Thursday, January 24, 2008

Book Review: Starting a New Church

If you are looking for a book on church planting packed with ideas and not just sage advice, you will do well to read Ralph Moore’s Starting a New Church. Recently I met Ed Stetzer from Lifeway Research and we talked at length about church planting. This was the first book he recommended I read on the subject. I can see why.

One thing I’m discovering is that every church plant is unique, so finding a book that is relevant to your particular church planting situation is not always that easy. While there are now plenty of books to choose from, it can be difficult to find books that are mostly filled with helpful information rather than antiquated ideas and methods.

Ralph Moore certainly knows church planting. This book comes from the pen of one who has done it on several occasions. So the four parts to this book provide a logical progression of stages that seemingly apply to anyone who is planting a church. I will summarize each of these four parts.

First, Moore encourages the reader to think through the church plant. In this section he speaks personally to the church planter. Is this truly a calling from God? Are you really ready to do this? Do you know where you want to go with this effort? Do you know where to get help? (Because you will certainly need it.) One great emphasis that Moore makes is the necessity of a church planter having the support of his local church. It does not have to be financial support. But Moore insists that no one should attempt a church plant without clear backing from his own home church.

In Part Two, Moore even discusses a procedure for making the proposal of a new church plant to the home church. This section on designing the new church covers such practical areas such as the new church’s values, developing a core team, and funding the new church. When considering funding Moore makes the helpful comment that you need two budgets: an operation budget for covering recurring expenses; and an opportunity budget for those larger expenses that come along at unpredictable times. I note this advice because it is part of a larger philosophy that Moore communicates throughout the book. The goal is not to build an organization that merely “makes budget” every year. The goal is an effective church plant. You do not want to become “a tiny pod of operational expenses and a few people” (p. 92). He advises new churches to keep operational expenses at a minimum so that more can be spent on opportunities. Office space and even meeting facilities are operational costs that most people think of when discussing “church.” Technology and missional opportunities are better places to spend your money, Moore advises.

Of course there are many more great ideas in this book that I cannot take time to recount. But in Part Three Moore discusses the actual planting of the new church. It is important to plant a church with a flexible church structure to facilitate growth, and Moore supports the rapid multiplication of churches as the best growth strategy. Thus in Part Four, “Anticipating the Future,” he concludes the book by explaining how every new church should begin their new life as a reproducing church.

What I found most refreshing about this book was that it was full of practical advice without giving the impression that Moore was interested in creating businesses. His passion for church planting was clear. But he did not seem to be corrupted by the temptation to seek power in starting a new church.

An easy read, yet one that provides a wealth of practical advice, I give this one 4 1/2 stars.

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