Chicago Emerging Baptists

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

Redeemer Church Planter Manual

A book review by Steven Darst, BA

This manual was written for the purpose of training church planters for Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City. Redeemer Presbyterian Church vision is to start a movement of church planting that will transform New York City. The manual is split into 5 sections: Owning the Church Planting Vision, Learning and Planning, Launching the Church, Renewal Dynamics, and Changing the Fabric of the City.

The first section, Owning the Church Planting Vision, speaks of why church planting is a must. The main point from this section is to share the vision of Redeemer with the recruited church planters. Using scriptures (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 16:9,12; Titus 1:5; Romans 15:19,23) the author makes the point that the New Testament calls believers to start churches. Statistics are then used to show how starting new churches are far more effective than churches over 10 years of age. From my personal experience, this point is essential in recruiting church planters. One must show the desperate need for churches and how effective they are so that this vision can be realized by the Church in general. The next focus in this section is on what kind of churches to plant. The vision for a new church includes teaching the people the scriptures, creating a strong fellowship, leading the fellowship into worship, and teaching the people how to be a witness. One aspect of their vision that can be debated is their view of having an elder led body. I understand that the Redeemer church is a Presbyterian church and they wish to create more Presbyterian churches. However, this just seems to be their weakest point. One good point that is stated is, ‘though creation started in a beautiful garden, it will end in a city.’ Redeemer then makes the point that Paul started churches in major cities. These cities were the culture centers of the known world. The author makes the point that if they (Redeemer) can reach the cities for Christ, they will then be able to reach the world. The book then goes into detail about the characteristics Redeemer desires to see in a church planter. Redeemer uses a worksheet to take spiritual inventory. They ask questions like, “on a scale from one to ten, how often do you have daily prayer and Bible study?,” and other questions of this sort. Redeemer also has a worksheet to find out what type of neighborhood the potential church planter might be interested in.

The second section, Learning and Planning, is split into three chapters: Neighborhood research, Developing a Philosophy of Ministry, and Writing an Action Plan. The first chapter of this section explains the necessity for demographic and ethnographic research. The demographic research is needed to understand how many and what people groups are moving into the neighborhood. Most church planters use the U.S. Census Bureau to acquire this information. The ethnographic research is a seldom used resource, according to Redeemer. Ethnographic research is used to understand the viewpoints and goals of the people groups in your neighborhood. The second chapter of this section, Developing a Philosophy of Ministry, teaches church planters how to go about reaching their community for Christ. Once the neighborhood has been studied through demographic research and ethnographic research, the next task is to ask, “What is the specific calling of our church?” When the church has discovered their specific calling, they are to then as a church come up with an Action Plan. Coming up with an action plan is not a contract that must be strictly followed. This plan, however, is more of a goal the church wishes to accomplish. After one step of the action plan has been accomplished the next step is to then re-plan. This process continues over and over; planning and re-planning until the goal is met.

The third section, Launching the Church, is used to help a church planter discover and put into action his plan for evangelism, discipleship making, and training leaders. The section is then split up into these three parts. The author argues that best way to evangelize is to use “networking.” This is a philosophy of evangelism based on friendships. These friendships will be cultivated and nurtured in the small groups. However, first the small groups must get started. To create a small group the church planter must first gather together a core group of people seeking to learn about Christ. This core group will be the start of the church. Also a church planter could start a Launch Team. The Launch Team is a group believers who are evangelistically trained by the church planter to start other small groups. The Redeemer Manuel also urges the church planter to have the worship and preaching be focused on evangelism. The author believes that if a preacher preaches as if lost people where there then they soon will be.

The second chapter focuses on discipleship. The author says that the best way to create disciples is to teach them two ministries: caring ministry and leadership development. The disciple should be taught through activities and not necessarily in a classroom setting. The next chapter of this section speaks of training and sending out servant leaders. The church planter must look for members who have a strong commitment to their own spiritual growth and who have a very similar vision for ministry. Redeemer takes these servant leaders through three seven week courses. These courses teach the servant leader the doctrines of the church, how to walk with God, and lastly how to do ministry and service.

The fourth section teaches about spiritual renewal. The author explains that revival occurs when Christians are able to balance two issues: the issue of law and love as well as the issue of theology and spirituality. One must acknowledge that one is hopelessly lost as a sinner deserving death, while at the same time realizing that God is love and that he freely gives salvation. Also one must have head knowledge about God (theology), while at the same time having relational experience with the Triune God (spirituality).

Two chapters are then dedicated to explaining how these two issues should be lived out in the lives of believers individually as well as corporately. The first chapter speaks about the spiritual renewal that occurs individually. This tells the reader that once one has come to accept the love/law issue the next step is repentance. The individual understands that they have done evil. They sorrowfully take responsibility for their actions. They humbly admit that they were at fault and God could justly condemn them. The person hates the evil they have committed and now turns away from sin so as to never return. Once repentance has occurred, one now learns to live by faith. The individual come to understand who they are in Christ. Believers receive joy, power and boldness because they understand that Christ has redeemed them though they were undeserving. The next chapter speaks of corporate renewal. For revival to occur in a congregation, the people must understand correct theology and also spirituality. This is opposed to over intellectualism and emotionalism. The congregation must have these two without leaning more to one side. There must be a healthy medium. The congregation must understand this medium and be able to proclaim it as well.

The final section of the manual speaks about how the Church changes the city from the inside. In every city there is the City of Man and the City of God. The City of Man is what is of the world; while the City of God is what God is doing in the city to renew His creation. The City is to grow when the gospel is proclaimed. The city grows spiritually, socially, and culturally. The goal here is not necessarily to create more churches, but to transform the city. This is the new humanity, or the new creation taking place. This is the City of God.

With the proclamation of the gospel the city changes spiritually. The Redeemer Manual relates this aspect to the story of Ezra. Ezra transformed the mindset of the people of God, so that they would seek Yahweh and continue to change. The task of the church planter is to bring this movement of spiritual change to the city. The church planter has several ways of going about this. Paul taught in the synagogue, spoke in the lecture house of Tyrannus, spoke in the market place, and spoke on Mars Hill.

The city changes socially by proclaiming the gospel. Nehemiah collected the people of God and gave them the task of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. He did not see the people as helpless victims needing him, but as a people with the potentiality of changing their situation. Nehemiah was there to empower all the people, not just those who were the most spiritually mature. The church planter then is to bring change to the entire city, not just those who come to the church. Nehemiah also asked for one out of every ten men living around Jerusalem to come and help build the walls. Redeemer recommends believers moving into locations that are in need of Christ. The people are then to collectively change the city.

The gospel also brings about a cultural change. This point is made clear by using the book of Esther. Esther was used by God to change an unjust law. She was places in the palace of a polygamous pagan to do God’s will. Ray Bakke is quoted as he explains how Christians are to change the injustice in our cities by changing the laws. He says that we need support in courtrooms and legislatures to change the unjust laws. Bakke also argues that church planters need to teach people how to be transformation bringing, Kingdom proclaiming, believers in their work settings. He argues that this is how the gospel changes culture.

The Redeemer Manuel is a well thought out piece. It is a thorough explanation of Redeemer Presbyterian’s vision for church plants. The New Work team could use this manual as an example for its own New Work Manual.