Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary

23 Sep 2016

To the Church Planter: 6 Wise Words and Where to Find Them


Church Planting is all the rage right now–the topic seems to be on everyone’s mind, on every conference schedule, and taking hold of many church budgets. All Glory to Christ! I am so thankful for the surge of church planting among evangelicals and the advance of gospel preaching and disciple making around the U.S.

As a church planter (learn more by visiting from time to time others will ask me for pearls of wisdom. For one thing, I’m only one year into this whole endeavor. Second, I don’t have much original content worth passing on! However, God has been gracious to provide me with many wise mentors and examples.

In that spirit–I’d like to provide you with 6 wise words and where you can read them yourself!

  1. “The growth God is looking for in our world is growth in people.” (Trellis and the Vine, pg. 38).

The Lord Jesus called us to go and make disciples. He didn’t commission us to run youth events, concerts, food kitchens, or bouncy houses. Church Planting naturally (rightly?) comes with a pressure to see results. Are more people attending? Are people engaging? How many? How much? How often? This can lead to a deadly distraction for the church planter–believing that growth is a sign of effectiveness. It is much harder to measure the spiritual growth of disciples than to report the number of people that left your last event with the church logo tattooed on their bicep. Nevertheless, I praise God for The Trellis and The Vine and others resources that champion disciple-making and disciple-growing as the true measurement of successful ministry.

  1. “The church leader is someone who is sacrificed from the front line (at least in part) to equip everyone else for the front line” (Everyday church, pg. 70).

At times we regard pastors and planters as the people who are really “doing it.” They are the ones that are “in ministry” or on the “front lines.” Sadly, I think this upends the beauty of the church. Every member is in the ministry and every believer is on the “front line” of disciple making. Pastors and planters will find their efforts overstrained and short lived if they only focus on their own abilities. We must not only put out fires, but make more firemen!

If you’re getting into church planting (or pastoral ministry in general) to become “the guy” you’re getting into the wrong line of work. Don’t get me wrong, entrepreneurial/leadership skills are incredibly valuable assets in church planting. But God in His infinite wisdom chooses to accomplish the mission through congregations of diversely gifted people (cf. 1 Corinthians 12). Church Planters can drink their own Kool-Aid at times and think the church really runs on their giftedness. The church and her mission runs on the power of the Spirit who is working through His Word and in response to His people’s prayer. Embrace the beautiful work of equipping others! Pastoring involves some leadership, yes, but we need to champion our role in God’s army as ‘medic’ and ‘cook’ as much as ‘general.’ See, Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission

  1. The Word of God does the work of God.

The real power your church plant needs to convict the sinner, convert the lost, build the congregation, and commission servants is the Eternal Word of God. Your church planting week needs to be filled with getting the Word of God open and explained. You really need to read through One to One Bible Reading by David Helm and embrace a simple lifestyle of ministering the Word.

  1. “At the end of the day, if you are too busy to pray, you are too busy. Cut something out” (Praying with Paul, pg. 94).

Church planting is busy–there’s no way to sugar coat it. Somehow, though, church planters start talking like they have found the hardest occupation on the planet. First, cut that out and man up. Second, if you want to see your church full of roofers, brick-layers, single moms, and steel workers who are marked by prayer then their pastor has to prioritize prayer in his own life and teaching. If prayer isn’t in your life, you probably won’t be teaching on it all that much. I love Dr. Carson’s blunt advice and I doubt many books have influenced me like Praying with Paul.

  1. “If two spouses each say, ‘I’m going to treat my self-centeredness as the main problem in the marriage,’ you have the prospect of a truly great marriage.” (Meaning of Marriage, pg. 64).

Church planting will introduce unique challenges into your marriage–count on it. You will be busy at times your family used to enjoy together. You (sinfully) will feel more self-assured that your agenda and motives are important. You (sinfully) will be more convinced that your wife’s agenda and motives are “mucking things up.” I don’t know your wife but I’ll guess you’re at least half the problem. Even if you aren’t, Tim Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God, provides gracious wisdom for a healthy marriage.

  1. “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42–45).

Church planters and pastors, can swallow secular leadership models and advice without chewing–sometimes without even smelling it first! In Mark 10 the Lord Jesus presents one of the most impactful peculiarities of Christian life and leadership–servant leadership. If you talk about the people in your church as the obstacle to your plans or desires you may be forgetting that Jesus called you to serve. We are called to put the glory of God above all else and the good of others ahead of our own interests. Before you begin to regard your congregation/situation as unique (“Surely I don’t have to serve these people!”), Remember that Jesus came and served people who would abandon and kill Him. Great Christian leadership is sacrificial service.

The implications of this principle are massive. Rather than getting angry and tweeting your displeasure about the presence of an American flag on stage or the absence of drinkable coffee in between services (or sharing posts/articles to do your dirty work), place the interest of the old widow and tired mechanic ahead of your own.

3 Responses

  1. RWiest

    Thanks for this encouragement. We work in a cross-cultural context and these truths are needed for us too!