Today sees the release of Multiplying Churches in the US, an Acts 29 title edited by Steve Timmis. For many church leaders, struggling to cope with internal problems, church planting does not even appear on the agenda of things to be considered. But – how do we reach this lost generation in which we have been placed? Multiplying Churches, written from Acts 29’s years of experience, unpacks how church plants can be used not only to reach people with the Gospel, but to encourage an entire church family to be actively involved in doing so. This serves as a timely reminder that mission needs to be our identity rather than our event.
Below is a review of the book by our friend Mark Dever.
The title and core convictions of this book are the only things that remain of Steve Timmis’ earlier book by this same name. Multiplying Churches, then and now, has aimed to be a volume pulling together practice and theology, and in this new edition, the contributors have done that superbly. Most of the contributors are European (or British) with only a couple of exceptions. As such, they have their finger on the pulse of life in the “post-Christian” West.
Multiplying Churches, then and now, has aimed to be a volume pulling together practice and theology.
Tim Chester deftly leads the reader through a biblical theology of the centrality of the Word being expressed most naturally through evangelism and church planting. Henri Blocher provides the most unusual and creative portion of the book. He, too, provides a biblical theology, but whereas Tim Chester’s was tried and true—mainstream stuff—Blocher creatively makes informed suggestions and connections which some may find too speculative. His faithful orthodox framework, however, should reassure most readers, and many will find insights in Blocher’s connections and reflections that will prove surprisingly refreshing for people who are mainly accustomed to read tomes of Church growth and leadership material.
Steve Timmis himself provides a summary of the church planting we see in the New Testament. Bible wisdom, informed by a knowledge of church history, makes this chapter a solid contribution. Geneva appears as an encouraging example, for the pastor, of the real power of God’s Word. This chapter might be an especially appropriate stand-alone study with your elders in this year of celebrating the Reformation. Later, then, in chapter 8, Timmis provides a clear and succinct defence of the important truth of God’s gender plan in the life of the church. The simplicity of this chapter certainly adds to its usefulness. The conclusion at the end of the volume is a great summary, too.
Chandler reminds us that the Spirit is as essential for our work as he was for the apostles.
Matt Chandler, pastor of Village Church, Flower Mound, Texas, USA, authors two of the chapters. First, he presents a chapter on being motivated by the Gospel. It is the combination of practical and inspiring that we’ve come to expect from Matt. Again, this chapter can be used by itself as an encouragement to a discouraged pastor or church planter. Chandler also makes a contribution reminding us of the role of God’s Spirit in planting a new congregation. While there were some things unique to the apostolic foundations of the church, the Spirit is as essential for our work as he was for theirs. Chandler reminds us of this.
Reuben Hunter, pastor of Trinity West Church, London, handles I Thessalonians 2 like the seasoned pastor that he is. Stuffed with practical wisdom (e.g. “babies are not great encouragers”), Hunter shows that planters are pastors. Counseling patience and love, this simple, pastorally applied exposition is one of the jewels in the book.
One Mokgatle, pastor in Pretoria, South Africa, provides a biblical call to diversity. Mixing his own experiences with reflections on Scripture, Mokgatle gives a positive picture of the richness of part of God’s plan that many can too easily miss.
Another of the gems of this volume is the chapter by Ruth Woodrow, wife of a pastor and mother of four, member of Crowded House, Loughborough. Going right to relevant Scriptures, and mixing this with a positive vision of experience in her own local church, Woodrow encourages us in seeing God’s good plans for men and women.
On the whole, this volume has much to commend itself to the pastor who is hungry to learn, willing to read a succession of short chapters, and to reflect on his own ministry. I’m thankful to Steve Timmis for pulling it together, and pray that the Lord will bless it, and many churches through it.