission.
Church in the Making by Ben Arment doesn’t mince any words, and it has the tone of a soldier who has fought the good fight and won, but at a high personal cost, with the sense that the battles could have been easier with better intelligence, and mourning the soldier-friends who he has seen fall around him.
I’ve never tried to start a church, but I knew even before reading this book that it is extremely difficult, with a high rate of failure. Arment demonstrates a passion for saving future church planters from heartache and failure; but in the process he writes some things that will undoubtedly rub church planting traditionalists the wrong way.
For instance, Arment writes:
“We have placed a dangerous label on church planting that puts tremendous pressure on planters to persevere through any and all difficulties. We call it faithfulness. But in many cases it should really be called stupidity.”
If you have plans to plant a new church, open a new campus, or help someone who is, you need to get and read Church in the Making. It is well written and an easy read. It’s worth your time.
But it is also valuable to people like me who are involved in starting and advancing Christian organizations, missions, and causes. I’ve seen a lot of the same mistakes that Ben describes in ministry start-ups of all kinds; and I’ve made a number of the mistakes myself. I wish I would have had Church in the Making to read several years ago.
I’ve marked nine different principles in the book that I’ve seen ignored by too many ministry leaders (myself included).
1. Plant in Fertile Soil
Arment: “Every community has an established degree of spiritual receptivity. When you plant a church on fertile soil, it springs to life out of the community’s readiness. When you plant a church on infertile soil, it chokes and gasps to survive. In this case, you have to stop planting and start cultivating.” (page 3)
2. Experience Produces Humility
Arment: “You can always tell a new, inexperienced church planter because he’s the only one who thinks he knows what he’s doing. The veterans show a humility that can only come from experience. It takes a year or two to knock the self-reliance out of the new guys.” (page 10)
3. A Dream and Hard Work are Not Enough
Arment: “Church planters are notorious for thinking that a great dream plus hard work equals a thriving church. But church planters fail all the time with this formula and have not idea why.” (page 46)
4. Build a Network First
Arment: “I’m convinced that when God calls a planter to start a church, he calls him either to start a social network first (which can take years) or simply to leverage the one he’s been building around him.” (page 81)
5. You Can’t Do It Alone
Arment: “When God creates a church in the making, he doesn’t just call one person to start it. He calls a whole network of people who have been growing pregnant with vision.” (page 137)
6. Properly Channeled Frustration is Good
Arment: “God uses frustration to shape a vision. This is what he did to Nehemiah. And this is what he did to me. If God doesn’t build up a tremendous amount of frustration within us, we’ll never have the passion to pursue his calling.” (page 158)
7. Don’t Let Cash be King
Arment: “The only thing worse than not pursuing your God-given vision is compromising your God-given vision for the sake of cash flow. Don’t let money do this to you.” (page 162)
8. Put a Good Staff to Work
Arment: “Senior pastors are notorious for under-estimating the potential of their staff, mostly because they overestimate their own potential. Creating systems in your church is a far better way to leave a legacy than building up yourself.” (page 191)
9. Many Tomorrows Do Not Include You
Arment: “The fruit of the gospel comes from building a church that can exist without you and beyond you. (page 193)
Grab this book. If you are in ministry work, whether or not you are a church planter, it’s likely there’s something in it that will shake your ministry world.