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Tribute to church planting heroes

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Gutsy: (Mis)Adventures in Canadian Church Planting
Jared Siebert
New Leaf Network Press

Review by Johnny Thiessen

What is the subject?

Gutsy is a follow-up on the churches/planters that were featured in a film documentary called One Size Fits All?: Exploring New and Evolving Forms of Church in Canada. On this project, Siebert tracked 19 church plants and reported what was going on from sea to sea in church planting in Canada 2006–2008. Siebert revisited those subjects during a sabbatical in 2014; in Gutsy, he reports on what he found.

Who is the author?

Jared Siebert currently serves as the founder of the New Leaf Network and as National Director for Church Development for the Free Methodist Church in Canada. He is also a former church planter.

Why this book?

I was excited to read a Canadian book on church planting by a Canadian because there are not many books like that written.

The topic intrigued me because of my own church plant journey as well as my current emphasis of assessing, coaching, training and equipping church planters in Canada. I am continuously intrigued in regards to what is going on in the Canadian church planting scene.

What does it have to say to Mennonite Brethren?

One of the features of the book that will interest MB Herald readers is that it featured two Mennonite Brethren plants: The Agora in Halifax, and the Westside Gathering in Montreal.

What I so appreciate about Gutsy is the sense of respect for the planter couples and the redemption and purpose for the plants that did not survive. Siebert honours the sacrifice made by these women and men who risked it all to do what Jesus had called them to do.

Church planters are my heroes: I work with them every day and I see them face adversity of all kinds to fulfill their call to establish a new faith community that makes Jesus known. They are true heroes of the faith. This book celebrates what God did through them no matter what the status of the plant is at today.

One of the most important chapters was on guarding your heart and how God uses church planting to make us holy. I see this first-hand as I work with planters. Jesus allows tests and trials to strengthen and sanctify the planters themselves.

Throughout the book, Siebert asks great questions that will be of help to any current church planter or aspiring church planter that will aid in the development of a healthy new church.

What the book lacks

I would like to have seen more questions answered in the area of church plant models and their theological emphasis. The author did not talk about which models were more successful in Canadian culture and which had a proclivity to fail.

It would have been helpful to hear how theological emphasis or issues related to doctrine affected the plants involved in the study. Were there certain theological characteristics that contributed to success or failure? How much was prayer and discernment involved in the call to plant?

These questions could possibly be answered in a follow-up report or a sequel book.

Who should read it?

This book is worth the read for those planting and those who believe that Jesus is calling them to plant.

It is a beneficial read for church planters who are in the midst of a church-planting journey right now.

It is a must read for church planters who are no longer planting and may feel done with ministry in general. Canada is in need of so many new church expressions that we need these experienced church planting heroes to get back in the game, to plant again with first-hand knowledge and a more sanctified and redeemed heart who now better reflects Jesus.

Favourite quotes

“Pioneer church planting is a process of holiness. It represents a chance to step out in faith, a chance to willingly engage in sacrifice, and a chance to see God at work right in the middle of your life.”

 “A common and powerful motivator for a person to church plant can be to gain the approval of others.” (This should be taken to heart by any would-be planter or for anyone who is in full-time ministry.)

 “Shouldn’t it make sense that the best candidates for the future of pioneer church planting in Canada would be people who have attempted it at least once before? Wouldn’t the future be safer in the hands of people who have a realistic vision of what pioneer church planting involves? Wouldn’t we all benefit if we had veteran planters piloting our future plants because they knew where some of the rocky shoals were?”


[Johnny Thiessen is C2C Network regional director for Alberta. He planted Vintage 242, a church in Abbotsford, B.C, 2004–2009.

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