Planting Churches Cross Culturally: North America and Beyond (2nd Edition) – Book Review

In his book Planting Churches Cross-Culturally, Hesselgrave emphasizes that the Apostle Paul did have an approach for church planting that needs to be implemented in our modern view of church planting today. The author gives a chart that he called “The Pauline Cycle.” It’s comprised of ten logical elements that were used in Paul’s master plan of evangelism. These elements are: 1) Missionaries Commissioned: (2) Audience Contacted, (3) The Gospel Communicated: (4) Hearers Converted: (5) Believers Congregated: (6) Faith Confirmed: (7) Leadership Consecrated: (8) Believers Commended: (9) Relationships Continued: and (10) Sending Churches Convened.

Hesselgrave wants to assure his readers that these basic principles implemented by Paul are never out of date, and that missionaries today will greatly benefit themselves and others by using Paul’s method of evangelism and church planting. The author believes that the first-century world in which Paul ministered was fairly similar to the world today. He wants to stir his readers to learn from the work and method of Paul in church planting. These methods implemented by the greatest of all apostles and guided by the Spirit of God are never out-of date.

Hesselgrave compares the church to a “storm center” for the modern civilization (p. 17). It is God’s greatest objective to bring the church to maturity and growth both ways quantitative and qualitative. It is in the divine plan of God to glorify His church so that the church can bring glory to Him. The church ought to be at the heart of the Christian mission, it is to be the center of the Great Commission to plant churches in Jerusalem, Judea, and to the uttermost part of the earth. Since the church was part of the divine plan of God, it should be embraced by everyone that proclaims to be part of that plan. He described the church as task forces with a duty that needs to be fulfilled.

He gives six steps that need to be followed in order to fulfill or accomplish a task. These are presented in the following order: (1) Understand the task. 2) Analyze the task in the light of research and experience. (3) Make an overall plan to accomplish the task. (4) Gather the necessary resources. (5) Execute the plan and (6) Learn from experience (and use what is learned to modify the plan). He also gives three major sources of pertinent information for church planting. 1) Revelation: 2) Research: (3) Reflection.

The most important contribution to the Pauline Cycle is that the Holy Spirit is in the middle of all the other activities. The Holy Spirit is in control of all other activities around the cycle. Hesselgrave calls Him the Divine Director of the missionary enterprise, followed by prayer as the atmosphere of the missionary, the Scriptures as the foundation, and the church as the agency employed. Hesselgrave explains that the Holy Spirit does not explicitly desire that we do everything as Paul did, but we are to follow the logical sequence of preaching where people are, gaining converts, gathering them into churches, instructing them in the faith, choosing leaders, and commending believers to the grace of God.

The author recognized the danger for the church to become caregiver thinking and doing only for themselves and ignoring the Great Commission and the reason for the establishments of the church. He also commends that the church needs to set its priority straight and emphasized where and what is the primary target.

The ten Pauline Cycles are very detailed and well illustrated with Bible citation for each individual cycle. The first part of the cycle is (1) Missionary Commissioned which involved-It includes selecting and sending the missionaries, prayer for those who are chosen, encouragement, training and support for the same. The next (2) cycle is Audience Contacted-includes courtesy contact, community contact, selective evangelistic contact and widespread evangelistic contact. The (3) is the Gospel Communicated-Message contextualization, method determination, media selection, measurement implementation. The (4) is Hearers Converted-Instruction, motivation, decision, confession.

The (5) Believer Congregated-He introduce the needs for believers to practice belongingness, group, meeting place, and meeting times. The (6) Faith Confirmed-this has to do with Stewardship, witness, service, worship, and instruction. The (7) Leadership Consecrated-it involved scriptural discipline, permanent organization, and leadership development. The (8) Believers Commended-it brings along with it the practical and classical Pauline followed by continuation of ministries, transition of leadership, and withdrawal of church planter. The (9) Relationship Continued-Church/mission relationships, church/church relationships, and missionary/church relationships. The last of the Pauline Cycles that completes it is (10) Sending Churches Convened-which has two parts with participation in mission, and understanding mission. He mentions two essential elements that come with the assignment: (1) The members of the sending congregation are to be fully aware of the mission of the church in biblical terms. The next one is (2) believers are to understand the labor that has been accomplished through the work of the missionaries and how it was done.

The author has more than achieved his intended purpose; he has clearly shown that the Pauline Cycle of ministry is not out of date. It was a God-given task which was performed by the Apostle Paul and its architecture and structure was given by God; one that was effective in the first century and it can be efficient now if followed accordingly. Hesselgrave’s book is a structured or fundamental in learning to be a church planter, missionary or evangelist, it is well structured with many chart, illustration and real missionary story. His arguments are very convincing and well supported with scripture reference and recent study and survey.

The manner upon which the author approaches the subject is one that is biblical and sustainable by the best of all the apostolic example of missionary success that we have. It was during the first century that the word was proclaimed, that the gospel has been preached to every part of the then known world. The author is able to incorporate an approach based on relevant sociological, anthropological, and historical insights. His researches are very convincing and precise that embrace all the areas mentioned above.

The Pauline Cycle is not the kind of church growth method that is done once and then put aside. These cycles are to be followed in order and then implemented again in another place and time. This method is a base start, a foundation that shows that God is a God of order and that if followed accordingly there is no reason for not been successful in carrying on our duty in preaching the gospel. Hesselgrave’s method attracts because of his unique style of writing and his historical, sociological and anthropological knowledge. He also gives more preference to the Word of God than to mere human theories that sometime look more attractive but in the end bitterness and disappointment follow.

Hesselgrave asserts that if the method of the New Testament era during the first century is followed through (explicitly the Pauline Cycle of evangelism), the preaching of the Gospel would be more fruitful and better result would follow. He understands some of the objections brought against his method, and he deals with them from a biblical perspective, using Scriptures and logic. He also gives four important aspects of the Pauline Cycle as a form of introduction to his theory. His book is one that is based upon classical biblical principles of evangelism that were very useful and successful during the first century and if followed accordingly as the author described them, it will do the same in a post-modern era. According to Hesselgrave it is imperative to use what we have from the Word of God and build from there using the two thousand years of experience and knowledge that the history of Christianity has mark down since the time of its foundation by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Hesselgrave’s book is one of a kind, for those who have read the New Testament method of evangelism. It is easy to go unnoticed the theories and method implemented by Apostle Paul and the work of the Spirit. The New Testament presents this method as something natural, but it is natural because the Spirit of God made it so for the advancement of the ministry and preaching of the Gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue and people (Rev. 14:6). The book is very complete in instruction and relevant in sociology, anthropology, and historical insights. It can be very beneficial to be used for all those who are preparing for ministry in the mission field of evangelism and church planting. It is well illustrated with charts and story that bring light to the topics dealt with. The ten parts of the Pauline Cycle are only possible due to the fact that the author gives primary source the work of the Holy Spirit, which he identified as the Divine Director of the missionary enterprise. The atmosphere is that of prayer and the foundation is that of the Holy Scriptures and the agency employed is the church. These four items give Hesselgrave’s method power and strength that come from above.

Hesselgrave’s book should be used as a prerequisite and foundational to every evangelistic enterprise. His methods are simple and almost natural to the realization of true evangelistic effort and church planting. It was a great blessing to me to read this book for it gave me a more clear conception of the method used by the New Testament apostles in the preaching of the Gospel. I will certainly in the future implement some of his ideas in an effort to advance the cause of God and the preaching of the Gospel.

Hesselgrave, David J. Planting Churches Cross Culturally: North America and Beyond (2nd edition). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2000.

Source by Felix Amparo

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