So You Want To Be a Church Planter?
BY CHARLES E. HACKETT
Many books, tapes, and seminars list the finer points of church planting. I want to paint a broader picture that has more to do with the general guidelines of church planting rather than the mechanics. A set of correct rules and procedures will never be enough to touch the hearts of people causing them to come together and form a church family. Soul, warmth, feeling, and unity are some of the characteristics that must be in place; they come as a result of leaders who are sensitive to the needs of people. Insensitive robots who attempt to lead from a dictatorial position will find fewer long-term followers in the 21st century. Most experts tell us that a team spirit coupled with respect for those who serve under leadership are a major part of successfully planting a church. The following guidelines would determine my approach if I were planting a church.
1. Pray until you receive a word from God. This outweighs all other considerations. No one can give you this except the Lord. You cannot get a word from God from tapes, books, seminars, or counseling. Once you hear from God, these resources can be very helpful, but they can never substitute for getting on your face before God and hearing firsthand what He has to say to you. This is not a mechanical process of choosing available options; this is a time when you must hear directly from God.
On some occasions you will have nothing else but the call of God, so His direction must be clear and unmistakable. Where does He want you to go? What is His timing? What needs to be corrected or changed in your attitude and motives? Are you seeking to build Gods kingdom or your kingdom? Has God given you a clear vision with supporting verses of Scripture that will see you through any storm?
When I faced a difficult time earlier in my ministry, God gave me John 15:16: "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you" (NKJV). I have needed that verse many times as I pushed ahead in what I knew was Gods will for my life.
God does not call you to failure. He receives no glory when no one is saved. His kingdom is not built when you despair, give up, and leave without bearing fruit. He does not give you the gift of barrenness or defeat, but rather, He gives you a fruitful ministryfruit that remains when He leads you to other areas of service.
In 1993, Chris and Monica DeLaurentis planted a church in Minneapolis inner city. Most experts will tell you that an indigenous church cannot be planted in this type of environment by inexperienced people. But Chris and Monica had a word from God that superseded conventional wisdom. Today, the Assemblies of God has a strong church of over 400 believers in this area of darkness. Most of the new believers were saved out of the immediate neighborhoods where crime and drugs ruled for years.
Moses was successful in leading a nation of slaves out of Egypt, not because he had a great plan, but because he heard from God and got His plan. God is not confused or perplexed. He knows what to do in every situation and will pass His wisdom on to you if you will only ask. Confusion, division, and barrenness are not gifts from God. They come when you rush ahead of Him and do your own thing. They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They can walk and not get tired, and they can run and not fall (cf. Isaiah 40:31).
2. Secure shared responsibility. Some see this only as getting permission from the proper authorities. We need more than permission. We need agreement, affirmation, advice, and support. That which God has spoken to our hearts, He will confirm through others who are in authority over us. We will never need to resort to unscriptural behavior to accomplish His will. God will remove obstacles, including people, open or close doors, and do whatever it takes to advance His kingdom. He will never need our carnal input or actions to accomplish His will.
Bill and Cheryl Gray received from the city of Mobile, Alabama, a choice piece of property for a ministry centeran impossible feat until we remember that God owns it all and will do as He desires. Favoritism and luck had nothing to do with this blessing. It came because two people heard from God and were in proper relationship with those who were in authority over them. Rebellion against God-ordained authority is a cancer that will paralyze and eventually destroy any ministry.
3. Pray for laborers. Planting a fruitful church cannot be accomplished by one leader alone but requires many workers. Too often we pray for money instead of laborers and then wonder why we fail. I have never seen a better example of raising up workers from the neighborhood than what Tommy and Matthew Barnett have done at L.A. International Church. People who were outcasts from society have become profitable workers through the grace of God, love, clear instruction, and great role models. Tommys son Matt is a vital part of the leadership, even though he is only 22 years old. He heads up this great ministry on a day-by-day basis with his dad providing the overall leadership. It is a wonderful combination. In todays great harvest field, we need the energy of the youth and the wisdom of the elders. There is a place for all to serve, and everyone is needed.
We often neglect the role of mentorsmature leaders teaching others from their own lifes experiences. Jesus set the example by taking 12 ordinary people and making successful church leaders out of 11 of them. No long-range success can be realized without raising up workers.
4. Do the basics. Many ministers look for shortcuts to planting successful churches. There are none. A bountiful grain harvest comes when there is good soil, adequate moisture, proper temperature, and quality seed. There is no substitute for any of these. When these elements are properly brought together, there will be an abundant harvest. Likewise, in planting a church, three important basics cannot be ignored. They are:
Our daily relationship with God. We cannot give to others until we have received from God. We must have a daily time in the Word and in prayer. To ignore this time with God guarantees failure.
Our relationship with others. We are in the people business, and building relationships is more important than erecting buildings. Our calling is not to brick and mortar, but to people. Build a loving church family, and a church building will automatically follow. Even sinners can lay bricks and nail lumber.
An organized structure. This is necessary in personal life as well as in the church. When Jesus wanted to feed 5,000 men plus women and children, He first got everyone organized. He seated them in groups of 50 and 100, appointed ushers, found 12 baskets, and then proceeded to perform the miracle. Without structure, the miracle would have caused chaos, and very few would have been fed. Having a plan of action, good organization, and the discipline to persevere enables us to do many things well and helps avoid burnout and frustration.
Planting a church and seeing it develop into a healthy, spiritual family is one of the most satisfying adventures anyone could experience.
Charles E. Hackett is executive director of the Division of Home Missions, Springfield, Missouri.
PLANTING CHURCHES THAT GROW
As we look at the rapid proliferation of churches in Acts, we find seven universal and timeless principles [of growing churches] that are sure to work anywhere with any people group:
1. Go where people are. Dont expect them to come looking for you. God poured out the Spirit in a place where thousands of Jews from all over the world were present (Acts 2:112).
2. Let the love of God be manifest. In the new church at Jerusalem, outsiders could see the church members love as they provided for needs of all (2:45; 4:34).
3. Minister to the felt needs of people. When the crippled man was healed (3:7,8), multitudes were ready to receive Jesus (4:4).
4. Obey the Spirit even when it results in judgment on sin. After the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira, multitudes came from cities all around Jerusalem (5:1116,28).
5. Rejoice when you are persecuted for Jesus sake (5:41).
6. Keep your priorities straight (6:47).
7. If you become a martyr, the Lord will reveal His glory. You may win your most important convert (7:5560).
Adapted from Planting Churches that Grow by Opal L. Reddin (Springfield, Mo.: Central Bible College Press, 1990) 115116. Used by permission.
WHY CHURCH PLANTING IS AN EFFECTIVE MEANS OF REACHING NONBELIEVERS
C. Peter Wagner, in Church Planting for a Greater Harvest, calls the birthing of new churches the most significant evangelistic method on the horizon. The following are his reasons why.
New leaders are released to use their skills and gifts more effectively than would have been possible in their old churches.
A new church renews the energy and enthusiasm of some of the existing churches located in the same community.
A new church has fewer psychological barriers to overcome in developing means of effectively reaching the new generation of adults.
Numerical growth is more likely with less effort in new churches than is likely in older congregations.
New churches offer the unchurched a wider variety of alternatives to choose from, enhancing their likelihood of attending any church.
As cited in Evangelism That Works by George Barna (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1995) 82. Used by permission.