Dr. J. D. Payne was our guest on "Salty Believer Unscripted" when he publicly announced a forthcoming book titled Apostolic Church Planting: Birthing New Churches From New Believers. Naturally, I was interested so I was thrilled when Payne's print publicist, Alisse Wissman sent me a pre-published manuscript of the book for review. (It's a 8.5x11" printed manuscript bound in a presentation-style thermal binding.)
Payne, J. D. Apostolic Church Planting: Birthing New Churches From New Believers. Downers Grove, Illi: InterVarsity Press, 2015.
In his book, Apostolic Church Planting: Birthing New Churches From New Believers, Dr. J. D. Payne sets out complement his larger textbook, Discovering Church Planting: An Introduction to the Whats, Whys, and Hows of Global Church Planting with this much shorter book. Payne also tries to answer additional questions and further mature ideas that were not as developed in the larger textbook. "Naturally," writes Payne, "there is some overlap between the two. If there weren't, you would be wise to question an author who writes two books on a subject with no continuity and much divergence in thought" (9). Found throughout Apostolic Church Planting is the statement, "For more on _______ see chapter _______ in Discovering Church Planting." Clearly the two books are highly tied, although both stand alone on the topic of church planting. However, Apostolic Church Planting's illustrations are current, as to be expected; not that Discovering Church Planting is out of date. In addition, Apostolic Church Planting better address the need for apostolic planting in North America.
Like every other book on church planting, Payne starts with the question, what is church planting? Often, a person picking up a title that deals with church planting will already understand the answer to this question; but it seems appropriate that Payne address this issue. Given the slightly different approach, size, and nature of this book, it is possible that this title could be the first book a future planter or planting team reads on the topic.
Payne writes, "Throughout the Bible, we read of the birth of churches--after disciples are made. Biblical church planting is evangelism that results in new churches" (15). Right upfront, Payne defines planting as making disciples of those who did not previously have a relationship with Jesus, gathering them together, and then birthing a new church from this group. Outside of his definition is the mission that takes a large group of believers and starts an instant church in another location (although he does not condemn this kind of work). "Churches," Payne states, "are supposed to be birthed from disciple making" (16).
Next, Payne addresses a biblical rationale for what a local church is and is not. Having previously served as a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, this is where his professor cap comes out. And Dr. Payne wears it well. As the book progresses, it becomes more and more practical, eventually concluding with some extremely applicable chapters. Each chapter concludes with a summary, offering a concise snapshot of the primary points of the chapter. At only 121 pages, this is a quick read.
Apostolic Church Planting is easy to read but it is not an 'easy read.' Church planting is hard work and Payne does not sugarcoat it. It is clear that Payne is passionate about helping apostolic planters do the hard work of planting churches that actually advance the Kingdom of God. Like his other books, Payne's style is a little dry. You won't find witty anecdotes or clever writing, but you will find grounded, informative thinking, paragraph after paragraph.
A potential weakness of the book is the lack of perspective from the church in Antioch. Payne appears to use Paul as his primary source for apostolic planting, but Paul did not plant the church in Antioch. In fact, other than knowing they were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, we have no idea the names of the men who planted this church! While an argument from silence is not appropriate, it does seem as if disciples were made by these man who spoke to the Hellenists and preached Jesus. According to the text, some believed. When Barnabas was sent to check it out, he determined that he and Saul could be of service teaching in Antioch. Verse 26 calls this group a church (Acts 11:19-25). It is difficult to know the timeline, but this example seems rather appropriate and a discussion from this perspective would bolster Payne's argument for apostolic planting rather than hiving off a group of disciples and transplanting them elsewhere. But this is such a minor weakness it is almost not worth mentioning.
Apostolic Church Planting makes a great book for would-be plant teams. It's short, divided into easy sections, and offers a great deal of information worth discussing. In addition, as the team has more questions or would like to work through a particular section in greater detail, they could consult Discovering Church Planting (and Payne tells them right where to look). This book would also make a good introductory book for a Bible college or seminary course on church planting or missions (although it should be partnered with an additional textbook). And Apostolic Church Planting is a must read for anyone considering church planting.
As a church planter in a tough place, I highly recommend this book!
Dr. J. D. Payne is the pastor of multiplication for the Church at Brook Hills. In addition, he's one of our favorite guests on Salty Believer Unscripted. Some of his other books include Roland Allen: Pioneer of Spontaneous Expansion; Missional House Churches: Reaching Our Communities with the Gospel; Pressure Points: Twelve Global Issues Shaping the Face of the Church; and Strangers Next Door: Immigration, Migration and Mission, among others. You can also download three free ebooks at www.JDPayne.org.