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!
The KBC annual meeting was held in Owensboro this year and included a scaled-back slate of events; and of course, social distancing, mask wearing, and plenty of hand sanitizer. Kentucky Baptists from all over the state gathered to hear reports on mission work, evangelistic efforts, and to praise the Lord for those we as a state have seen come to a saving knowledge of our Lord and Savior over the calendar year. The tough year was definitely evident in many of the conversations. Pastors are concerned about their members; many of whom have not returned to church since March. Churches are having to reinvent many of their current ministry models. Some new ministries have been born while others have stalled or even died.
As I talked with pastors about their work, inevitably their question to me would be, “how are the church plants doing in the pandemic?” My general answer is “good,” yet each planter has their own unique issues just like pastors of established churches. The question they posed tells me several things about these godly pastors:
I’m incredibly honored that pastors and churches are asking about the work of KBC assisted church planters. Their question not only tells me that they love me and the ministry that I do, but those I serve! Some of the pastors know a church planter in their area and many do not. By simply asking about the ministry of planters, these ministry partners are acknowledging that they care. One way that I encourage churches to care for KBC planters is by visiting our Planter Portal to learn more.
They understand the struggles of the pastorate.
These guys are not “asking to be asking.” They are genuinely concerned about other pastors. Church planters are pastors! Not “when you get a building,” or “when the crowd reaches a certain number,” or “when assistance from a sponsoring church or state convention ends.” The majority of church planters are bivo or covocational (called to a profession AND as pastor).These guys work hard and who knows this better than other pastors? Here is a great article on Bivo/Covo pastors at the BSCLN.
They know about the work!
These pastors know that planters, replanters, and apprentices are active throughout the state. They are befriending planters within their association and are seeking to educate their church on the work of church planting. An AMS friend of mine sends me a text several times a month letting me know he is praying for KBC assisted planters. He often asks about a specific planter or family to learn more about their work or to pray in a more specific manner. Have you signed up to receive an email a week to pray for a different planter?
They are currently, or are thinking about actively supporting the work of a church planter.
One pastor friend asked for and received a list of twelve planters-one for each month-and is actively praying for and encouraging them. Another friend is connecting his church with a planter to pray regularly, send them a few small gifts of encouragement, and possibly send a team of volunteers next summer to help with an evangelistic project. At our REACH Evangelism Conference this coming March, I will be leading a conference on how you (particularly smaller churches) can partner with and encourage a church planter.
They are connected to the evangelistic work of others.
Simply being around other evangelistic people encourages me to evangelize! When I pastored a local church, I did my best to not only surround myself with evangelistic pastors, but I strove to expose the church to examples of godly men who made a habit of evangelizing regularly. Church planters are an excellent example! I like to tell young or prospective planters that they are not church planters unless they are very active in two things: evangelism and disciple-making. Intentional evangelism leads to discipleship. Healthy disciples who understand scripture lead to the beginnings of a local church. A healthy local church who understands the mandate of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) and the 2-2-2 Principle (2 Tim. 2:2-training faithful men, who train faithful men, who train faithful men), is one that multiplies itself into another church(es). I would love to connect you to the evangelistic work of another brother in Christ; particularly a KBC assisted church planter!
To those who have encouraged me during this COVID year; thank you!! Your love for me and the planters/replanters/apprentices I work with are much appreciated. As you close out 2020 and look toward 2021, I would ask that you consider including a partnership with a Kentucky Baptist church planter in your evangelism/missions strategy. You can sign up to pray for a planter, partner for a short-term mission project, or simply send the planting family a small gift of encouragement occasionally. I am here to help you learn what a partnership with a planter may look like for you! firstname.lastname@example.org
A paper written for Dr. Tom Johnston’s Church Evangelism course in 2010.
Over the past several years I have had the opportunity to study church planting as part of my course requirements for a degree in North American Church Planting. I have learned about many different models, have listened in on various seminars, and have been a participant in a few as well. One thing that I have learned through all of this is that church planting is most definitely a field unto itself with cultures and subcultures only understood by those active within it’s realm. One of these cultures (models) will be discussed in this paper along with a look into a few of its subcultures.
The house church model has been around within Christianity for a long time. Acts chapter 2 discusses how the early church meet, received the Holy Spirit, fellowshipped daily, and met in one another’s homes. This model is able to withstand persecution and tribulation from outside sources. It multiplies faster and produces more new believers who are more grounded in their faith. It also struggles with many of the same things that their traditional, non-traditional, and experimental church sister models struggle with.
Within this paper I will look at six subcultures within the house/organic church model. These by no means cover all the subcultures, but at the same time will overlap or be able to fall into other subcultures that could easily be found with a Google search. I will give an overview on the Institutional Home Church, the Glorified Bible Study, the Special Interest Group, the Organic Church, the Missional Communities/Networks, and the Insider Movements. Since these subcultures are not written about in many books or online sources, I have pulled together and condensed the little information I could find through three years of house church study and summarized it here.
The first subculture is what some would call the Institutional Home Church. This house church is simply what its title suggests; a traditional, institutional type church that meets in a home or other place other than a “church” building. This church has all the looks and feels of First Baptist County Seat without all the space and most of the programs. This church has a paid traditional pastor, a worship leader, possibly a youth guy/gal, a Sunday School hour, a discipleship time, a regular budget, meeting time, etc. The pastor of this type of church preaches each week much like he would in the County Seat church he may have come out of. The order of service is identical to that of County Seat and the people who attend this church like it this way.
Why would anyone “do” house church this way? A few reasons: 1). It is the only way these believers know how to do church. I have found in my church planting and organic church journey that when I do not know what to do or how to do it I tend to fall back to how I used to do things. 2). The pastor is charismatic and for any number of reasons he “left” the church building to do it his own way. Sometimes pastors leave do to conflict, some are forced out, others are burned out, and some just want to start a church of their own and do not have a clear calling from the Lord so they do what they know, only smaller. 3). They like the intimate feel of the Sunday School/rural church and want to feel that each week. Many people join a church and get lost in the crowd. I run into people all the time who attend a particular church near my place of employment and have no clue who are in their fellowship outside the folks in their bible study group. 4). More and more churches are intentionally moving this way. Whether they call it a transition into “house church networks” or “cell churches”, they are moving outside the building, freeing up tons of resources, and using these newly found treasures for the kingdom. Personally I find this fourth reason the most noble, yet least practiced. Many churches would try to get back to the biblical roots of meeting in smaller groups in someone’s house or a “third place” like Starbucks, but most fail in their efforts. A friend of mine in Tennessee tried to do this after pastoring a very “successful” church, but ultimately the members wanted the opposite of what they tried to do in meeting in homes in order to impact neighborhoods.
The second subculture is what Frank Viola calls the Glorified Bible Study house church. An ex-clergy type person or someone who has aspirations of becoming a bible teacher often facilitates this church. This type of house church does a good job of studying scripture, but fails at almost every other aspect of what the New Testament describes a fellowship of being. Those who have “superior” knowledge of the bible dominate the group and those who do not know as much participate very little. The shelf life of this subculture is usually on the shorter side of the average house church. One reason being is that people get tired of it very quickly and move on to something else. The bible teacher may get sick of being the only one who studied the lesson that week. The participants may grow tired of hearing a few people dominate the conversation. And the whole group may get sick of coming together to do the same thing each week. A variety of reasons could spell the demise of such a group.
The Glorified Bible Study group is a common start to a house church. Many people come out of fellowship where they feel the pastor or the bible teachers are not sharing the same thing that scripture teaches and set out to start their own church. They hear about the house church model, do a little research (I mean a little!), gather a few friends who feel the same way and get started. Like any group that gets started the new wears off, people get on ones another’s nerves, and religious hobbyhorses take front and center at many of the meetings. People soon grow tired of arguing, find a hobby on whatever night the meeting takes place, and drop out.
This church does not realize it until it is too late, but they operate much the same way as the church or group that they all came out of and were trying so hard to run from. The bible teacher becomes the pastor, the utmost importance of getting the bible study done become the new order of service, the religious hobbyhorses become the bad teachings they were trying to turn from, and the people are left feeling frustrated and even more dissatisfied with “the church” than before.
The Special Interest Group house church is the third type I would like to summarize. This house church can include, but is not limited to, affinity-based churches, business group house churches, and “gap-filler” house churches. The special interest group is common in the house church world. Every now and then I will have an email pop up in my box from a person interested in house church. This person, or couple, will have experienced house church before and is looking for a group sort of like the one they came from before their job transferred them. They might throw me clues like, “Are all the families home schooling their children”, or “I hope everyone in your group believes and firmly teaches the so and so end times view”. This is my cue to lay it all on the line in an attempt to be as frank as possible without coming off as rude. We have never had to seriously deal with anyone bringing in any crazy ideas due to simply sharing with them that we generally do not worry with such matters to the extent that they would like us to.
This type of church might have their members sign some sort of statement of faith espousing their particular slant on scripture (an eschatological view, Calvinism, Arminianism, a branch of a denomination). Anyway you look at it, the special interest is very evident and not going anywhere. Anyone coming in who would dare try to change things is either put in their place or shown the door.
I lump affinity based churches, business group churches, and gap-fillers in simply because they tend to follow this trend. The affinity-based church might be an ethnic church with one family that does not fit the mold on the outside, but on the inside identifies with the group. The same is true for businessmen, bikers, cowboys, recovering homosexuals, or even sex workers. In the church-planting world there seems to be a church for everyone! There might be the exception to the rule, but the church is based on the special interest.
The unique group that I have discovered is the gap-filler church. This church exists solely for the purpose of filling a religious void of some sort. A friend of mine in Kansas City discusses this type of church often with me since he is struggling to stay out of this category with his own group. His group consists of many people who started attending a house church simply because his group meets on Sunday night: the very night that their traditional church stopped having services. They consider the house church valid, support it’s efforts, participate openly each week, and talk about its merits with their friends, but do not see it as the primary church they attend. They do not tithe or give any type of offering (this would take away from the mission of the “real” church) or invest any significant amount of time or effort into the evangelism and mission strategy of the house church they attend as the gap-filler. Although they are unique in our house church network, I do not feel that this type of church is unique in the house church model. Many people love the feel of the house church but cannot and will not give up on their traditional way of fellowship and worship.
The Organic Church is the next subculture. Viola describes this type as a “living, vibrant, face to face community that has no other pursuit but Jesus Christ Himself”. In this type of subculture titles are not used, but gifts are exercised. I would be lying if I said each group in the organic camp did not have the one guy who would be labeled as the pastor, but this pastor-type does not look anything like his contemporaries. He might have the gift of shepherd, but this gift does not play out as an “office” as some would suggest. This idea is against the very grain of Southern Baptist ecclesiology, but nonetheless is a valid and real part of many churches that are a part of the convention falling under the organic church subculture.
This person might have the gift of pastor (mentioned only once in scripture) and never look like the typical pastor in a meeting or in public. In this type of subculture, a one man preaching event on a regular basis is seen as a dominating factor and would not happen for long. Each person who makes up the body of Christ is encouraged to participate and share according to the knowledge and gifting given by the Holy Spirit.
In a single meeting there might be a word of encouragement followed by a song of praise that is followed up by a time of group or silent prayer for a person or issue. This type of church is led solely by the moving of the Holy Spirit and His agenda for the evening. You never know how the night will turn out! Organic church is natural (as suggested by its name) and cannot be put in a box and made to follow any sort of order of service or rule of thumb. Neil Cole explains it in his book Organic Church in several phrases. “The Church is a living organism not a static institution.” “The Church is so much more than a building.” “The Church is not to be bound to a single location.” “The Church is much more than a one-hour service held one day a week.” “The kingdom of God is meant to be decentralized, but people tend to centralize.” “We are each God’s temple and together we are also his temple.” I have met many people who scoff at the idea of organic church, but when I have presented them with these ideas they have no argument. The trouble comes when these statements are played out in real life and non-conventional ways of participating in church are acted on and seen by others looking in.
I once described this method to a man in an “institution of higher religious learning” and he told me that this method was not biblical. Not only did he say that, but also he went on to say that there would be no way a church like this could ever get off the ground and even if it did it would not last a year. He invited me to share a cup of coffee with him a year from the date we talked and we would talk about why the “organic church” did not work and what I could do to start the right type of church. I never shared that coffee with him. Good resources on this topic abound on the Internet and within the movement. Although not usually a scholarly source, reading enough blogs and online postings can give an impression of this type of church to an interested person investigating organic church.
Another type of subculture within the house church movement is the missional communities/networks. Andrew Jones, a Southern Baptist blogger and emerging church type reports on subcultures of house church in his blog. He includes an article written by Wolfgang Simson, a house church leader and writer from Germany, called “Another Six Pack of House Churches”. In it he discusses the missional communities that are popping up in large denominations like the Anglican Church and the Assemblies of God. These missional communities are essentially house churches within denominations. The Southern Baptist Convention has them too and all have similar characteristics. One is that they are under the radar of church and denominational leadership. These groups have learned the hard way that making their cause, methods, and ecclesiologies known to the national leadership is denominational suicide. In order to remain under the umbrella of the denomination, they remain quiet about how they meet and what they do.
Not only is it suicide to “come out”, but it goes against the grain of what they are trying to do. These missional communities or networks are not interested in being the next method that is paraded coast to coast in conferences and in printed materials. They are interested in changing people’s lives with the message of the Gospel and watching God work, not themselves.
The final subculture is called Insider Movements. Insider movements are not the same as above, but are started within other religious movements. These might include Buddhists, Hindus, or even the Roman Catholic Church. These believers firmly believe that the Lord uses them within their old religious system and culture to reach those still practicing pagan worship. They are culturally immersed in whatever religious system they came out of and start churches that might have the look and flavor of a false religion but in actuality is Christianity. Southern Baptists are no strangers to this as those working with the IMB have been doing this for years. We have learned that indigenous church planting is the most effective manner in starting new faith communities. Charles Brock wrote a book on this subject with the very same title for eager young Christians to soak up and enjoy.
I have only touched on a few of the subcultures within the diverse house church movement. Although there are many more types, most would tend to fall into, or hover around, one of the groups mentioned above. I have not used too many outside sources, as much of this material is firsthand knowledge to me. I will include a brief bibliography of materials that influenced me in the forms of books and web sites.
Banks, Robert. Paul’s Idea of Community. Hendrickson Publishing, Peabody MA, 2007.
Brock, Charles. Indigenous Church Planting. A Practical Journey. Church Growth
International, Neosho Mo. 1990.
Cole, Neil. Organic Church. Jossey-Bass. S.F., 2005.
Payne, J.D. Missional House Churches. Patnoster, Colorado Springs CO, 2007.
Viola, Frank. Finding Organic Church. David C. Cook, Colorado Springs CO, 2009.
Jones, Andrew. “6 more types of house church”
http://tallskinnykiwi.typepad.com/tallskinnykiwi/2009/11/another-six-pack-of-house-churches.html. Accessed February 11, 2010.
Vu, Michelle. China’s Relentless Persecution of House Church Head. http://www.christianpost.com/article/20080219/china-s-relentless-persecution-of-house-church-head/index.html. Accessed February 09, 2010.
Mickey Mooney. www.networkvine.com Paris TN 38242.
Two Key Leaders Every Planter Should Study
I love history! I’m the guy who pulls over and reads the old roadside historical markers when I travel. I am often reading a biography of one of our nation’s heroes (I’m currently reading John Adams by David McCullough). And who doesn’t like to watch YouTube videos on 18th-century food preservation, fire starting, and using letter sealing wax? History fascinates me!
As a practitioner and consultant, I also love to read about those who have made major contributions to church planting. Two of the most influential men who have made the greatest impact on me and my philosophy of church planting are Roland Allen and John Livingston Nevius. These pioneers, along with many others, gave me an appreciation for trusting the Bible’s sufficiency for evangelism and discipleship. They helped me focus on biblical ecclesiology instead of trying to find the perfect model to follow. They also began to teach me the importance of applying the 2-2-2 principle that I share with Kentucky Baptist church planters on an almost weekly basis (2 Tim. 2:2 teaches us to look for teachable believers who can teach others as well.)
Allen was an Anglican missionary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Heathen. He served in China from 1895 until 1902 due to the Boxer Rebellion, and again for a very short time in 1905. Two of his books, Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours; A Study of The Church In The Four Provinces and The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, have both been formative to how I view the planting of churches. Also, Dr. J.D Payne’s Roland Allen: Pioneer of Spontaneous Expansion has been a great help as I read and studied the work of Allen.
A couple of truths I have learned from Allen is to understand biblical missionary methods and to focus on indigenous church planting rather than applying one method from a particular culture or context directly into another.
Biblical Missionary Methods:
According to Allen, the missionary methods of Paul were the ones to emulate. As I began to read the New Testament, particularly Acts and Paul’s letters, I saw how Paul had the support of local churches as we do today. Partnerships matter! Paul also relied upon the leading of the Holy Spirit, the preaching of the gospel, and training correct doctrine within the churches he planted. Allen noted the churches that were being planted did not need to repeat the exhortation of the Great Commission and how the believers naturally shared their faith!
Indigenous Church Planting:
Allen believed churches that are planted should be indigenous in that they are 1) self-governing, 2) self-supporting, and 3) self-extending. New churches often need the outside help a parent or sponsoring church can provide, but in the long-run, it should be able to conduct its own business, support its ministry, and multiply itself through evangelism and discipleship. Early in my seminary education and church planting journey, these ideas were groundbreaking to me!
John Livingston Nevius wrote The Planting and Development of Missionary Churches in 1886. He and his wife were Presbyterians and served in China as missionaries. Nevius is noted for his Nevius Plan/Method which, most notably, took off in Korea in the early 1900s and jump started the church there from a few hundred believers to almost 10,000 in ten years. Nevius helped me see that the bivocational ministry along with continual biblical training is a must for planter/pastors.
Bivo/Covocational Ministry Model:
Nevius believed that believers (particularly leaders and pastors) should live in their local areas and continue in their occupations. He thought that the fully-funded national leader may become a Christian mercenary, have attitudes of entitlement, promote unnatural church growth, and no longer have natural contact with the people of whom he is ministering. While this is not necessarily always the case, Nevius’ thoughts on bivocational ministry reminded me of the importance of empowering men to pastor churches while serving a role as a business owner or employee. In Kentucky, most of our church planters adopt this model out of financial necessity. This model needs to be championed within our nation! Godly men who are firemen, plumbers, teachers, bus drivers, and loggers are leading urban, suburban, and rural churches to thrive and are providing a model that is biblical to follow.
Ongoing, Available, and Intensive Biblical Training:
Nevius also taught that local leaders should receive appropriate biblical training throughout the year. As these men were put into place, they were expected to not only desire training but to receive training that would equip them to carry out the work of the Gospel within their context. He believed this training should not only include studying books and other material but through physical work, trials, and suffering! He wrote that when the church thinks they are helping a young man by relieving him of his daily worries, he receives little in the discipline of suffering. Today this training is readily available for church planters and pastors. Bible software programs offer electronic books, resources, and courses (Wordsearchbible.com). Free or low-cost classes are also available from seminaries and bible colleges (seminaries such as Southeastern Baptist http://www.sebts.edu/academics/distance_learning/free-classes.aspx and Bible Colleges such as Clear Creek Baptist ccbbc.edu/academic-programs/certificate-in-bible/).
Men like Roland Allen and John Nevius have helped me think through what I practice as a planter, pastor, and state missionary. Long after they are gone, their writings continue to encourage me as I read how they struggled, succeeded, and strove to share the Good News of the Gospel in their setting. Planter/pastor/leader, are you spending time each year reading material from past innovators and practitioners? Do you wrestle with concepts you might not agree with as well as making note of principles that challenge your current way of thinking or practice? Taking time to study men such as Allen and Nevius can provide the challenges each of us needs.
It’s hard to believe the 20 year marker in ministry is almost here. It seems like yesterday that I felt the Lord’s call early that Monday morning in 2001. Our daughter was 2, our son was only a few months old and I didn’t have a clue about anything! It’s funny how time, experience, and walking with the Lord work together to shape a life. Today my children are 20 and 18 and I’ve learned that parenting looks different for each couple or person and there isn’t a one size fits all formula to follow. I’ve completed 3 degrees and simply learned how learn. After graduating in 2011 with my master’s degree I said, “I now have a master’s degree and have mastered nothing!” I’ve served in multiple ministry roles in 3 states and each time I started a new role it felt as if I were starting over: more to learn!
I’m grateful to the Lord for the family He has given us. We are able to pass on what we’ve learned to younger parents while still receiving encouragement from the older ones. The education I’ve received has served me well. I encourage the students I’m teaching at Clear Creek Baptist Bible College to focus on learning principles rather than rote memorization. (Although memorization has gotten me through a class or two!) I encourage new pastors and staff members to enjoy their new roles; taking the time to really get to know the people to whom they are ministering. Allow them to teach you!
20 years of ministry can provide much fodder for advice while at the same time teaching that in order to achieve another 20 years one should keep listening, learning, and teaching others. (2 Tim 2:2) I definitely haven’t arrived (and never will), but at the same time I’ve found myself sharing 2 basic ministry takeaways that I’ve learned since 2001.
- Study and practice biblical evangelism.
The Lord’s mandate to go to all peoples and make disciples (Matt. 28:18-20) applies to all believers. Some are gifted evangelists, but all are commanded to evangelize. The church planters with whom I work on a daily basis have varying issues to deal with each time we talk. A constant concern relates to their evangelistic habits and effectiveness. Pastors, church leaders, members, and others all desire to see more baptisms and disciples being made. These simply cannot happen without studying and practicing biblical evangelism.
Reader, do you feel adequately trained to share the Good News of the gospel with those around you? Does your church provide yearly training? Have you sought help in the form of participating in a local, state, or video/podcast training event? Do you as a pastor/church staff have a plan to teach and model biblical evangelism each week? Do you or your church set evangelistic goals each year? I had a church member ask me when I was going to stop talking about evangelism and my response was, “whenever Jesus comes back or I die.” We don’t know when either of those are going to happen, so let’s share the Good News with a lost and dying world while we have time!
- Learn about and practice biblical disciple-making
Intentional disciple-making is making a comeback in churches today. Twenty years ago, when I began to learn about my call to the ministry, the only understanding of discipleship I had was related to the Sunday evening Discipleship Training hour. When I think about it today I realize that it did have it’s benefits: believers dove deeper into God’s Word in a personal and group setting, various topics and disciplines were covered, and the pastor was able to interact with a smaller group of believers. It also had it’s limitations. It was often pastor-lead (simply another preaching point), the interaction between the discipler and the disciple was often low, and accountability for practical application was not built into the design of the program.
Pastors, churches, and other leaders are now building their own disciple-making initiatives designed to meet their specific needs. I have personally used a “leadership lab” method to train a group of 3-5 more mature believers to study theology, practical ministry, and to remain accountable in evangelizing and disciple-making. I also love Robby Gallaty’s concept of D-Groups and personally use a one on one disciple-making method from Billy Hanks Jr.’s Operation Multiplication.
Pastor, planter, believer, how are you currently working to pour yourself into one or more believers? Does your church have a strategy to not only disciple those currently attending, but those the Lord is bringing into your flock as newborn Christians? How seriously are we taking the mandate of our Lord from Matt. 28:18-20?
I’m looking forward to the lessons for the next 20 years; mostly-some lessons are hard ones to learn! But what I continue to strive for is to encourage believers in evangelism and disciple-making.
( Post is found here as well.)
My friend and mentor, Dr. Charles Brock, went on to be with the Lord in November 2018. Although I only knew him as an older man, we spent enough time together for me to live vicariously into his past through his accounts of planting as an 18-year-old in rural Missouri and his adventures of starting indigenous churches in the Philippines with his wife Dottie and children.
He taught me many things regarding evangelism and church planting. Here’s a few of his funnier sayings that gave evidence to the tenacity he had toward evangelism…
- “No Trespassing signs don’t really mean that. They’re there to scare away the crazy’s, not evangelists.”
- “I’m going to hurt in this chair at home, or I’m going to hurt while fishing. I chose fishing.” (He was 79 years old, had MS, and his wife would encourage him to stay home to take care of himself. He HAD to get to his local Wal-Mart or go door to door to share the gospel; what he called ‘fishing’.)
- “When someone says ‘no’ to the gospel, they don’t really mean it until the third time. When I hear “no” three times, I know they mean it.”
I sometimes follow the above evangelistic advice.
I always share and encourage his church planting advice. In his book (Indigenous Church Planting: A Practical Journey, Church Growth International: Neosho MO, 1994, 28-40), Bro. Charles provided four essentials to church planting that are often overlooked or placed onto a proposal as an addendum rather than the foundation. These are found in 1 Thess. 1:5; For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake. NKJV.
- The first essential in church planting is the Holy Spirit.
He said, “from beginning to end, our source of strength and wisdom comes from the indwelling Holy Spirit.” Without the Holy Spirit, we are not planting a church, but are hosting a social gathering. Brock added, “Extensive surveys are a part of my life as a church planter and the study of maps and population trends are a normal part of my approach to church planting. But I must emphasize that if all of my fruit is the result of such human efforts, I have missed the mark and the corresponding walk with God that Paul knew.”
- The second essential is the Word of God, the Bible.
Charles famously said, “We must remember that what God’s Word says is more important and more powerful than anything we can say about it.” We tend to get caught up in our presentation of the gospel over the message itself. Ask yourself these questions: “Am I confident that His Word is sufficient to save the lost and disciple the believer? If so, am I using and applying it?” “Am I spending more time utilizing church planting books who reference the Bible, or am I studying the Bible to learn about church planting?” I have a self-load of church planting books, but nothing compares to what God’s Word says about His church.
- The third essential in church planting is the sower.
While the “ya’ll come” attitude is practically dead, it is still effectively still alive and strong when more effort is put into creating a Sunday morning atmosphere, complete with the catchiest sermon series titles and on stage clothing choices. Please don’t send me hate mail! Put an effort into these, but not at the expense of sowing the gospel seed into your community. Brock reminds planters that “it is not a way of life to be entered into lightly or for any reason other than the clear, inescapable call of God.” He said, “the harvest is dying on the vine due to a lack of church planters.”
- The fourth essential in planting churches is the soil, the people.
Mark chapter four provides a great example of the various types of soil the planter will encounter. Some hearts are hardened, others allow the things of the world to crowd out the gospel, and there are those who Brock would call “hungry fish.” Planters should not only study in public places to build relationships, but should engage the community purposefully through the local schools, civic clubs, and festivals. These relationships are important. The harder relationships are the everyday, everywhere you go types, such as the clerk at the store, the person waiting beside you at the doctor’s office, and your neighbor three doors down. People are everywhere! A lady once asked me, “how do you know if someone is lost?” I responded, “just assume they are and share the gospel!” Statistics show me that over 80% (conservatively) of the people living in my county are apart from Christ.
When Charles called me, he would first ask about my family, then get right to evangelism: “Have you been fishing?” Pastor, planter, leader, and church member, “have you been fishing lately?” These principles are not only true for church planters, but in everyday, as you go evangelism. The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few (Lk 10:2b). Let’s go fishing!
(Posted here as well. https://factsandtrends.net/2019/07/02/4-essentials-every-church-planter-needs/ )