I love this book’s subtitle: “How God uses messed-up people to plant ordinary churches that do extraordinary things”. It’s the literary equivalent of click-bait, because well I’m a bit messed up, and I’d like to do extraordinary things, so of course I want to read this!
The reality – rather assuringly – is that Mike McKinley isn’t particularly messed up and the church that God builds through his work isn’t particularly extraordinary. Of course, then the subtitle would be “how God uses average people to plant ordinary churches that do ordinary things”. And the reality for most of us is this is exactly who and where we are, and therefore this is a super read. It’s also a quick read – I got through most of it in 90 minutes in a coffee shop, and to be honest I’m using this review to capture the main points so that they last longer in my mind than the flat white I was drinking at the time.
Mike Mckinley joined Capitol Hill Baptist church as a young punk (the UK variety), and yet found a home with people who were culturally at another end of another spectrum. After some years working and in seminary, the senior minister, Mark Dever, asked him to go and plant another church as part of CHBC’s newly formed planting strategy. This was driven simply by the practical constraints of their building. Too many people for their building and nothing more spirutual than that.
The story is simply that of a young minister going through all the anguish, decision making and work that pretty much any church planter/invigorator must go through. He went to help an old and knackered church called Guilford Baptist rediscover the gospel and life itself. Many questions arise, and McKinley uses his biography as his answer. Will it work? Am I the right man? What about the stroppy existing members of the church? How will it affect the family and marriage? How do we grow? What about evangelism?
Mike’s ordinariness, and his American take on self-deprecating jolliness is charming. Some of the book is laugh our loud funny – I love the image Mike paints of Mark Dever being in the Reformed Mafia, along with his “boundary issues”. Of course there are questions that McKinley never answers, but it was a helpful read – two or three of these testimonies are worth as much as any accomplished manual on church planting and revitalisation.
Three things strike me.
(1) The act of church planting and revitalisation is invigorating for Christians. It makes us excited about faith in Jesus and so we talk about it- and ideally Him – to others. That’s evangelism.
(2) As with pretty much any significant church growth, a good chunk of it comes from an unexpected angle; the work amongst the Spanish speakers was not something that was carefully envisaged in the early days.
(3) Most of all it reminded me that the truths for church plants/revitalisation are the same as for any churches – our job is the great commission: as we go, we are to make disciples of all nations, baptising them and teaching them to obey and follow Jesus. That’s it.