10 Things I Wish Someone Told Me About Church Planting
I often try and think about the things that I wish someone would have spoken to me about before I made a ton of mistakes. Yes, I grew from these mistakes and the Lord always brings beauty out of ashes, but if only someone would have told me certain things. Now that I think about it, it would be better aptly titled, ‘Things I Really Took to Heart Before Church Planting” as I’m sure some of these concepts I had heard about before planting.
These will be in no particular order. But here goes…
1. God is more concerned with the Minister than the Ministry.
I was shocked to realize that God was more concerned with the state of my heart than He was with the perceived success of the plant. I know a pastor who told me that the first five years was for the pastor’s growth, the next five years is for the fellowship’s growth. He even went so far to call his first church plant’s people ‘the poor practice sheep’. When God calls a man to go and plant a church, He loves that man enough to kill him. It often takes some time for us to realize, but God is more concerned with making the church planter like Jesus than He is in blessing the work. Don’t get me wrong, He’ll do an amazing work in the fellowship. But He’s more concerned with your growth, than the church’s growth.
2. Visit the Local Pastors, not the Local Churches.
It is important for a church planter to visit and meet the pastors in the area that he is moving into. I’ll speak in point 3 about the major pitfall of most church planters in this regard. But relationships with local pastors are invaluable. Those who have been in the area for awhile will have a unique perspective, an experiential perspective, about an area. You can learn from them. But don’t visit their churches. I would say even if they invite you, don’t go. Why? Because if you have a heart for people, you will build relationships with them and when they hear that you are going to plant in the area, some will want to come. And then the ‘sheep stealing’ discussion starts. Church planting is hard enough and the last thing you want is to get off on the wrong foot with people that you want to be close to. I made this mistake personally, so I know.
3. Don’t let your Calling Drive a Wedge between You and Other Pastors.
Almost all first time church planters make this mistake. I made a reference to this in my second point. Here’s how it happens… You sense God’s call to an area and you are rightfully excited. Upon your arrival, you are filled with ideas and vision. You meet with another local pastor and as you speak of your ideas, you make them feel as if they are in God’s doghouse. They will automatically resent you. An example of this is when a planter says something like, ‘God has called me here because He wants to see a Bible Church here’. That says to most people, ‘You are not a Bible teaching church.’ Humility is not learned, it is a consequence from being broken. Because He has broken you, you will be humble. So although you are just getting started, and you probably haven’t been broken much yet, try and respect your brothers who have been plowing the field that you are going to work in. Remember this, ‘You are not God’s gift to the area that you are called to! Jesus is. You are just an unprofitable servant doing what you were asked to do.’
4. Don’t even Think about Quitting for at Least 4 Years.
They say that 80% of church plants fail. Why? They fail for numerous reasons, I’m sure. I think one of the main reasons is that guys quit too soon. Before you even step out, you should be prepared to commit 5 years of your life to it. If God is calling you, what is 5 years anyway? As I said, you should not even think about throwing the towel in until you’ve been laboring for 4 years. It takes time for a church to get established (most people will say that a church is still a baby at 10 years old). God will work in His timing so be patient. I don’t have statistics to back it up, but I imagine of the 80% that fail, most of them shut the doors within the first few years.
5. The Attacks Will Come so Don’t Freak Out When They Do.
When the children of Israel left Egypt did they just coast to the Promised Land? Nope. They had attacks from the outside (the Egyptians and the Amalekites). They had attacks from the inside (Korah, the Golden Calf, the 10 scared spies, etc). The same holds true for the ministry of our Lord Jesus and the apostle Paul. The attacks will come. If you sign up for the front lines of a battle, don’t freak out when bullets start flying. When you are called to plant a church, you just signed up to be on the front lines, expect there to be issues. They will come from people on the outside and they will come from people on the inside. Expect them and when they arrive, don’t think it’s strange.
6. Before You Become the Senior (or Lead) Pastor, Be An Assistant Pastor.
I believe that this is so crucial and I am soo grateful for my training as an assistant pastor. In every field, you have to learn the ropes before you take the reins. As a doctor, you don’t just jump from Medical School into the Operating Room. First you do your residency. Same is true of business. The guy from the mail room never gets hired as the CEO. Never. Why? Because they first need to learn the ropes of business. I have found that the ministry is caught (much like a cold). I learned soo much from catching the ministry from my pastor. I learned things to avoid, ways to handle situations, how to gracefully let someone leave the church, how to handle a wounded sheep, etc. Most pastors who have never been Assistant Pastors normally hurt a lot of people because they need caught the ministry from another pastor. My advice would be, “If you want to be plant a church, get on staff at a church first.”
7. Get a Mentor, You’ll Need Him.
My pastor, John Henry Corcoran, told me before I left to plant the first church, that the next set of lessons that I need to learn can only be learned as the pastor. But once you step on out, you are in uncharted territory. You want and need someone who you can bounce ideas off of. You want to have someone who can say to you, ‘Whatever you do, don’t do that.’ I did that once and …’ You’ll also need someone who can support you personally. Once you step on out, the enemy will be gunning for you like never before. You need accountability as most church planters feel isolated from people. Make sure that you have someone who will ask you the hard questions and keep your struggles and issues before the Lord.
8. The Key to Church Planting – Discipleship
There are a small percentage of church plants that take off like wildfire. Most of them are slow going. Like Jesus, discipleship is the key to building the kingdom. Discipleship involves relationship and relationship takes time and energy. You need to pour into the people that God has brought to you. You need to be available and open with them. You need, like the apostle Paul, to be a poured out offering. Discipleship builds solid churches.
9. Beware of Friends and Family Who Want to Help with the Church Plant.
I know, this statement is a bit shocking. I have found from my own experiences and in talking with many other pastors that one of the biggest hindrances to a pastor’s joy is the well meaning friends and family members (extended) who want to be involved. I often tell men to discourage their close buddies and families members from being there at all in the early stages.
10. Make Sure That You Keep Feeding Your Soul.
For most church planters, they are used to going to church. Even if you are in service at the church, you are often hearing the Word taught a few times a week. Once you step out, you need to make sure that you are still sitting under the teaching of the Word. I have found that the best way to do this is to pick a ‘Pastor’ for the next three months. It can be anyone you want. But listen to a few Bible studies a week from a certain pastor. Maybe study through a book or sermon series with a certain pastor. As I am writing this, I am presently studying through the book of Colossians with Pastor Tim Brown of Calvary Chapel Fremont and am being absolutely blessed and convicted. If you let this lapse, you will sense the leanness of your soul.
Daniel, if someone had told me all these things, look at all the fun I would have missed out on! What resonated with me was the immediate discipling of men – which I didn’t do, and building a relationship with a mentor, which I didn’t do. I had models, but no mentors. I think part of it for me had to do w/ self-image – who would want to spend time with me and pour into me? Another part had to do with the model I was following – the pioneering model of just me and Jesus, a very independent mindset.
Good stuff, Daniel. As soon as I read your first point “1. God is more concerned with the Minister than the Ministry”, I immediately thought of Bounds.
E.M Bounds, in his work “Power Through Prayer”, strikes the anvil with alarming accuracy and force from the outset in Chapter 1.
“We are constantly on a stretch, if not on a strain, to devise new methods, new plans, new organizations, to advance the church and secure enlargement and efficiency for the Gospel. This trend of the day has a tendency to lose sight of the man, or sink the man in the plan or organization. God’s plan is to make much of the man, far more of him than anything else. Men are God’s method. The church is looking for better methods. God is looking for better men.”
I couldn’t agree more with Tim, as well. Discipleship is such a glaring need.
Sorry. Meant to add this link to Chapter 1. Well worth the read. The whole book is a must if you haven’t read it.
Absolutely agree with all you wrote. Well said!
The guys we are preparing to go out and plant will get a copy of this. Concise, but full of wisdom.
Josh – Bounds is not playing. I hear that neither are you. 7 kids!!!!!
Gunnar – Thanks man
Ed – That is humbling! I pray that God uses it!