The Church Planter by Darrin Patrick – Book Review
Darrin Patrick is the lead pastor of The Journey church in urban St. Louis. Patrick started The Journey church in 2002, and has watched the church expand into a Christ-centered missional force in the city of St. Louis. The multi-site church has over 2,000 regular attendees. In addition to his pastoral responsibilites, Darrin Patrick is the vice President of the Acts 29 network, and regular contributor to The Resurgence. Here is a review of his new book, The Church Planter.
Note: Sharefaith Blog will be conducting an interview with the author, Darrin Patrick. Keep up with the blog for when the interview will be released.
A Highly Anticipated Book
I love to read the nutrition facts on food products. (Maybe I’m obsessive compulsive.) I also like to read all the recommendations that other authors write for books–before I read the book. It’s kind of like reading the nutrition facts in a health bar. I know that there’s going to be some good stuff in there; the nutrition facts tell me so. I’m just not sure how it’s going to taste. That’s how it was when I approached Darrin Patrick’s book. Raving blurbs were written by the likes of Tim Keller, Al Mohler, Ed Stetzer, Daniel Akin, Bryan Chapell, Dave Harvey, James MacDonald, Mark Dever, Jud Wilhite, Matt Chandler–all towering figures in their own right. Mark Driscoll penned the foreward. So, this was looking to be a good book before I got to the first page.
Get mad at Patrick early on in the book.
Patrick is a manly man kind of guy. His college days were consumed with sports. He’s got the unshaven man-look. And he’s not afraid to say “Man up!” if he thinks you need it. And if you paused your video game to read his book, you need it. The book opens with a sharp left hook: “We live in a world full of males who have prolonged their adolescence. They are neither boys nor men. They live, suspended as it were, between childhood and adulthood, between growing up and being grown-ups.” He gives this boy-man a name: Ban. Then, Patrick goes on a party-crashing session to bash on Ban’s idols–porn, video games, filthy talking, a degraded view of women, laziness, barhopping, masturbation, sports. Why is Patrick on a tirade against Ban? He explains, “we have a cultural crisis and a theological one that must be addressed.” The cultural crisis is Ban–the namby-pamby boy/man. The theological crisis is the disturbing reality that women are entering pulpits and presuming to take the role of preachers and pastors.
Address it he does–at the risk of theological alienation and stone-throwing from theological liberals. He boldly argues that men equals pastors. No exceptions. Bravo. This drop-kick preface sets the tone for the book.
Three-Point Alliterated Outline
The book is organized in a simple three-point format: The Man, the Message, the Mission. In his discussion of “The Man,” Patrick drives home a highly applicational discussion of what kind of man is needed for the task of church leadership. The seven qualities of the Man are as follows: rescued, called, qualified, dependent, skilled, shepherding, and determined. The Message of the Man (Part 2) is a message that is historical, salvation-accomplishing, Christ-centered, sin-exposing, and idol-shattering. The Mission refers to the whole focus of the church–dealing with issues such as compassion as the heart of mission, the church as the house of mission, contextualization as the how of mission, care as the hands of mission, and city transformation as the hope of mission.
Some Good Qualities
- It’s about application. Patrick focuses on application. He’s not interested in discussing the topic sweetly and gently. He’s about applying it straightforwardly and powerfully. Patrick understands ministry. He has fought the battles. And he is going to help other men apply God’s Word as they ought to. You won’t read the book and walk away unchallenged and unchanged.
- Getting the point. Although Patrick doesn’t have a “polished” writing style, it’s a good style. Why? Because it’s clear. He’s not ascending to lofty intellectual heights to pursue a point. He pulls out ordinary words and places them in an order that is clear and unmistakable. You won’t find Grudem or Bavinck busting out phrases like “jacked up” in a theological discussion. The overall writing style is anecdotal, interesting, and appropriately colorful.
- A pleasantly surprising disappointment. I expected to read a how-to manual on church planting. That wasn’t what I got. What I got instead was a great deal of theology. It was a bit of a disappointment, but it was a pleasant surprise, too. I was pleased to see that the author wasn’t interested in merely showing how he planted a church. He was interested in sharing what the Bible said about the big picture. If you want to read a book on how The Journey got started and how you can do it to, you’ll have to wait for that. For now, you have a much more solid and theologically-grounded treatise on church planter, pastors, and church life as a whole.
What Gave Me Pause
I do have a few comments regarding the book’s potential shortcomings. Obviously, it’s easy for the armchair reviewer (who has not been published) to cast out condescending remarks, so these comments are made with the respect and appreciation for the book as a whole.
- Patrick makes an effort to deal with the call of the pastor, but this section gets a bit fuzzy on what exactly a call is all about and how we know that we’ve got it.
- Darrin believes that the spiritual gifts such as tongues, healing, prophesy, etc., are still operative, and stresses that the gifts “should be pursued by all Christians…and used in worship gatherings.” His Charismatic theology (which he calls “Charismatic with a seat belt”) is not shared by all readers, including this reviewer.
- Patrick adopts a triperspectival model to understand the various types of leaders (prophet, priest, king). While it seems to be a helpful organizational model, I wonder if it is a bona fide methodology for assessing leaders.
- It’s a minor point, but I couldn’t help noticing Patrick’s penchant for pulling out the etymology of a Greek and Hebrew words to explain meaning. It works sometimes, but it also classifies, as D. A. Carson notes, as an exegetical fallacy. Maybe that’s why Carson didn’t review the book.
- The Journey church is characterized by an open-arms approach to many aspects of cultural expression. Those who see the church as a distinct culture–free from the questionable trappings of worldly influence–will sense Patrick’s latitudinarian approach to culture. The Journey’s proverbial “beer and the bible” meetings of Bible-study groups in the backrooms of bars is definitely a practice that I would advise against, with ample biblical back-up to make my point. While Patrick isn’t telling anybody to have barroom Bible studies, he is making a case for adopting a stronger imago Dei viewpoint than many of his less culturally-liberal counterparts.
Overall, the book is chock-full of great application, helpful exposition, and an understandable organization. Don’t read it if you’re looking for tips, tricks, and advice for planting a church. Church planters, missionaries, pastors, church volunteers, and anyone in the ministry or thinking about the ministry will profit from this book. Read it if you’re serious about growing, learning, and then going to do what God wants you to do.