One Small Step
It takes a certain type of person to be a church planter. In ministry settings not only do they need to be able to roll with the punches but they need to be able to take a punch as well. Not only will they be dealing with setbacks on a daily level, inevitably there will be some kind of spiritual, emotional, or even physical hurt put on them. Church planters have a spiritual gifting perseverance which is essential for those who are attempting to accomplish this frontline work of spiritual warfare. Church planting is spiritual warfare.
Failure is a hard and humbling teacher. I know from my own personal experience that much of my past failures could have been avoided if I had a healthier relationship with goals. No one says as a kid that one day they want to grow up and be mediocre, we all want to be a rockstar, we all want to be the boss. I think part of being a church planter is having the ability to dream big. I enjoy discussing my 5, 10, 15, and 20 year goals, but if we don’t have a healthy relationship with those goals they can end up being steps towards disaster.
I recently realized that my relationship with goals was not, and in all likelihood has never been healthy. I am big on daydreaming and I dream big, but I become so enamored with the big finish I lose sight of the step 1. This is particularly dangerous because such an intent gaze on the finish line blinds you to where you are, and kills the joy from the small victories that you have made along the way. Being able to look at where you have come from is crucial to perseverance in where you are going. If you are like me and stall out on the first step more than you would like to admit, this article is for you. Here is all of the little things you should be doing right now.
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?–unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
2Co 13:5 ESV
First, make sure you are ready. In Corinthians Paul tells us to examine ourselves. This is not just for church planters but especially for church planters. What are your motives, why are you passionate about church planting? More importantly, are you where you need to be spiritually? How is your prayer life? Are spending time reading, studying, and memorizing the bible? These are things that all Christians should be doing but as I said before, the church planter will be under constant battle conditions as they are storming the gates to hell.
I know two guys that set off to plant a church and the day after they agreed to start their step 1 the two came under worst spiritual attack I have ever seen in my life. The first one, we will call him Matt, found out that his father had been abusing two of his children for the previous year. Ultimately the father commited suicide and Matt was estranged from the rest of his family. The second one, We will call him Mark, was bitten by a rattlesnake and lost a third of his finger. When Mark went back to work he broke both of his feet in a workplace accident. Church planting is not for the faint of heart. If you are not deeply rooted in God’s word, if your spiritual life is not vibrant, you are not ready.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Mat 28:19-20 ESV
All Christians are called to share the gospel but are you called to church plant? In ministry circles we talk about the inward and outward call. Different networks have different ways of evaluating each. No matter how you cut it the inward call is pretty subjective, no one can tell you if your call is real or not and if you can be convinced that it is not, then it probably isn’t.
The outward call is more concrete. Are you making disciples, are you preaching the word now? You do not need a church to do this. You should be living a life of evangelism before you ever start considering the idea of church planting. Are you having any success in any of this? If so this could be your outward call.
Be killing sin or sin will be killing you.
Next is the step that might make you squeamish. What are your secret sins? The highly personal stuff, what are you doing to kill it? It will all come to light sooner or later so you are doing yourself any favors by letting it fester. I am not saying you must be sinless to plant a church but you must certainly be defeating sin in your life.
1Ti 3:2-3 ESV – Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.
If any of these sins would describe you, then you are disqualified. You are not advancing the Kingdom when you plant a church under these conditions. Seek help, seek God, but do not plant a church.
Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Pro 19:20 ESV
From here it would be best to start seeking the advice and counsel of those closest to you. Does your spouse agree with you? They will be going through this with you and if you aren’t in agreement it is best to wait and pray until you are. What about friends and colleagues? Would they be shocked to hear you taking on such a venture, probably not if your life has been reflecting the life of a church planter.
Who are you trying to reach? A specific neighborhood or people? Is there a ministry already reaching them? Would your time and energy be better spent for The Kingdom by coming alongside them? There is no need to reinvent the wheel, especially if there is already somebody doing it better than you.
If you have made it this far, congratulations you are doing everything you need to be doing, but now is anybody willing to work with you? You will need a team of individuals crazy enough to buy into your vision, but individuals may come with visions of their own which can be good additions or deal breakers. Make sure you are all on the same page. Once you are all together spend a few months studying the word and praying together. Hammer out your collective visions. Now is the time to start thinking about where you are headed.
What is your 5 year vision? This length of a vision will most likely include practical needs. A building, website, ongoing ministries, leadership building etc.
Your 10 year vision should include plans for multiplication with a concrete process of sending readymade church planting teams out into the world.
The 20 year vision should be how will you pass the torch to the next generation.
The 200 year vision, what legacy will you leave, what will you have started that continues long after you’re gone?
Finally consider the 20,000 year vision, what will you do that will make a difference for the Kingdom?
After all of this you and your team should decide if joining a church planting network is right for you. Remember there is no need to reinvent the wheel and the amount of collective experience and knowledge is invaluable.
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.
Pro 19:21 ESV
You can follow all the steps, you can do everything right, but your success is completely dependent on the purpose of the Lord. Lean in on Him who builds His church and stay strong in the faith. Trials will come, there will be days that will hurt, but you are a frontline soldier for King Jesus and this is what we church planters were made for.