My wife and I recently bought tickets to a concert of one of our favorite bands. She’s almost 9 months pregnant, and has always wanted to see them. So at the last minute, we purchased some tickets and made an evening of it. We doubted we could get another night like that with our baby about to arrive. We were right, but not in the way we expected.
The band we went to see had three opening acts before for they performed. When the second opening band walked onto the stage, my mind was blown. Walking across the stage to play the keys was a guy I graduated high school with. Every memory I had of my high school days flooded my mind: all the conversations I had with that guy, every time I was a jerk to someone, every bad decision I had made, but also the tremendous diversity of personalities that made up my high school class. Maybe you have had an experience like that, where you realized people you found odd, or (if you were honest) judged prematurely turned out to be something else later in life.
The guy I saw on stage drew two reactions out of me at once: what I thought of him in high school was NOT what I saw on stage. On the other hand, what I saw on stage was EXACTLY what he was in high school! My perception in high school was that he was weird, needed to grow up, and would struggle getting a “real job” one day. In reality, he was different, defied the status quo, blazed his own trail, was comfortable in his own skin, and took big risks; the truth is, I could have learned a lot from him. Be nostalgic with me for a moment, and walk with me through 5 things I learned about church planting from the “weird guy” from high school:
Church Planters have to be different. Guys that can be gifted pastors are not always cut out to be gifted church planters. Besides every qualification listed in Scripture for being an elder, there are other characteristics important to being a church planter. Church planters have to be okay with risk, zealous about evangelism, lead people to see beyond their natural horizons, and get over failure easily. This is not to say introverted, bookish, reserved people can’t be church planters (as least, I hope not, since I just described myself!). It just means you have to submit those characteristics before the Lord, and be different for the sake of the Great Commission.
Church Planters have to defy the status quo. Clint Clifton makes such a good point in all of the writing and training he does. Cities would much rather rezone churches for residential purposes, much less allow new ones to start. In an American context, where people assume they are Christians or are outright hostile to people of faith, church planters have to stand in the gap. They have to un-convert the falsely “converted,” and reach the uninterested. I think God wants it this way so that when these little churches succeed He gets all the glory!
Church Planters have to blaze their own trail. I know of a church planter that was at a church so big they could have fully funded him many times over. However, when he approached them about potentially partnering they turned him down. With no financial hope in sight, the planter had to believe God would be faithful to sustain him and his family on the journey He was calling them to; the planter blazed his own trail. This is a common circumstance for church planters. Events like this remind me of something one of our McLean pastors said recently, “You never know what God is working on the other side of your obedience.” On the other side of this planter’s obedience was a dying church that was ready to give them their building, land, and assets! For FREE!
Church Planters have to take big risks. Many church planters give up contexts where they are comfortable to try and plant a church somewhere they are not used to. That’s a big risk. Church planters have to sow Gospel seed daily, trust that God will save many people, and that these people will become faithful Christians that make up a new church. That’s a big risk. Church planters have to go before other churches, families, and friends with the promise that if they join him in the work, he will faithfully pastor them. That’s a big risk.
Church Planters have to be comfortable in their own skin. My church planting team is in a phase where we are looking for as many people to partner with us as possible. We are having to become real comfortable with rejection. This is just one example where church planters face rejection. Every Christian has reason to be comfortable with who they are, because “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me,” (Galatians 2:20). Be confident and comfortable in your own skin, for it is the image of God that you bear.
You may read all of this and say “Whew! I’m glad I don’t have to be a church planter!” In one sense, you’re right. Many reading this will not be called to participate in a church plant– in pastoral capacity. I would argue, though, every Christian is meant to spread the gospel and participate in the starting of new churches. Whether it is McLean Bible Church that has 10,000 people in attendance, or a new Bible study that hasn’t “launched” yet, both start(ed) out as new churches needing faithful Christians to partner in the work. I challenge you to think about the places God has placed you, and ask anew, “In what capacity would God have you participate in the work of church planting?” Be open to the answer being something you did not expect (as I expect it will be!).