Church planters and church-planting churches can glean theological and missiological lessons from the agricultural world.

In front of my house are three stare-worthy oak trees. They tower over the yard, providing plenty of shade for our grass and making a lovely community for a handful of birds. These growing oak trees are in an amoeba-shaped flower bed. We've had all kinds of flowers and plants in this bed-lilies, wax myrtles, society garlic—and nothing can survive. We put in new flowers and plants, and they don't make it after a few months. My wife and I dig, plant, fertilize, and spend money, but nothing works. The problem? The oaks. They are greedily taking all the water and not allowing enough sunlight for what is around them. No matter what we plant there, it won't make it. Church plants have these metaphorical/agricultural realities, too. Factors leading to failure.

Dan Steel has provided an agricultural-missiological autopsy on why church plants fail. You are holding a masterful and insightful work on the various conditions for why church plants don't make it. Dan's deep research—both with pastors and planters and the living Word of God—helps us learn the major factors for why church plants fail.

In his pastoral way, Dan explains the factors outside of a church plant—the 'oak trees'—that can hinder a church plant's longevity of faithful gospel ministry. And aside from external forces, there tend to be more problems within the plant. Internal battles, sins of the planter, and so forth. Dan has found multiple reasons on this front for why church plants struggle and he has words of wisdom on these conditions.

The sovereignty of God keeps me sane. We rest in His power and grace in the work of church planting because, as the Chief Shepherd said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible" (Matt. 19:26). A true disciple-making, Christ-exalting church is a work of the almighty God. And the Almighty chooses to use us. Paul reminds us that we can either be useful or unusable servants in the ministry. He tells us that we can make ourselves useful to the Lord in the work of ministry by purifying ourselves and becoming ready for good works (2 Tim. 2:21). Dan's work shows us how internal and external hindrances hurt our usefulness, faithfulness, and fruitfulness in church planting.

My recommendation as you read: Read wisely. Slowly. Every church planter should seriously consider what is in these pages. Every church-planting church should evaluate their greenhouse and see how they can set up their planters to flourish. Lastly, be ready to pick up a shovel, dig a drain, fertilize, remove thorns and invasive and aggressive hindrances, repent, raise money, relocate, dial back, and do whatever you need to do. Plant a church that's useful to the Master. Be a planter who is ready to be used by Jesus. Our Father is a master gardener. He will prune so that you can bear much fruit. May this book be a tool in the risen Christ's hands to help your plant flourish for decades.

Buy Wise Church Planting: Twelve Pitfalls to Avoid in Starting New Churches by Dan Steel