good advice for those considering church planting

Posted on January 26, 2009

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The Acts 29 Network is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing church planting networks in the country.  According to their own statistics, they have not planted one church that has failed up to this point.  That’s pretty good when you consider the going rate for other denominations (even our own) is well over 50%.

Scott Thomas, the Director of Acts 29 Network, recently posted a series of responses to a young guy who asked for some advice on whether or not he should plant a church.  I think anyone who is interested in planting a church could benefit from these ten things:

  1. I believe men should be able to integrate the expression of the gospel with life. Your marriage, wife (and hours of sex) DO NOT compete with your ministry. The gospel is lived out through these relationships and not apart from it. A marriage (and marriage bed) is a biblical proclamation of the gospel, specifically the love of the bridegroom/Jesus with the bride/Church. Jesus said that unbelievers would be able to recognize that we are Christians by our love, sacrifice and unity with one another. The marriage and the home is the perfect example. A man’s family is not a diversion from the pressures of ministry, as you suggest, but rather, a part of his holistic life ministry, his first flock and the primary credible witness of his character.

2. Get into a church that is a church plant and serve for a few years. Find a pastor under whom you can learn, be mentored, challenged spiritually and later be commended for the ministry. Even if you do not fully agree with how the pastor does ministry (and you probably won’t), serve Jesus, the body and in submission to spiritual authority as an example of the gospel working in and through your life.

3. Start engaging people, living people (not dead puritans), who are not Christians. If you want to influence people, combine your studies with the interaction of unbelievers. They will help you to know the questions they are asking. Without that, your studies are skeletons without flesh. The puritans wrote their sermons by answering the objections of their hearers. That is why they were so lengthy. The only way your studying will have an impact in people’s life is to share truth with them on their turf—in their homes, places of work, neighborhoods and cultural events. Jesus went away to pray, but was often found eating and drinking with sinners.

4. Be humble. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Young men with limited experience and a lot of academic knowledge are often puffed up with pride. This man is rarely usable until the gospel has taken root in his heart and he recognizes the honor of serving the King of kings with gifts bestowed by the King for His own glory.

5. Focus on the biblical requirements of an elder and seek to be the man he wants you to become and not just focused on the information you think you may need. A man’s character—above reproach—is the foundation for all other gospel ministry. Too often, a man desires the office of an elder and equips his mind with knowledge and neglects the weightier matters of prayer, intimacy with God, silence, solitude, obedience, repentance, confession, kindness and obtaining a missionary heart. Make sure you are called to eldership and follow Him passionately.

6. Be patient. The Apostle Paul was sent to the Arabian Desert for three years before preaching (probably around 33 years old). Jesus waited until he was 30 years old to start his public ministry. Abraham waited. Jacob waited. Joseph waited. Noah waited. Daniel waited. Isaiah waited. Young men hate to wait. They are ready to charge Hell with a squirt gun. Abraham Lincoln said, “I will get ready and then, perhaps my chance will come.” Do everything you can to get ready to plant a church. Study, pray, obey, find a mentor, engage in a servant ministry, share your faith humbly, connect missionally with unbelievers, minister to children who are fatherless, serve widows in their affliction, and keep yourself unspotted from the world. Then wait for the Holy Spirit to lead you.

7. Start a missional community in your home. Live the gospel together, pray together, serve the neighborhood together, share your faith together, learn the Bible together, be on mission together, and replicate other groups from your smaller community. If you can’t start and sustain a smaller community of faith, you will never have a biblical template for a church plant.

8. Read other authors. Don’t limit your intake to a few popular speakers and authors. Read from and listen to pastors from multiple theological backgrounds.

9. Research church planting. Know what it entails and count the cost before you start building (Luke 14). Consider doing a one or two year internship with a church planting training center.

10. Get a job, secure a place to live, get married, have children, practice the gospel in your own home, and then plant a church. Being married is not a biblical requirement for a pastor or church planter, but it is advised.

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