Those new to church planting ask a lot of questions. And they should! Here are a few ways I encourage new and prospective planters/replanters as they begin their journey.
1. Begin with prayer.
Pray while you read scripture and discern your calling. Pray that the Lord will make you a bold evangelist. You will not find a mandate to plant churches in scripture, but a mandate to evangelize and make disciples! Are you already doing this? Pray with your spouse and family. Do they feel the same calling? Are there any issues that you need to work out? Pray with your sending and/or partnering church(es). Are you seeking godly counsel from those who know you most and are willing to support you? Start a prayer network. A church planting mentor of mine told me that I needed at least 100 people willing to pray for me before I began. I would encourage you to do the same. It is best to speak in person or on the phone. A one-on-one connection is so encouraging! Church members, family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors are a good starting point. Ask them if they will allow you to send them a short monthly update. Utilize video, social media, a basic web site and other tools to allow people to pray for you. Keep it simple and set up a template to use each month. If I have to scroll through an email outside of work, I am very unlikely to read it all. Keep it short and sweet! A few helpful articles are found here and here.
2. Read, read, and read!
Read the Bible. Read it to receive instruction and encouragement regarding evangelism and disciple-making. Read it to receive wisdom as you focus on a target area/group. Read it to learn how to multiply yourself. Read it to remind yourself that wolves in sheep’s clothing WILL enter and cause destruction (some are wolves and others may be “well-intentioned dragons”). Read it to learn about biblical church discipline, polity, ecclesiology, soteriology, and biblical evangeliziolgy (Dr. Thomas P Johnston MBTS).
Read church planting books, blogs, articles, and journals. Reading these can help you steer clear of potential mines and trouble. Learn from those who have went before you!
Read material on disciple-making. Read books on overcoming discouragement. Read material that encourages you to care for your wife and family. Read for enjoyment and to refresh yourself. A friend of mine once told me, “I don’t have time to read.” When I asked him if he had time to watch TV at night, he changed his mind. Get up 30 minutes early and cut out 30 minutes of television at night. Read!
3. Evangelize regularly.
Make it a practice to share the gospel. Paul encouraged Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim 4:5). Really, you are not a church planter; but an evangelist and disciplemaker. Churches come as a result of people being born again and desiring to grow, worship, and praise the Lord together. There’s no need to be legalistic, but set a goal for yourself. 1). How many times can you realistically share the gospel each week? 2). How many books would you like to read this year on the subject? 3). How many easy personal evangelism guidelines can you set up (Some of my guidelines are sharing the gospel with servers, using the homestead rule [if someone sets foot on your property-share the gospel!], and always keep gospel tracts on or around you.)? Friend, new churches reach more people for Christ than older, established ones! When pastors and elders create an evangelistic environment, believers will follow and lead their friends toward repentance and receiving Christ!
I believe each church planter should be discipling their families AND those the Lord has given them within the church. General disciplemaking can be done in small groups (Bible study), or D-groups. Christians should be looking for those that are “hungry’ as one of my mentors would tell me. I argue that these should be discipled in a one on one manner. I am not against using one on some or one on many disciplemaking models with those who are teachable (2 Tim 2:2). I am just convinced in the reproducible power comes with one on one disciplemaking. A wonderful example is found in the ministry of Dawson Trotman. Please check out this article and listen to the accompanying recording online. Every church planter needs to be pouring into faithful men who are able to teach others. Some good resources include scripture alone, the basic Bible study material at CGI, and the A Call to Joy/A Call to Growth Discipler’s Pack. I like the Call to Joy/Growth material because it takes a believer through the basics of the faith and shows them 1). how to feed themselves, 2). evangelize, and 3). models reproduction. It is a very good “train track” to guide you as you learn how to both be a disciple and disciple others in their faith.
Each of these have different purposes and I will encourage you to study the differences on your own. The purpose of my mentioning them is that the church planter be open to learning from those who have been there, receive regular feedback, and to join a small group of guys who are currently going through the same thing. Your state convention (Southern Baptists) or local association are good resources to get you started. If there are no church planting cohorts in your area, join one by video or start one: you are prone to that sort of thing anyway, right?!?!
Organized church planters often have an easier time getting started. The principle of “organization” just makes sense. When my home is organized, I am able to enjoy it more. I am able to find things in an organized work space. I know where to go this week because my calendar is clear and organized. As you begin to seek the Lord and pray regarding a future church plant, begin by organizing your time with the Lord in order to protect it from being overrun by other activities. Organize a concerted effort to evangelize and make disciples. Organize the beginning steps of understanding your context (order a demographic study, do several windshield studies in your car, begin to talk to local pastors and Associational Mission’s Strategists, speak to people about their perceived needs for their community, etc).
I hope these have been helpful for you as you seek to learn about your call to plant a church. I would love to be an encouragement to you on the journey the Lord has placed before you. Please reach out to me if you have any questions and I will do my best to answer them or point you to a resource that may help. Blessings to you as you serve our King!