This is an ongoing review of Stetzer’s and Bird’s Viral Churches.
First, I mainly agree with the idea that planting churches—which in turn desire to plant churches—is biblical, effective, and necessary. I also agree that multiplication, not addition, is the answer to changing the communities, regions, and the world in which we live. Finally, I agree that new churches are more effective than existing churches in evangelism. However, there are some things that trouble me about this chapter.
First, I would like to have the idea of planting “among ethnic groups” fleshed out. Surely the idea is not to have only homogenous churches? I know they are easier to get going, but they are not a picture to the culture of what God can and wants to do—reconcile all people not only to himself, but to one another.
Second, there is a palpable tension as I read that this is a personality-driven movement. I am hoping to be dissuaded that this is true.
Third, they claim that Paul’s strategy was “to plant new churches that in turn planted new churches.” But surely that is implied from the NT, not spelled out. Again, I am in agreement that this is a proper way to think about the DNA that a church plant should be instilled with, but is that more methodological than explicitly biblical?
Fourth, I would love to read or hear stories of how existing churches retooled. From reading this first real chapter, one almost gets the impression that older churches should close up shop and allow the newer churches to take over. This is not stated, but one could certainly draw that conclusion. But surely churches have “restarted” or woken up to the reality of what they need to be, changed course, and engaged their community. How does that happen? What energy and teaching needs to be put in place to avoid mission drift? And how can a church change its DNA to be a multiplication church? I realize that this is not what the book is about, but maybe a footnote to direct someone toward someone who has written on that subject.
Finally, their use of the word apostle to describe a church planter irks me. I know this is not uncommon language in church planting circles, but in my own, limited experience, it mostly seems to mean maverick. If an apostle is simply the “role of initiator who plants churches that in turn plant more churches” then that’s fine, but pick a different word than one that Scripture relegates for certain people, who are not simply church planters. Someone who leaves a church to plant another church, despite much counsel against and then plays the God card to justify his actions (This is an apostolic endeavor, God sent me), is not an apostle.
Despite those negatives, I am looking forward to the rest of this book a great deal, getting down to the nitty gritty of making the theoretical a reality.