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Starting Missional Churches: Life with God in the Neighborhood Paperback – August 28, 2014
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"If the Western church is going to do more than survive, at some level she will have to accept the critique and theology that was first espoused by Lesslie Newbigin in the 1970s. This very creative volume does just this. A must for would-be church planters and for pastors who want to avoid both cultural drift and Christendom shackles. Lau Branson and Warnes have pulled together a community of church planting practitioners who are reflecting on church planting with theological integrity, cultural awareness and missional conviction. A must read for church leaders in North America. One of the classic lines of this important volume is Lau Branson reflecting on the nature of any church: 'Newbigin would have us become aware, be participants, while also being people of a counternarrative.' This creative volume will help people 'become aware' as they plant churches that embrace local contexts while living a 'counternarrative.' This is a practical volume with theological integrity." (Scott W. Sunquist, dean of the School of Intercultural Studies and professor of world Christianity, Fuller Theological Seminary)
"Recognizing that many previous models of church planting are losing their effectiveness in the twenty-first century, Mark Lau Branson and Nicholas Warnes offer a compelling vision of church planting for our times that is deeply rooted in missional theology and in the particularities of the neighborhoods in which churches are planted. Built around the narrative of seven diverse churches that embody this new way of church planting, Starting Missional Churches offers not easy solutions but rather deep wisdom about the genesis of new church communities today, and is essential reading for church planters and everyone who cares about the future of the church." (C. Christopher Smith, coauthor of Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus)
"If the church is to remain vital and connected to communities, there has to be a new energy to form missional congregations of people that may have never seen the inside of a traditional church. This is our calling and this book will be a good guide for those in the 1,001 congregations movement as well as the rest of us." (Roy Howard, Presbyterian Outlook, July 30, 2014)
"If you want to learn about and be inspired by missional churches that are gospel driven, prayer shaped, and parish and neighborhood oriented, this book is for you. The emphases on God as the primary agent in church planting, neighbors as subjects and actors, leadership as plural, and crossing economic and cultural boundaries as crucial makes this book refreshing, unique and timely!" (Rick Richardson, director, masters in missional church movements, Wheaton College, author of Reimagining Evangelism)
"Nick Warnes is a passionate church planter who reflects well. Mark Lau Branson is an excellent thought leader who has planted and participated in daring missional communities. The two of them have come together with several other engaged missional thinkers and practicing planters to offer compelling stories that will inspire missional leaders to renew local missional communities. Stories (re)create worlds, and this volume is in the business of renewing leaders and communities to shape our local neighborhoods (our worlds) for the gospel." (Kyle J. A. Small, associate academic dean and associate professor of church leadership, Western Theological Seminary, Holland, Michigan)
"The essays in this volume rescue the phrase 'missional church' from the kind of indiscriminate use that threatens to make it little more than a slogan or cliché. The editors do not give us a one-size-fits-all strategy for church planting but offer instead a series of accounts about the ways a group of local congregations, as they thought about the ways they would organize their life together and ministries, sought above all to be attentive to ways the Spirit is at work in our rapidly changing world. The result is a book that stimulates the imagination for responding to the unique circumstances of our communities with the good news of Christ." (Barry Harvey, professor of theology, Baylor University, and author of Can These Bones Live?)
"Two of the most significant developments in twenty-first-century American evangelicalism are the missional church movement and the church planting movement. However, these two movements have not always produced the most robust, ecclesial works that reflect the great cultural diversity and innovative ministry necessary for the changing face of American Christianity in the twenty-first century. Starting Missional Churches is the necessary corrective step towards an ecclesial engagement as well as a relevant embodied practical theology. This book may prove to be the essential starter text for those engaged in both the missional and church planting movements." (Soong-Chan Rah, Milton B. Engebretson Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism, author of The Next Evangelicalism)
"Congregational leaders don't need to be told that the context of Christian ministry has radically changed in our lifetime, nor that, for many of us, these changes continue at a dizzying pace. The contributors to this book are neck deep in these realities, so they're well-positioned to invite us into an important conversation about what it means to be the church in mission today. We would be suspicious if a book like this offered easy answers, but we have much to learn from these stories about hearing the voice of the Spirit in our local contexts as we envision and cultivate missional churches." (Joel B. Green, professor of New Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary)
"When it comes to church planting in North America, we stand in need, not so much of a new model, but of a fresh vision altogether. For those with ears to hear, 'missional' invites a fundamental (and much needed!) reframing of theological perspectives and ministry practices that gives rise to such a vision. The diverse narratives and theological insights offered in this book are compelling resources for those who would take a missional posture toward church planting. This book will be at the top of my list to recommend to those interested in joining in on God's mission through beginning new local churches." (JR Rozko, director, Missio Alliance)
"'If you build it, they will come' may be good advice for creating a ballpark in the middle of a cornfield, but it doesnt work for starting new churches in post-Christian North America. When all the expert advice about church planting leads us down a rabbit hole, we need to start over again by turning to biblical and missional foundations. Mark Lau Branson and Nick Warnes show us a new/old way to embark on the daring adventure of starting missional faith communities through building relationships rather than buildings. This book is an important and engaging addition to the current church planting literature." (Vera Karn White, associate for 1001 New Worshiping Communities, Presbyterian Church (USA))
"Mark Lau Branson and Nicholas Warnes have offered an invaluable gift in Starting Missional Churches. They fruitfully reframe church planting away from old expert-driven models toward the birthing of new communities joining Gods life in the neighborhood. Best of all, the heart of the book is a series of first-hand stories from real planters serving in a variety of contexts. This is a hopeful and inspiring book grounded in lived practice." (Dwight J. Zscheile, associate professor of congregational mission and leadership, Luther Seminary, and coauthor of The Missional Church in Perspective)
"I highly recommend this book for both those seeking to engage in the missional conversation and those looking to go further into that understanding. If stories form us and give us the script we embody, we would do well to listen, ask questions, and then listen some more." (Scott Emery, Englewood Review of Books, Ordinary Time 2014)
About the Author
Mark Lau Branson (MA, Claremont School of Theology; EdD, University of San Francisco) is the Homer L. Goddard Professor of the Ministry of the Laity at Fuller Theological Seminary where he teaches courses on congregational leadership and community engagement. He is the author of Memories, Hopes and Conversations: Appreciative Inquiry and Congregational Change.
Nick is the organizing pastor of Northland Village Church in Los Angeles, California, and loves to spend his extra time supporting others to start new churches. He does this as a coach and church planting assessor for the Presbyterian Church USA, a coach and trainer for Bridges, a nonprofit focused on creating Christ-following communities in Southern California and as a co-creator of a regular cohort for people discerning church planting. Nick also sits on the board of Bridges and is a teacher and advisor for the Fuller Theological Seminary Church Planting Certificate.
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Top Customer Reviews
American church planting has reached its zenith. An industry in itself, church planting has become the mission statement of some denominations present in North America (e.g. the Southern Baptist Convention). In anticipation of the many methods practiced by these church planters, Starting Missional Churches: Life with God in the Neighborhood offers an important vocalization of a new missions-minded church planting movement. Instead of treating America as a field of harvesting, the authors of Missional Churches demonstrate a story of American church planting that places “missions” at the front of the church’s worldview. Based on the presupposition that America is a mission field in which God is already at work (9-10), the “collection of stories” (11) constituting Missional Churches addresses the neighborhood as the church’s mission field.
Missional Churches begins and ends with pragmatic explanations of what missional churches in fact are. Chapters 1 and 2 set the stage for how these neighborhood-centered churches differ from traditional SPEC (“Suburban Sprawl,” “Protestant Splitting,” “Expert Strategies,” and “Charismatic Figure”) strategies (14-27). In opposition to SPEC, these authors and pastors seek to “engage this changing American environment as a mission field” (27). Involved in this missional approach are priorities such as viewing one’s “neighbor as subject” instead of an object (e.g. demographic) and intentional “boundary crossing” (e.g. not setting up “your church”). Whereas SPEC strategies support founding a church to reach a certain type of people (e.g. lifestyle, worship style, social status, etc.), the missional approach calls the church to focus on the neighborhood and people that surround them (57, 68, 105, 124).
Written from a spectrum of different denominational situations and theological traditions (e.g. Baptist, Presbyterian, Charismatic and non-denominational), the co-authors of Missional Churches demonstrate the fluid approaches and applications that can develop within this missional mindset. Presented as “stories” (11) of growing churches, each chapter brings something unique to the volume. Some distinctions will make individuals in other traditions uncomfortable, but ultimately they work to show the committed application of missions in America. Without tip-off, the “stories” standout chapters include those by Craig Brown (chapter 4), Nikki Collins MacMillian (chapter 6), and AJ Swoboda (chapter 8).
In conclusion, Missional Churches presses on the future of the church and convicts concerning its planting procedures. Although the authors push the conservative evangelical church’s proverbial envelope, these stories press individuals of every denomination and belief to pursue Christ and His kingdom in America’s neighborhoods. Pastors, planters, and ministry workers will benefit from engaging the authors and ideas presented both in their abstract and incarnational forms.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Pacific Southwest Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church.