Book Review: Church Planter by Darrin Patrick – The Message

We’re in the midst of a man crisis. The vast majority of males today are not men at all—they are “bans,” neither boys nor men who don’t know what it actually means to be a man.

And this is as true in the Church as it is in culture at large.

Guys in the church, especially, need godly men to show them the way. Men who are rescued from their sin by the gospel of Jesus Christ, who are called and qualified. Men who are skilled and dependent on the Holy Spirit; who are shepherds and determined.

“When these elements combine, the result is a man who is fit to carry the message of Jesus into the world,” writes Darrin Patrick (p. 103).

So what is the message we are to proclaim?

In part two of Church Planter, Patrick describes the message of the Church—the gospel—in all its provocative glory.

It is a historical message. The gospel is rooted in history. It is not the message of a historical figure that has been hijacked by his overzealous followers—it is grounded in fact. And these facts matter. It matters that Jesus was a real man. It matters that He really died on a cross. It matters that He literally, physically rose from death. It is the message of what God has done in history. “[T]he historicity of Christianity and the physicality of Jesus must be defended, because a Christianity not grounded in history is no Christianity at all.” (p. 114).

It is a salvation-accomplishing message. The gospel is the message of what God has done in history—and that is, first and foremost, Jesus coming to atone for the sins of mankind. Because God is so completely and utterly holy and righteous He cannot tolerate any evil. And the good news of the gospel is good news because Christ actually saves sinners. “God’s wrath toward sin is no longer aimed at those who trust Jesus as Lord. Instead all that was required for our salvation from sin has been accomplished by Jesus Christ” (p. 129).

It is a Christ-centered message. The gospel is not just the message about what Jesus has done—Jesus is the gospel. Jesus Himself declared that the whole of the Old Testament was about His life, death and resurrection. “It’s the central truth, the primary thread, the ‘Big E’ on the eye chart when it comes to understanding Scripture” (p. 134). We cannot understand the Bible without Christ being at the center of everything. Any message preached from the Bible without Christ at its center will be moralism, relativism, self-helpism or activism… but it “will not motivate people to love Christ, his people and his world” (p. 141).

It is a sin-exposing message. Today, the only unpardonable sin in our culture is to call anything “sin.” But when the true message of Scripture is proclaimed, sin will be exposed. “If there is no challenging of the sinful heart, there is no gospel preaching,” writes Patrick (p. 151).

It is an idol-shattering message. The sin Scripture’s most repeated and emphatic denunciations are reserved for is the sin of idolatry; indeed, it is the sin underneath most other sins. “All sin flows from valuing something more highly than we value God” (p. 160). But true gospel preaching forces us to confront our idols, to repent and turn away from them and toward Christ. It reveals to us the bad news that we’re even worse sinners than we thought. “However, the good news is better than we thought. Though in repentance we see that we are bigger sinners than we thought, through faith in the gospel we see that Jesus is a bigger Savior than we thought” (p. 168).

Part two of Church Planter, by and large, reminded me of how breathtaking the truth of the gospel is—and how breathtakingly ridiculous the gospel is if it’s not true. If the gospel isn’t historical, doesn’t accomplish anything without my involvement, is centered on anyone or anything but Christ, serves to prop up my sins and doesn’t lead me to turn from my idols and trust in Jesus, it’s of no use to me or anyone else.

But it is all of these things—and more! Reading these chapters once again reminded me of just how much I need this message in every aspect of my life.

One quick example: In my day job, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of what Patrick calls “activist” preaching—letting the cause become more important than Christ. But, in a particularly poignant passage, he writes:

Care for the poor, for example, is very important but it should not be divorced from Jesus Christ and the message of personal salvation that is connected with his life, death, and resurrection. We should work for the good of our cities, serve the poor, and fight injustice and oppression as a sign of the kingdom to come and as a sign we know the King. But Christ-centered preaching doesn’t forsake the personal nature of the gospel in order to simply focus on the corporate aspects of the gospel. Instead it provides the ultimate grounds and larger context for gospel-motivated mercy for the poor and oppressed. (p. 141)

This was both a strong encouragement to continue striving to place Christ at the center of everything that I write and a gentle warning of the temptations that exist for those of us who do work in social justice oriented organizations.

The message of the Church is nothing but salvation through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. It’s the message that makes the dead live. And it’s the message that drives the mission of the Church.

Next: The Mission

Title: Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission
Author: Darrin Patrick
Publisher: Crossway (2010)

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  • Keystone

    This is a classic case of The Fallacy of Composition (usually applied in economic theory, but adaptable to all life).

    In essence, the Fallacy proclaims:
    “What is true for the GROUP, is NOT necessarily true for the individual”
    Also, “What is true for the INDIVIDUAL, is NOT necessarily true for the group”.

    In Economics, money can be spent or saved. It has no other utility.
    If an individual saves, there is a source of investment funds to expand the economy.
    Savings is very very good by the individual.

    However, if everybody in the economy saves, this is not good.
    Since everyone is saving everthing, no one spends. Inventories build up and factories lay off people.
    Unemployment rises, debt too. Savings is very very bad by the group.

    Conversely, when I as an Individual buy a car or refrigerator and SPEND, this is very good, since the manufacturer will now need to make another to sell. Buying by an individual is very very good.

    But what if everyone in the economy buys stuff?
    Inventories fly off the shelf and reorders are placed to manufacturers. They hire new staff to keep up with the demand. Prices rise on the dwindling inventory of goods available. Employment skyrockets.
    Everybody is spending and wants everything.

    So factories go to the bank to get short and long term loans to make payroll and add new buildings and equipment. And what do they find?
    The banks can not loan anything, for no one is saving and they have no money to lend out.
    The GROUP is spending;not saving, and there is no capital available to expand the economy.
    Group spending is very very bad, eh?

    Apply the Fallacy of Composition to all areas of life and things get simplified for TRUTH.

    The Message of Men and Boys above for example. TRUE????

    Let’s see.

    Coal miners trapped in darkness for months in Chile,
    One sends up a note the day before he is rescued.

    “There are actually 34 of us, because God has never left us down here.”
    — 19-year-old Chilean miner Jimmy Sanchez, in a letter sent up from the mine Tuesday—-maybe-of-the-year.html

    Here we have a 19 year old boy, who seems to understand God, and The Message in full.

    But is it an individual, …or the entire group?

    Sometimes, even the Fallacy of Composition fails, when every individual, the entire group, or separately, love God with all their hearts and He takes care of them in return.

    However, since the lad quoted is a 19 year old boy, the fallacy of Composition says that the author of this post and position is in error……even if he speaks for the entire group known as MEN.

  • Aaron Armstrong

    Thanks for the feedback, Keystone, although I’m not certain how your argument using the fallacy of composition disproves the cultural assessment?

    No one, neither myself or the author of the book, is suggesting that there are NO real, godly men in the church, but we would have to walk around with our hands over our eyes to not see that there is a serious lack of men.

    The point is that as the message of the gospel is clearly preached, God will raise up more men who are transformed by it to lovingly lead their wives and children, serve their churches & communities and work hard for the glory of God.

    Perhaps I’m missing your point in your comment?

  • Amber

    The idea of this book makes me a bit uncomfortable. Not because I think it contains un-truths, but because I think I have experienced the bad side of the culture/attitude that exists in some churches that men aren’t “real men” anymore. When my husband struggled with unemployment (though he faithfully searched for employment), he faced this attitude of, “Be a man, not a boy. You must be being wimpy and secretly playing video games and not taking leadership.”

    What this often does to someone in a place of disadvantage (such as an unemployed person who can often be depressed) is push them deeper into depression and a feeling of helplessness and uselessness. Now some camps would say that depression is wishy-washy woman talk. But it is a genuine problem. In short, I fear that the strategies used by the man vs. boy camp often are the exact opposite that the supposed “boys” need. My husband needed support and encouragement, not derision. Not that this book is derisive, but it is easy for a culture of derision to subtly seep into us, as that is human nature.

    • Aaron Armstrong

      This is excellent feedback, Amber. I totally see where you’re coming from with regard to the concern you’re voicing; one of the things that I appreciate in the book is that it does seek to avoid creating a derisive culture, too. The “man-up” message, without explanation of what a biblical man is, is wicked.

      I wonder if that’s why there is so much emphasis in the book on the need to be transformed by the gospel?

      If you haven’t had a chance, take a look at part one of this review?

      • Amber

        Thanks, Aaron. I think you can see from my post and Keystone’s post that this is a touchy subject! There are many hurting people out there. I haven’t read the book, so I don’t fault it. I just think we need to be cautious and use wisdom in exhorting others in this area, considering what will most help them/what is most needed in their present situaiton. In our experience the, “Be a man” strategy that some took was far more debilitating (and emasculating) than empowering. But I also think that the problem stems from people’s uncertainty as to how to help people in difficult situations. We can have good intentions, but also be a bit like bulls in the proverbial china shop.

        Sometimes buzz phrases can catch on, and the original context is lost. So even if a pastor or Patrick originally stated truth with grace, in our human meanness, we can easily remember the “Don’t be a boy,” and forget the rest of the story. Thanks for your level-headedness.

  • Keystone

    Perhaps you are missing my point, Aaron.
    Or perhaps I miss the point of you and Mr. Patrick.

    It matters not, since we have all expressed our points to be read by anyone, and draw conclusions.

    Perhaps if I were in China and a fellow wrote on the lack of men, I would stand appalled.
    There, approxiamtely 40 million men have no one to ask for a bride as the China policy of one child per family led to a wholesale slaughter of millions of baby girls. The men, allowed to live due to their gender, now face a lonely prospect of having a bride, unless they leave China and have intermarriage….unlikely prospect.
    Christian churches as they are structured in North America would = FAIL over there.
    No man to lead the nuclear family our churches choose to love best.

    Telling these MEN what is said above by Patrick or your analysis would be moot to all of them. They will never bring a family to Church anywhere, for they will not have a family.

    You view the Church as Canadian (mostly), Mr. Patrick has his and I have a USA view, albeit I have travelled the world and seen children of God in all ages in many countries.

    Is there a delay in growing up in the USA for our men? Yup?
    Is it a God thing, or more culturally based from women extending their “equality”, and the gender roles now being intermingled?
    Your call as to which you believe.

    I find few college age students bothering to marry for two reasons:
    1) the church all but abandons anyone outside the framework of what the church calls “family”; mom, dad, and the kids. There is nothing at church for 18- 30 year olds until they get married and need a baptism for a child, then the churches fight over that “family” to join the “family of God”….them. It is deplorable.

    2) Women’s lib and the cultural change of more women than men in universities now, and holding increased paychecks managed to change “old, or traditional” male roles into a modified version we now witness.
    And that version holds confusion, ( a hallmark of satan) sometimes, as simple as who picks up the check on a date.

    Just this week I read of a woman lamenting a fellow not paying for his first date check; “go dutch” was his wisdom. When she pushed the issue, he noted that were he to pay the bill, she would then be an “escort” not a date. Umbrage settled in as the next part of the conversation; but please note guys feel this more and more.

    Our churches no longer preach the truth.
    If a person wants that, they better be prepared to read their Bible and find someone on their own who knows a tad more about it than them, to avoid the blind leading the blind.

    History is significant you say, as does the book author??
    Well, the catholic church would say “Darn Right” and then allow they are the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church since Peter was the annointed first Pope. You have heard the rest.

    But the cultural significance today on that?
    The Catholic church forbids communion to any who divorce and remarry.
    Their church pews empty out galore as we all see, and the churches proudly built by immigrants of the 1800 and 1900 era…..close for good. (I have made no inclusion of the pedophile stuff, but I am sure others would link that in the close down of churches too)

    Uh, communion is a rather central tenant to Christianity still, eh?
    The divorced at church (Protestant and catholic, are steerage on the Titanic, as far as viewed by the church.

    The Old Testament is clear:

    The Year of the LORD’s Favor
    The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
    because the LORD has anointed me
    to preach good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
    to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
    to comfort all who mourn,..
    —Isaiah 61: 1-2

    The New Testament is clear:

    “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to preach good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
    to release the oppressed,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
    —Luke 4:18-19

    My contention on the Fallacy of Composition (after explaining the economic origin,…. is simple:
    If you maintain a rule as fact, and there is an exception to that fact, the rule is actually untrue.
    The church “preaches” a lot of material in this realm, regrettably.

    A sizeable percent of men in the USA are in jail, for whatever reason.
    “Proclaiming freedom for the prisoners”???? The church is rather abysmal at that.

    Homelessness and joblessness are rampant. Lotsa silence from the church on that.

    Bind up the brokenhearted???
    Man o man does Haiti come to mind, and the incredible silence since the Earthquake, not to mention the one in China, and the floods of Pakistan. The church has difficulty maneuvering into these areas of need in part due to our history of using NGO’s as CIA operation covers. Coupled with the fact we are broke.
    All of this work is left politically to the governments, not to the churches as spiritual endeavors.
    [Yes, I know of Compassion, and a jillion more, but as far as CHURCH in this area…..pass the plate on Sunday and add some money and my spiritual life is complete church-wise……and the CHURCH operates this way!]

    But to the central point that men of around age 18 to 30, or even mid-30’s are in a suspended state, I believe these are CULTURAL factors, not church related (except abandoning this age group until they get a family and come back when they can do church right (according to church rules).

    Need men at church?
    Being an “elder” is more a function of economic status in the community than holiness.
    So much for 18-30 participating as an elder, regardless of their spiritual input.

    The church has yet to deal with the massive growth in shacking up, versus marriage (and the women seem to accept this OR it would end tonight. We need GODLY WOMEN! No need for marriage or for growing up in today’s society for the age group in discussion.

    I will allude to one young man who approached me and asked me to take a look at what he made.
    He showed me his artistry at making stringed beads, and I was speechless as he was 30.
    By that age, I had two daughters, a marriage, a house, a mortgage and a job, as well as church responsibilities, a garden, a golf league, bowling league and more.

    I was speechless, as the man lived with his parents still. He holds a high paying State job, and shacks up with his girlfriend at his parent’s home.
    He has everything he needs physically, and nothing eternally.

    The churches I attended in his area had one pastor in a Jim Jones smock, waving a military sword and placing it on the floor for his sermon, exclaiming from (Ephesians 6;10-20) that any who come forward ala Billy Graham crusade types, and jump across the sword he laid on the floor, would be saved!!!
    Precisely one person in the church failed to get up for this….ME. All the rest walked up, jumped and held their hands skyward and cried out tears to the Lord, in Thanksgiving for their salvation at having done this act.

    There is no UNITY in the church.
    A House Divided Can Not Stand.

    God is not worried and will not be mocked.
    How many generations has he prospered and others annihilated instead?

    Last, I do not agree with tossing a pebble to the far side of the pond and adoring the ripples headed my way.
    I believe the church needs to work where it is, and let the ripples proceed outward from a strong base of unity. Church planting dilutes that and has ripple intersections galore, and a resulting, curious development of “church hopping” in lieu of church—-for better or for worse….just like marriage.

    I caution you to view the church more globally and less from the perspective of the USA and Canada.
    We are not the church.

    Do not take this comment as a clarification, but more as an amplifcation.

    Ps. How old were the 11 Apostles (I exclude Judas) when they began to take “church” seriously?
    Christ himself was in His 30’s!!!!
    Today, that would be equivalent to what??? 50???

  • Keystone

    Well said Amber! (We typed/posted simultaneously and I missed your comment)

    As a single dad of two young daughters, the church was abysmal for me.

    They grew up knowing God through their father on Earth, not “church”.

    And now that I am deaf (prematurely), the church is a vast wastleland to the handicapped.
    Oh, there is showy stuff like a ramp, or hearind aids (no good for the deaf). Few spots have ASL.
    Most pastors fail to stand at the podium as designed for a purpose, but use homily time as exercise time, racing from one end of the church to connect better as they turn their back on 90% of the rest of us. The process is repeated to the far end anew to connect with the uneccessarily”lost”.

    STAND FIRM! ….and preferably at the podium where your lips can be read, in lieu of ASL neglect.
    IPOD sermons and Videos (Vimeo) galore are no use to me. How many more fall through the cracks or are not even approached?

    I can post a comment at an atheist, gay, Yoga, Buddist, non Christian site online (about Christiaity) and be far greater welcomed and accepted “as is” than at any Christian Blog (save this one).
    Those (‘christian” blogs, are doctrinal snobs, clanish, and far from the Bible in their postings and commentary.

    Far to many church activities cost money, instead of employing the Bible and coming to applying it to whatever stage of life folks are in……you know, the way Jesus applied his ministry to ALL.
    Ski club? Pastor of Sports? Where will men learn their responsibility in the abortion game in stuff like that?

    As for the centrality of prayer, the world knows Muslims stop what they are doing five times a day and pray.
    Who, anywhere, thinks that thought about any Christian?
    (The pope excepted)

    Amber, I hurt for your husband and his experiences. To stay home with my girls, I went through all of that too and restarting was nowhere to be found among Christian mentors.
    Indeed, the few Christian businessmen I encountered taught me they knew zip about Christianity by their behavior, albeit ALL were elders. (They cheated their customers, enriched their pockets, etc).

    Is that all Christians? Certainly not.
    But far too many I encountered as a Christian….except for one I recall who became a good Samaritan to me, and had no reason to do so. That good samaritan to me, at a critical time, made me wonder if the “Men” were the ones not doing church, but doing CHRIST.

    • Aaron Armstrong

      Thanks for sharing this Keystone. I’m continually grateful that you feel this is a “safe” place to participate and share.

      Your story (as well as Amber’s) grieve me; I’m deeply sorry for the pain you’ve experienced at the hands of ungodly men. The observation you make at the end of this is bang on–real “men” are ones who are striving to be like Jesus. Well said, friend.

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