I have the privilege of meeting with 2-3 potential church planters every month and one of the central questions asked is, "What books should I read?" One of my hopes is to be of help to those that are (1) considering planting, (2) in the early stages of planting, or (3) looking at becoming a church-planting-church. Given that, I plan to regularly provide an updated list of books and resources that every church planter should read. I'll update the list as I come across newer/better resources. This post builds off of a previous one here. I'd love to hear from you if have additional recommendations. There's a much longer list than what is provided below, but if you're planting you need it narrowed down. Let's look at the top nine:
Center Church, Tim Keller
Emphasis: Planting field guide (e.g. gospel, mission, contextualization, mercy/justice, model evaluations, evangelism suggestions, movement dynamics, and more)
This is text book is classic Keller and, ultimately, the book we've been waiting for from him. If you're looking at potentially planting a church you'll want to begin to prayerfully work through it, chapter by chapter - even better, do it with some members of your team. Keller will help you work through your philosophy of ministry, vision, values, convictions and provide a ton of practical suggestions and anecdotes along the way.
Emphasis: Planting philosophy. This is the best all-around book aimed at church planters specifically, shaped around the "Man", "Mission" and "Message". The chapter on "calling" is particularly helpful and balanced. This book will help you identify any particular areas of weakness where further growth/study is needed.
Brothers, We are Not Professionals, by John Piper
Emphasis: Planting motivation.
One of the main things you'll need to be reminded of (constantly) is that you are not a professional church planter. Your job is to spread the unsearchable riches of Christ among his people. What your people need (and don't necessary know) is for you to be captured and captivated by the living God in the face of Jesus Christ. Get the new edition with six additional chapters and a new intro in which Piper discusses the new form of professionalism in the church today.
Church in the Making, by Ben Arment
Emphasis: Planting expectations.
I just recently picked this up, but really wish I had it earlier. This book discusses common reasons why churches fail, but don't have to. Arment is down to earth and I agree with his conclusions. Super helpful in setting appropriate expectations and assessing your potential/current plant.
Emphasis: Planting plan.
You're going to need a plan. Searcy leans "seeker/church growth" but is very helpful in thinking through the initial stages, timing and strategy of your overall plan. This is the most helpful book that I've found that aids in creating a plan for your plant that works for nearly every ministry model.
Planting Missional Churches, by Ed Stetzer
Emphasis: Planting nitty-gritty.
Stetzer deals with everything from naming your church, to mailers, to finances, to kids, to churches-planting-churches. Super helpful.
Total Church, by Steve Timmis & Tim Chester
Emphasis: Planting ethos
I like this book a lot and worked through it with our launch community early on. It is accessible, clear, and helpful. They paint a very compelling view of the church that is, unfortunately, little seen today. While I don't agree with everything in it, it is really helpful in biblically re-shaping what the church is intended to be and how that could look in your local context.
Emphasis: Planting care
Some will tell you that, as a planter, you shouldn't focus on the spiritual care and nurture of your people because you need to be pouring into leaders and focusing on planting the church. That may be a slight exaggeration, but thats often how it comes across. Clearly, as a planter, you have a lot to do. But, the reality is that the people who are with you are your church and you need to have some basic skills in helping them grasp the supremacy and sufficiency of God - this book will help.
The Trellis and the Vine, by Marshall and Payne
Emphasis: Planting tensions.
This is a new addition to the list, though its not a new book. I add it because often planters tend to think, "We'll be fine if I can just get a crowd gathered" or, "We'll be fine if get all of our systems and internal organization in place." The truth is that you need both and this is the best book, at least that I have read, that discusses how to walk that tension without overdoing it.