If you check books and websites, you can find a number of things written about church planting, shepherding, and all that goes into the Kingdom work of God. Here are some things I think about when a young man comes to me to express his desire to plant a church.
Are You A Church Planter?
There are many ingredients that combine to make a cake, but there are certain ingredients that every cake will have. Every church planter has a unique set of gifts and abilities that God has given him, yet every church planter that enjoys a measure of success will demonstrate a certain level of gifts that set apart him from a pastor of an existing church. However, these gifts will run parallel with the gifts that any effective pastor will demonstrate. If you aspire to church planting, these gifts will be a must!
1. Sharp Vision Casting – This is the ability to see where to go and communicate in an infectious way so that others will follow. The church planter should know where he is going in the church plant and what the church should look like, feel like, smell like, and, with great precision, show it to those who would follow in such a way that they too articulate this vision with many of the same words used by the planter.
2. Self-Starting – This is the ability to motivate oneself without someone watching over one’s shoulder. The church planter cannot be slothful in any way. He does not have to be asked to do what is necessary and should demonstrate skillful initiative. He is one who carefully gauges his time and energy to give himself to the priorities he has set forth to accomplish his tasks.
3. Outward Facing – This is the ability to meet new people with ease. A stranger is indeed not a stranger, and a church planter uniquely faces each person with a notable ease to make him feel important, listened to, and valuable. The church planter should demonstrate an ease in developing rapport with people by breaking down barriers and slicing through the walls others erect to keep people out. This ability is a gift, but it is also a learned action.
4. Inward Drawing – This is the ability to draw people into one’s life and thereby enter into their lives through “life portals.” “Life portals” are doors of entrance into people’s lives which include similar circumstances (tragedies, education, church backgrounds, locations or backgrounds, present life orientation), common relationships, areas of greater knowledge from which you can learn or you can teach, areas of service where you can serve them or be served by them, and areas of hurt or need, etc.
5. Ownership Giving – This is the ability to give people ownership of and take personal responsibility for specific areas in a ministry. The church planter should carefully delegate parts of the ministry that will promote growth in individuals and cause them to take personal responsibility and accountability for that part of the ministry. The church planter should do it in such a way that the work of the ministry is not cumbersome, administratively heavy, or arduous, but can be accomplished with a measure of joyful involvement. He should know his people and be able to match well the ministry with the gifts of the people.
6. Flexible and Adapting – This is the ability to “read the environment” and adapt accordingly. This matter takes generous portions of wisdom, understanding, and discernment. It involves good reasoning skills, a careful balance in all areas of life, and the ability to multi-task. The church planter must be willing to make mistakes and correct them, to shift priorities when necessary, and to learn new ways yet refuse new things merely for the sake of new.
7. Team Building – This is the ability to take people where they are and lead them to where they think they cannot go. It is done by sensing strengths and weaknesses in people and placing them in ministry positions where they can do what they were created to do. This ability lets people enjoy success or failure and does not make them feel less important or more important. It includes unity, cohesiveness, and harmony, all with a sense of belonging or symphony.
8. Resilience Demonstrating – This is the ability to persist, suffer long, and sustain oneself through the roller coaster of emotions and physical, mental, and spiritual setbacks. This would include times of rejection and periods of exuberance.
9. Faith Exercising – This is the ability to trust God and step out to live by conviction when making personal and ministry decisions. The church planter must walk by faith and not by sight. It may sometimes seem like “flying by the seat of your pants” since often there are not answers to immediate questions. However, the church planter is called to step out by faith, and the “waters will part” as they did for Moses in the Old Testament. He must walk with God in such a way that the fine line of faith and sheer foolishness is carefully walked with confidence in who God is and what He is doing.
10. Humble Serving – Grace is vital to the ministry of shepherding and nowhere is more needed than in church planting. Humility is the God-ordained activator of grace. A church planter must maintain a God-induced humility so that grace flows in the atmosphere of the life of the church planter. Regardless of his age or experience, he must give himself to being a careful learner of God and people. He must diligently work at loving both!
There is no “magic” or “mystique” about serving God through this pioneering way of fulfilling the Great Commission. It is ultimately Christ who will build His church. The adventure is finding out what God is doing in Christ through the Church for His own glory, forever and ever (Ephesians 1-3)!
I would add though that this comes through seasoning. I think there is a world of difference between a 35 year-old and a 25 year-old when it comes to church planting. I am skeptical about very young men just out of seminary wanting to plant churches or be senior pastors. I think there is real benefit in these men serving under established leaders and developing these skills before attempting to church plant and minister. It also gives time for their mentors to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. I am not talking about absolute age but about a time (say at minimum 2-3 years) of very active involvement in a church with a clear direction toward developing these types of gifts.
Great thoughts, Jon. Thanks for being gracious at not setting an age. My experience has been that if a fellow demonstrates godly servant skills and gifts, his aged should not be “despised” or used against him. I have seen some very capable 27 year olds and some very incapable 42 year olds. So, the key is the persons character, humility, as well as his followability. I fully agree that assessment must be done–that is the job of the elders as well as the people around him. A good church, with good leadership will do that. Even still, all precautions in place, a man can be put in place that will not pan out. Even Christ had a Judas.
Thanks for your input! Hope to see you soon.