In my last post church planting 101, I wrote about some of the basics that I have seen work and some that have failed miserably. In this post I want to talk more about what is required in the church planter himself.
In church planting we need Holy Spirit power, sound and practical theology, future planning, church promotion and quality support to make the church plant into a viable and sustainable church. On top of that, a successful church plant needs a legit leader, this is a must.
About ten years ago, I was asked to help a guy start a church in California. He had financial backing, he had front man skills, was a decent speaker…but was an awful leader. Needless to say, the dude quit the plant less than 5 months into it. I didn’t join the team and that church plant fizzled into non-existence.
Now while there are many reasons why the plant didn’t succeed, the biggest reason was that the dude wasn’t a church planter or leader…he was just a guy who wanted to preach on Sunday. Preaching on Sunday is the cherry on the cake, it’s easy. You read, you prepare, you pray, you practice your delivery, you make programs and keynotes, you wake up Sunday and deliver it. It’s simple.
Church planting is much more complex than just giving a sermon. You are a small business entrepreneur. You are a janitor. You are a counselor. You must become affluent with promotion and fundraising. You will need to understand your demograph and know how to connect with your city. You need to be trustworthy and reliable. You must be a general and also a humble servant. You must learn how to handle extensively troubled people and also learn how to help them without losing your mind. It’s complex.
A church planter must become more than just one dimensional.
I’ve seen plants fail because planters were too one sided. You’re not just a preacher, you are a pastor. You’re not just a speaker, you are a house call medic. You will need to learn when to say no, and when to say yes. You must start thinking like a theologian and living like a missionary. Church planting isn’t done on the side, it takes more than you think and demands your attention. It’s deep.
As we launch out this year to start two more churches in the Detroit area, there are a few points that our Leadership Team at City Church has been stressing with our guys as we go forward in church planting. I pray they help you in your journey. This list obviously isn’t everything you need, but we see them as the basics needed to start a successful church plant. Some of these keys can be taught, others cannot, if you are planter you should know the difference.
- Passion. The church planter must have a passion for the area God has called him to. A burden and desire to plant a gospel center is a must. If a boxer doesn’t have a passion to fight, he will get cold feet when he enters the ring. The apostle Paul had a passion for lost people to meet Jesus. John the Baptist had a passion for the hearers to repent. The apostle John had a passion for the Jewish community to learn of Jesus. This passion will keep you up, help you up, prop you up and can only be fueled by God. Either you have it or you don’t.
- Theology. The church planter had better know the book. Seminary isn’t a mandatory, but it should be. How stupid is it for someone to want to be a pro baseball player, but doesn’t know what a balk is? It’s ludicrous that some guys want to plant but can’t articulate their faith in a short conversation. Read books. Take some classes. Learn.
- Entrepeneur. Have you ever started anything from scratch that has lasted? Ever run a lemonade stand? Have you ever coached little league? Have you ever managed a store? Have you ever opened and closed a business? I just described to you what a church planter does. When you start, most likely you have very little to start with. In the early months you will attract people with problems, lots of problems and mostly baby Christians. You will learn to answer questions about concenrs you never thought of before. You will have to balance bills, projects, materials, personnel and quality control.
- Fundraising. News flash: church planting cost money. So after you call mom and ask your neighbors for money, you had better have a financial plan to help start your gospel center or else you are done in 3 months. Think about it like this: why should anyone give you money to help you start a church? If you can’t answer it with a thought through financial plan, then you have some homework.
- Community. Loners can make great people, but not always great leaders. Can you find 3 to 5 people that would drop everything to help you? If not, you might not have impacted others lives as much as you think you have. You don’t go to war with just anyone. The same is true in church planting. You need seasoned veterans on your team and people that will go to bat for you, with you and at you. I’m sorry guys, the days of just doing it yourself are over. Odds are against you already, work on being friendly and make a difference in your close circle…then tackle the circle of church planting.
- Home. There is no off switch to church planting, but you had better have a safe zone with some backup. If your family isn’t on board, do something else. Church planting, like pastoring, requires a balanced life which includes the home. Your marriage will be tested, your kids will be put on display and your life is now a book for others to judge. How do you expect to give marriage counseling if your marriage is a wreck? How can you get up on Sunday and teach on raising your kids if they are burning your house down? You can you preach on trusting God in your life if you don’t want to go home? Balance guys.
There are exceptions to rules, but church planters shouldn’t be looking for them. Work on personal growth, family development, spiritual leadership, theological soundness, business savvy and developing loyalty. I can’t promise you that if you do all of this you’ll succeed, but I can promise you that without it…you will fail.