I read Stetzer’s Planting Missional Churches while I was at Glorieta this summer – mainly because I had borrowed it from Jackie Flake last year and wanted to return it to him at the conference. The book was a HUGE encouragement to me.

A friend at Lifeway had gotten me an autographed copy of this book, Breaking the Missional Code, and I was just as impressed with it as I was with Churches.

Perhaps one of the most helpful concepts in the book is found early in the first chapter where Stetzer underlines the necessity for the North America church to realize that it must view its own culture as a “foreign” culture. We are no longer living in a “Christian” society – if anything, it’s post-Christian. Because of this reality and the great need to contextualize ministry strategy, he urges a “glocal” view. It’s a combination of thinking that sees local and global at the same time.

I was relieved to read Stetzer again (he did so in Churches point out – almost incessantly – that all the postmodern hype that has infiltrated church leadership conferences from coast to coast is simply that – hype. Yes, postmodernism is real and here. However,

It is important to note that the shirt to postmodernism has not happened everywhere – it has not yet impacted many in the church culture because the church culture acts as a protective shield, unmolested by a secular culture’s music, literature and values.

Stetzer also notes that there are large “pockets” of people in our country that still live in regions where baseball, apple pie, and fried chicken for Sunday lunch are still a reality. Postmodernism has not impacted these people’s lives to the same extent as other areas of the country.

I see this evident in my own community. The strange thing is, that even with a four-year college, Monticello exhibits a surprising resistance to many of postmodernism’s tendencies.

The rest of Breaking the Code urges leaders and church members to become missionaries to their own towns, neighborhoods and local culture. We must think all over again about how to reach those we live among. We can no longer assume that “they” are like “us.” With international students, local ethnic populations, business associations and more, even the most sleepy Southern town may be more glocal than we realize.

Any church that continues to do church as usual will quickly discover that it’s only ministering to its own and not making a relevant impact on its community. Stetzer has dozens of practical suggestions and processes for “breaking the missional code.”

Beginning with the heart of Father God for all people and progressing to a renewed affirmation that all Christians are “sent” into the world for the purpose of bringing others to the Father, Stetzer and co-author David Putnam hold back no punches in their passionate endeavor to urge churches to get back in the game of missions, beginning at home.

At one point, they lament,

“If only God’s people would spend as much time and money learning how to be witnesses as they do reading a fiction series on the end times, then maybe we would not be living on the only continent in the world where the church is not growing.”

As they enumerate the ways to break the code, the authors remind us “the church is one of the few organizations in the world that does not exist for the benefit of its members”. Indeed, they take time to unpack the damage some of the recent church movements of the past have caused for Christendom in North America in particular. We have also been guilty of “exporting” a flawed methodology overseas as we’ve done missions.

There are a few chapters that bothered me in their sheer pragmatism. I kept getting a conflicting whiff of “it’s-not-about-methods” to “try-doing-this.” However, some of their practical suggestions are extremely helpful and at times challenging.

Their chapter on “Best Practices of Leaders and Churches that Break the Code” is one of the best in the book. They quote the staff at Northpoint Community Church in Alpharetto, GA…

It’s easy for the needs or interests of insiders to ultimately drive the priorities of any organization. It’s just the natural tendency of any group to become insider-focused.

It’s a powerful reminder that any group that becomes more concerned about buildings, programs and those inside the walls than those in the community that God sent them to reach will ultimately morph into more of a religious club than a church of Jesus Christ who stepped into time-space that men may know Him.

In short, if you’re looking for a great book about the church that will make you think but also lead you to application, look no further. This one belongs on your bookshelf.

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