Stetzer and Putnam (hereafter, Stetzer) have produced a book that addresses many of the key issues in the 'missional' push at the moment. Their book offers two major barriers for the Australian reader, the first being a hokey tendency to use their catch-phrase throughout, 'break the code', and secondly the tendency to pepper their content with stories. The latter is a feature I find particularly common among American writers, though Stetzer's book has the saving grace that the stories are much more grounded in truth than some pop-theological offerings.
"Breaking the missional code" basically translates to: become aware of your cultural context and its needs and figure out how to communicate the gospel to it. If you've become familiarised with even the basics of 'missional' thinking, this is fairly basic stuff. Stetzer does have some valuable things to say though. Firstly, Stetzer is clear to point out how this differs from the Church Growth and Church Health movements. His analysis of recent church movements brings clarity to the origins of 'missional'. One point he makes abundantly clear is that this process is not about transferring or importing models and methods that aren't a fit, but using similar processes and methods and working out what will be a fit. His material on sacrificing our 'preferences' is also sharp and insightful.
Much of the value of this book emerges towards the end. Stetzer considers church revitilisation, church planting, missional leaders, and "the process of breaking the code". Those last two chapters provided good food for thought. Depicting the kind of leader that can pull this off is both a challenge and a question - are you that kind of leader? and if not, can you become that kind of leader, or should you seek another role? The process chapter breaks down a number of specific, practical, directed activities for understanding both the self and the cultural context. This is the kind of material one could, and should, pick up and work through and not leave on the intellectual top shelf for another time.
The book is written in a fairly easy and appreciable style. It would be well suited as yet another book for leaders trying to think missionally, and needing some more input (more imput is always good. Stetzer makes the point that missional leaders are always trying to learn everything they can), as well as regular church folk trying to get some buy-in to the whole concept of missional.
Breaking the Missional Code: Your Church Can Become a Missionary in Your Community