So, God is calling you to plant a church. You see the need. You know the city or area you are burdened for. Your family is on board. The church you are a member of is sending you out. It’s time to assemble a team!
Tony Merida gave our team the advice (advice he shares with lots of church planters, I believe) to think through differences and similarities in 1) theological convictions 2) philosophy of ministry 3) individual capacity 4) relationality. So, when it came to the Washington DC team (I’ll share the name with you soon, and how we chose it), we used Pastor T’s advice.
There are any number of blogs or books you could read by guys that are, you know, qualified to tell you the marks of a good church planting team. As has already been mentioned in our story, Wesley and I were already dear friends (and Ben could befriend a Grizzly bear). Relationality, theology, and philosophy of ministry were low hurdles for us. Your story will be different. Here are five things that I highly value in looking for church planting partners, and two things I would encourage you to embrace:
Find people that can share your vision
While vision fell together easily for our team, a premium should be placed on vision. By vision, I am referring to the mix of theology and philosophy of ministry that will serve as a rudder for the direction of the church. Here is an easy example: does a potential partner believe in the Trinity? If not, you have a problem. Do they believe the Trinity is like water? You have a problem. Here is a harder example: can a person that was baptized as a baby be a member at your church? Your answer will tell people a lot about your confessional beliefs. It is better to find out from the very beginning if there are significant disagreements on vision.
Find people that understand community/family
In our case, we have two families from South Georgia, and a guy from Buffalo moving into the capitol of the United States. If I am going to do more than survive there, I need something more than an acquaintance by my side. Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man with many friends can still be ruined, but a true friend sticks closer than a brother” (ISV). I need family to do this church planting thing well. Don’t you?
Find people that are quick to forgive each other
Want a good way to gauge the kind of relationship you have with a potential partner? Here it is. Is forgiveness found quickly in their hearts? Does it take significant time to process petty things? Or, are your partners “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry,” (James 1:19)?
Find people with a high capacity
I am not sure if everyone on our team feels this way, but I put a high premium on this quality. I prefer to work with high capacity people. No one is going to tell you up front, “Hey, just so you know, I’m not a hard worker.” What people do with their time, energy, and money will tell you a lot about their worship. But, personally, I want the above-and-beyond brother and sister. Does your potential team member sleep until 10 am? What type of work history do they have? Are they self-motivators, or do they need someone to assign them work? One of my favorite things about our DC team is our capacity. Wesley works 40+ hours a week in upper management at Chick-fil-A and is a full-time student. You know what else he does? Loves his wife well and is a good friend. He is a high capacity brother.
Find people you can suffer well with
This is advice I was given for marriage, but I think it translates to church planting well. Who can you go through really hard seasons with? Between fundraising, evangelism, personal spiritual development, and family dynamics hard times are on the horizon. Dr. David Black made such a good point about this in class recently. He said that Acts 14:22 gave him so much hope, because, yeah, suffering is apart of this life. Warm up to the idea! Notice Luke’s point about suffering and the kingdom: this sentiment was strengthening the disciples. We need people in our church plants from day one that can suffer with us.
Embrace people you disagree with
If everyone in your circle sounds like you, that’s not a team. That’s an un-sanctified echo. [Insert any sport’s team analogy about pieces of a whole all looking and performing in different capacities]. Diversity is beautiful. Embrace people on your team that challenge you on your way to achieving a common vision.
Embrace the passenger seat
Dare I say there is so much freedom in not reaching your “dream job?” The reality is every Christian is called to be a missionary for the advancement of the gospel and the glory of God. What do you care if that is not from the “preaching pastor” seat, or the “vision pastor” seat? It is about faithful obedience to the Great Commission anyway, right? Here is one of the best lessons I learned from my time at Chick-fil-A: needing a title to lead is not leadership. That’s entitlement. By the way, if you find yourself having a hard time getting excited to serve in the capacity you are currently in (be that member or “youth pastor”), don’t be surprised when the grass isn’t greener on the “senior pastor” side. My advice: The grass is always greenest on the “faithful servant” side.