Book Review: Church Planter by Darrin Patrick – The Mission

The Church needs godly men who are transformed by God’s message of salvation to carry out God’s mission in creation. In parts one and two of Church Planter, pastor and author Darrin Patrick examines the character and qualities of a man fit to lead the church and the message he proclaims.

“Men who are qualified, called, and armed with the gospel message are on a mission with Jesus, who came to seek and save the lost,” writes Patrick (p. 173).

Patrick concludes Church Planter by examining the Church’s mission to seek and save the lost as we seek to imitate Christ. Patrick breaks it down as follows:

The heart of mission is compassion. “[C]ompassion is the dominant emotion that the Gospel writers ascribed to Jesus. . . . As a Christian anytime you look at someone who is hurting, you will feel compassion, unless you make a choice to turn your head and harden your heart” (pp 174-175). It’s compassion that motivates mission; compassion for the lost drives us to share the good news of the gospel and to live in light of it in practical ways. “Compassion is the God-given emotion that enables us to be distracted from our own wants and focused on others’ needs” (p. 179).

The house of mission is the Church. It’s fairly common these days to take shots at the Church; to suggest that the Church isn’t getting the job done. However, as Patrick rightly asserts, “the local church is God’s eternal plan to both edify his people and evangelize the world” (p. 187). While there are a number of different models of how to “do church,” ultimately a local church that is on mission is one that is focused on Christ, on seeing people come to know and love Jesus. Members are disciples marked by a humble confidence. Confident but not judgemental; humble but not depressed (c.f. p. 191). A gospel-centered church is a reproducing church, making disciples and planting new churches.

The how of mission is contextualization. “We take the unchanging gospel into the ever-changing culture so that persons in a specific time and a specific culture can comprehend the truth of the gospel and be saved by it” (p. 207). While there are many who oppose the idea of contextualization, Patrick astutely points out that everyone contextualizes the gospel, the only question is to when.

The “hands” of mission is care. Jesus expects His followers to obey the revealed Word of God and that is summed up primarily as loving God and loving people. “Jesus . . . wants the church, the unified body of all believers, to strategically seek, reach, teach, and serve people” (p. 211).

The hope of mission is city transformation. Looking at Jeremiah 29:4-7, wherein God commands the Israelites in exile to build homes, plant gardens, have children and seek the welfare of Babylon, Patrick writes, “It seems to me that God is commanding his people to sink themselves deep into the fabric of that wicked city. . . . What would happen if we really tried to be like salt and light to the people living around us?” (pp. 227-228).

Part three of Church Planter is very strong, although not nearly as strong as the first two parts. The explanation & defense of contextualization is solid. The example of how his church is serving as the hands of Jesus in St. Louis is encouraging. The commitment to (and brief explanation of) the local church is wonderful. The need for Christians to be a part of their community, seeking its good for God’s glory is inspiring.

But as I read that final chapter, one statement in particular jumped out at me:

“It is strange the way many Christians give so much money every year to foreign mission efforts without ever considering the need to be a missionary right in their own neighborhoods” (p. 228).

I believe this actually hurts the argument that Patrick is trying to make in this chapter. He’s rightly arguing that we need to be acting as “salt and light” in our communities; to be engaged in our communities as problem solvers, rather than problem finders. To be “in the world but not of the world.” But he didn’t need to set it up as an either/or with foreign missions giving, especially when the stats indicate that approximately 2% of all giving goes to foreign missions (that’s not a lot—I’m pretty sure more money is spent on Starbucks every year).

Maybe it’s one of those instances where I’m reading something into the statement that’s not there, but I’ve seen it enough times from enough voices in the “missional” church movement that it really concerns me. We need to be missionaries at home, absolutely.

But.

We also must—must—do all we can to reach those who are outside our local sphere. We need to think locally and globally, to seek and save the lost wherever they might be. To become too narrow in our focus can cause our vision to become too small.

When all’s said and done, I do believe that Church Planter is an encouraging and inspiring work. Its insights are built upon the firm foundation of Scripture, making it a valuable resource to show people what it takes to be a church planter, showing us godly men who are shaped by God’s message for the sake of God’s mission.


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