Central to any mission plan is establishing new churches. In a new book written by Ed Stetzer, entitled, “Planting New Churches in a Postmodern Age,” a step-by-step strategy for setting up new churches is detailed in light of cultural influences in church-building. Stetzer is a North American Mission Board church planting specialist who shares not only his own experiences in making several new churches and his formal as well as informal research of church planters, but also his Ph.D. knowledge of missiology.
"The book is really a book about how to plant a church, and in the process it analyzes certain contexts in which you would plant a church," Stetzer said. "We all live in a postmodern age, and so it's about planting baby boomer churches, African American churches, ethnic churches -- and churches that reach postmoderns."
It appears that the reception of the book has been positive with several denominations and seminaries labeling the book as required texts for church planters. To those with prospects to becoming a church planter, they can receive copies from the North American Mission Broad.
"What I try to bring to the book is the nuts and bolts of church planting, but also a missiological eye on analyzing church culture and developing strategies to reach those cultures," he said.
Instead of only focusing on the basic elements of church-building in his book, Stetzer emphasizes the building of “missional” churches. Church congregations should be built in such a way that will allow it to reach other people in the culture around them. The church should attract other people in addition to the people similar to them as what happened with the churches that the Southern Baptist congregations planted in the North and West during the 1950s and '60s, which consisted mostly of transplanted Southern Baptists, according to Stetzer.
"It's easier to be a mission-minded church than a missional church because a missional church has to engage the context in which it lives, the water in which its people swim," he said. "That culture has been radically transformed in the last three decades ... and yet most of our churches look the same as they did, with minor adjustments. We can't just willy-nilly adopt the values and norms of the culture, but at the same we can't reach the people of the new millennium with the methods the '50s."
The book also deals with a pervasive postmodern mindset that all new churches must address in some form, Stetzer said. "The answer to planting a church in today's world is not returning to old methods, it is returning to biblical teaching. We just present what Jude called 'the faith once delivered' in a new cultural context. It's the same thing missionaries have been doing in the rest of the world. Now, we live in a mission field and we need to present solid biblical truth in this changing culture."
Other parts of the book gave useful instructions for developing a core group, starting small groups and selecting locations for worship space as reinforcements for evangelism.
"I wrote this book because it pained me to see so many church planters get out on the field and not be able to connect to the culture and to plant a biblically faithful church," he said. "The book is certainly not the answer to all those problems, but I do hope that it will help."
The book was released through Broadman & Holman, the publishing arm of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention and has taken on its second printing with exceeding sales projections.