Marcus Bigelow (President of Stadia New Church Strategies) and Bobby Harrington (Director of Research, Development, and Missional Leadership with Stadia; Lead Pastor of Harpeth Community Church, Franklin, TN; former Lead Pastor at Calgary Church of Christ, Calgary, AB) have written a book together. It is called Together: Networks and Church Planting. The book was revealed at the Exponential Conference in Orlando Florida April 23-26, 2011.
The book is published by Stadia and can be purchased at Amazon.ca. This book will be of particular interest to church leaders who wish to see churches networking together for church planting. Stadia is truly one of the leaders in church planting in the United States. Their annual church planting conference, Exponential (originally the New Churches conference which was begun as a conference for Christian Churches in the US but now has a much bigger audience), regularly draws three to four thousand people from all denominational and non-denominational affiliations. Stadia has been successful in planting churches by providing some of the assessment, training, coaching, and administrative assistance to planters while helping congregations network together to provide funding and management teams to oversee church planting in the United States and beyond.
The book starts with a section on why it is important that churches continue to network together to plant churches and breaks down the many objections to church planting. Bobby gives an example of how his church in Tennessee made church planting such a priority that they made the hard decision to lay off staff rather than go back on their commitments to a church planting network. Part one offers a call to networking and why it is vital at this point in the history of the church to plant more churches. It makes the case that networks of church planting churches are the way that we must plant more churches together. Chapter 3 describes the difference between Centralized (Denominational) models of working together and Decentralized (Networks) models for cooperative effort. They show examples of Stadia networks and other networks such as NewThing network, Exponential Network, Church Multiplication Associates Network, and The San Diego Church Planting Alliance.
Chapter 4 talks about the importance of apostolic leaders and coaches. They do so using definitions found in The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch. The authors give us examples of several types of local and national, micro and macro apostolic leaders. They also have a chapter which wrestles with idealogical, theological, and doctrinal distinctives. They use such terms as DNA, mission, strategy, vision, values, tribe, denomination, and fellowships as they ask questions about what is important when networking together. Chapter 6 deals with resources and how funding happens. They mention personal coaching and particularly the resources developed by Bob Logan at Logan Leadership. The book suggests that “Networks are transforming the way church leaders associate, plant churches and participate in denominations.” (p. 117)
Chapter 9 is a nice history of the Stadia Network and their “seven best practices.” This should be required reading for those who want to understand church planting in the contemporary context. Chapters 10 through 13 are extremely practical chapters focussed on the Stadia Network Process, the coaching of networks, insights on starting micro or local networks of churches, and an hour by hour description of the 24 Hour Leader Gathering.
Much of what is written in this book comes from examples of larger populations of Christian Churches. Yet, the principles laid out are helpful and adaptable to other settings. As the Restoration Movement seeks to work together in Canada we would do well to read this book and see what lessons we might learn for our own context. How might we as leaders in Canada and perhaps particularly in Western Canada network our churches together for synergistic mission? Together we will!
Reviewed by Keith Shields