Mike McKinley
Church Planting is for Wimps: How God Uses Messed-up People to Plant Ordinary Churches that do Extraordinary Things
(A 9Marks book), Crossway Wheaton, IL, US, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-1433514975

"Two of McKinley’s most valuable lessons are to develop and empower leaders and not just seek to do all the ministry himself, and to nurture and protect his marriage and not undermine it by pressuring himself with workaholism (and expecting the same of his wife)."

For some church leaders there is a sense of awe around church planters - they start from scratch, often with limited resources, build a team of innovators, set a strategy and seek to grow a new church. It is challenging, but in light of the challenges of mission to the West it is an essential role. For their part, church planters often say they prefer to start something new rather than work with inherited traditions. 

Pastors, with a sense of mission and realisation about the disconnect between church and contemporary culture, who look to bring change and challenge to existing churches often pay a steep price with conflict and resistance. All too often the rhetoric of change and innovation is high but the implementation of change lacks careful process. Revitalisation has its own challenges, but again in light of the challenge of mission and the number of plateaued or declining churches it is an essential task.   

Mike McKinley, after seminary, was going to be sent out to church plant from Capitol Hills Baptist Church, where Mark Dever is pastor. The church had decided they wanted to reproduce rather than just keep growing in one location. 

McKinley writes with humour and transparency in narrating his journey towards church planting, and describes how the journey strategically took a church revitalisation path but with the same agenda; that is, planting a faithful and fruitful Gospel witness where none exists. He recognises new churches do not come with the baggage of inherited tradition and can be very successful in reaching new residents in a growth area. However, working with an existing and appropriately desperate church towards revitalisation bypasses a number of logistical and financial difficulties of a new church plant, puts existing resources to work and can be particularly appropriate in suburban areas in a context of declining or dying churches. 

The book is an inspiring example of an ordinary church helping another struggling church to come to a place of new life and mission. McKinley took a small team of seven and joined a small church of 12 members. This is significant - that he did not just go alone, and that he went to a church that was desperate for help and a new direction. 

He reflects on their team building and strategic visioning (or lack thereof). They take a fairly “back-to-basics” approach and move into the area, plan to stay for the long-term, offer good preaching and worship leading, sort out unclear membership and governance processes, and seek to grow a diverse and multicultural new church including planting or partnering with a second Spanish congregation. Two of McKinley’s most valuable lessons are to develop and empower leaders and not just seek to do all the ministry himself, and to nurture and protect his marriage and not undermine it by pressuring himself with workaholism (and expecting the same of his wife). 

The best value of the book is in the story of Guilford Baptist Church and its revitalisation. I am not attracted to the war imagery that the book opens with (we don’t need that in a world of militarism gone wild), nor do I support McKinley’s position against women as elders (a more egalitarian position is my preference both Biblically and pragmatically for relevant mission in an egalitarian Western world), and I am not as convinced about the absolute importance of excellent sermons (interactive teaching is more important in a postmodern era, and more effective for teaching). Despite those differences in outlook, however, I was inspired by how McKinley and team managed to cooperate with God to turn Guilford Baptist Church around. 

It’s not rocket science but more simply showing up and joining with what God is doing. McKinley quotes his mentor Mark Dever who counsels an approach of stability in any ministry: “preach and pray, love and stay”. McKinley asserts God calls and equips ordinary churches and leaders for planting ordinary churches that can do extraordinary things, which he reframes not as numerical mega-growth but in terms of seeing people come to faith and being transformed, and churches being generous in planting other churches. Church Planting is for Wimps is a 9Marks resource (www.9marks.org) and is especially valuable for churches or leaders preparing for revitalising or replanting an existing church. 

To buy this book, follow this link,Church Planting Is for Wimps: How God Uses Messed-up People to Plant Ordinary Churches That Do Extraordinary Things (9Marks) .