Whether a person believes that they are called to plant a church in the denomination of which they are a part, or in a new movement altogether, there is a lot to think about.
The truth is that it can be very overwhelming for a person to even accept that they are called to church planting. Although it can be an exciting time, it can also be extremely challenging, with the excitement of the call being followed by much questioning and uncertainty about what to do next. This can feel like being in the midst of a crisis before the job of planting has even begun.
For anyone wanting to move forward with church planting, it will help to consider the 5 W’s. This simple but powerful process of discernment can make a real difference and can be used as a checklist by those who feel called to plant a church.
The first and most crucial assurance that the church planter must have in the process, is to know where God is leading them to plant a church. The planter needs to be clear about which community will be reached and transformed.
I believe it is rare for the location of a church plant to be randomly chosen, for in the majority of instances God will put a love and call for a specific area into the heart of the planter; or God may start to open doors with one particular group, and through this process, clarity about location will come.
We cannot forget that we will only make an impact where we are, if we understand our community as the “holy land” that God has given us. And I don’t mean “holy” in the sense of building or streets, or even the location itself, but the people that are already there and will come to that location.
Church Planter, my recommendation to you is that you must love the place and the people where you are planting, and if you don’t love them yet, or if you don’t like them enough, please get on your knees and pray! Ask the God of love to help you to love the people that you are supposed to serve with a similar love that Jesus had for the church and for the people He saves.
The second most important question in the process of church planting is - when should things happen? What is the right timing?
Anticipated blessing is not yet a reality, so a planter needs to be open to hear from God as to when they should start what God is asking them to do.
God may reveal to you a call to plant a church in a certain area, but His call might be for you to start planting in one, five or even ten years. There could be many reasons for this time of waiting as God may be working inside of you to prepare you; or He could be raising a group to go and help you. It is also possible that God is preparing the place where you will plant the church for the amazing work that He has in mind.
What is important here is that the church planter should go with God’s timing, so that they do not miss the opportunity that He is giving them by moving too quickly or too slowly.
Remember that Jesus came to earth and only started His ministry when he was 30 years old. We might think that if anyone was ready before that age, it would have been Jesus himself, however, this apparent delay teaches the church planter an important lesson: God may be preparing things, and the best time is His time.
Please don’t allow the anxiety about timing to destroy your call and potential for ministry. Many people are called but because they cannot wait until it is God’s time they lose a fantastic opportunity to experience and be part of the work of God.
If you are looking to plant, please pray and listen to the important “When?” question, that you may have a blessed ministry.
The third “W” stands for whom! There is no such thing as ‘lone ranger’ in God’s Kingdom because if God is sending you somewhere he will prepare a team, or at least a “house of peace”, for you to start the work in that place.
I am not saying that people who went alone in the past, or even those that go today to some unreached country as missionaries, are doing wrong. I respect their call and pray that God helps them to fulfil it. But my recommendation for the majority of church planters who will plant a church in their country, is that they should pray for a team or at least a family with whom to share the work in the beginning.
Ministry can be a lonely place, and trying to get to know locals at the same time as you are looking to start a movement or church plant may be too much to ask of one person, that is why even Jesus sent people together in twos to proclaim the Kingdom in the cities around Him.
In an ideal world, everyone would know very clearly why they are going to plant a church, but in reality, there is often a lack of understanding about why a new church is needed, especially in a city where there are a lot of other churches.
Nowadays many churches are born because of division, or because the ‘leader’ wants to do things in their own way, and not be accountable to anyone. That is wrong, and the only person that is honoured with such an attitude is our enemy, the devil.
The vision to plant a church should come from a desire to meet the necessity of reaching more people with the message of salvation. We need more churches which can reach and engage people with a variety of “forms” in this increasingly pluralistic world.
We need to communicate the unchangeable word of God in a fast-changing world, and that is only possible when we use new initiatives to spread the gospel of Jesus.
A church plant should begin with God’s call, and be affirmed and blessed by the wider church. If this sense of connection is broken, then there is a real risk of isolation and other problems which may potentially destroy the plant.
I cannot see any Biblical basis to prevent a church from planting and blessing a group to start a different ‘movement’ if that is God’s call. But that must be prayed through, talked over and the process of sending and blessing should continue in the same way.
This is certainly not about building our own empires, but rather about building God’s Kingdom! And in the process of building His Kingdom we may multiply the number of churches in our own denomination but may also plant new movements outside of that denomination. It should be clear that honesty and transparency are vital to any church planting process!
Ultimately though, the “Why?” of church planting will always be rooted in the desire to share the truth “that whoever believes in Jesus will be saved”.
This is the last but not least important “W” of the church planting!
You might say to yourself “OK! So God called me to plant a church, and He has already shown me where to plant; my leaders are a blessing and I am being sent with a group of Christians to plant this new movement.”
It might seem that all is great, but many people forget the last of the 5 W’s – this is the “WHAT?”
What are your team developing in the new location? How will the process and movement look?
Many church plants are just reproducing a bigger and more established church in a new location and on a smaller scale.
I would like to encourage church planters to go and pray and fast, asking God what He has in store for that new location and through that original group.
The ethos and meaning can still be the same, but new church planters need to avoid falling into the same trap as others have done in the past – that being, that if we only create the same style of churches, logically we will only reach the same group of people.
So… Don’t forget the “What?”
God is leading you to a new place to reach new people in a new way. It may that you are being called to do something in the same way as you have done it before, but that new life will come because the call is specific to you for that location. It is a journey to discover what God is willing to do, only through you and your team, in that place.
Now you have heard – pray, and go in His blessing!!!!!!!
“As you come to him, the living Stone —rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.”
They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 1 Peter 2.4-10