Weekend Reading: Church Planting Is for Wimps by Mike McKinley
Based on the title alone, I am not sure I would have bought and read Church Planting is for Wimps (2010, Crossway). Wimps? Really? But I met Mike McKinley and heard him speak at a conference earlier this year. After that, I HAD to read the book!
McKinley is pastor at Guilford Baptist Church in Sterling, Virginia. I previously reviewed Am I Really a Christian?
Church Planting Is for Wimps is the story of McKinley’s move from being on staff at Capitol Hill Baptist Church preparing to plant to taking on the role of revitalizing the existing Guilford Baptist Church.
I have only one quibble with this book, and it is admittedly a small one. The title leads to the assumption it is about church planting. The story is one of church revitalization. While there is much overlap, they are not the same. Please do not let that stop you—or even slow you down—from reading this book! That detail is quickly forgotten and the book is too practical not to read.
McKinley tells not only the story of his church, he does so in the context of his own story. This is not a method or plan or strategy that would work for every church planter. But with who God crafted him to be, it was a good fit. Instead of reading the book as a how-to manual, read the stories and look for the principles; they work with anyone’s story.
One of the things I most appreciate about the author is his transparency. While not going into unnecessary detail, he is honest about the hardships of planting a church, especially on his marriage. I cannot speak with experience about the toll on a marriage of planting a church, but I do know that full-time ministry does bring an extra serving of stress into the relationship; and McKinley treats that honestly, pointing out that it is often our own sin that leads to that situation.
Perhaps the best chapter is the closing one. In it, McKinley made a few observations which were a real encouragement to me:
As a general rule, pastors should stay where they are and tend the flock long-term. He quotes an unnamed older man as saying: “Young men tend to overestimate what they can accomplish in the short term and underestimate what they can accomplish in the long term.”
The obsession with church size is killing many church planters. I would add that it is having the same effect on pastors, in general. Regardless of the good ministry we do, we often struggle with disappointment over the size of our congregation. Pride on the inside and influence (books, conferences, etc.) on the outside encourage us to equate “big church” with “good pastor”.
We need to redefine extraordinary. God’s extraordinary work is not necessarily big crowds, big buildings, and big budgets. It is when proud, angry, selfish people have their hearts changed by the gospel. It is when churches are selfless with their time, money, and prayers to multiply their ministry. It is when marriages are restored and when cultural prejudices give way to unity through the gospel.
If you are planting, thinking about planting, or have planted a church, you should read this book. I would encourage it for pastors for some perspective on the task at hand. If you pastor a church that is in decline or on its way out, read this book as you pray about the future of the congregation. In addition, most any believer should find it interesting. I recommend Church Planting Is for Wimps without reservation.