Weekend Reading: For the City
The Book: A book about church-planting did not really appeal to me. I was just not interested. It is not that I don’t believe in planting churches; I do. If the church is going to grow and expand the Kingdom, planting new churches is necessary. I believe in planting churches, I just do not feel called to plant churches.
A book about impacting your city is very appealing to me. Not just being in the city, but being for the city is what we are called to do. For the City (2010, Zondervan) by Darrin Patrick and Matt Carter is about both.
Darrin Patrick is lead pastor of Journey Church in St. Louis, Missouri, which he planted in 2001 and currently has over three thousand people and five campuses. He is also the vice-president of Acts 29, a missional church-planting network. Matt Carter is the Senior Pastor of Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas, one of the hundred fastest-growing churches in America with an average attendance of over five thousand people at their five services.
The Point: While For the City is a book about church-planting, it is by no means a textbook-like treatise or how-to manual on the topic. It is simply the stories of the planting to the two churches listed above. While it does not read like a textbook, it probably should be required (or at least strongly recommended) reading for Bible college and seminary classes on the subject. It is that good and that compelling.
The authors address real, modern church-planting issues in the context of their own stories. After writing about the starting of their churches they address a few important topics in leading a church in and for the city:
Serving the City
They also do something I found particularly interesting: they devoted a chapter to confessing some things they did wrong. Each author spent time in the chapter talking about things like overwork, placing individuals in leadership too soon, poor leadership habits, and other mistakes they made.
Patrick and Carter write not as researchers who have studied church-planting nor as professionals who have mastered the art, although I am sure both are true (to some degree). Instead, they write as experienced leaders who are passionate about their calling and want others to succeed at reaching their cities.
The Result: While For the City was written from the perspective of church-planting, almost all of the book would apply to leaders in existing churches. A good illustration of this is the fact that it was not until after Carter had planted Austin Stone that he, and the church, changed their focus to reaching into and impacting the city of Austin the way they have. There already was a church culture being built that had to be changed. He spends some time discussing this in the book.
I would definitely recommend For the City for anyone considering a church plant. I would also recommend it for any pastor or other senior church leadership.