Thoughts Regarding Planting a Church

By | August 26, 2011

I have recently begun interacting with a new church plant seeking feedback on what they’re doing. It was a catalyst for me to consider what advice I’d give to people planting a church. Here’s what came out:

  1. It’s Christ’s church, and he is the builder. “I will build my church.” (Matthew 16:18) “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1) If he is not the one constructing our church and if his spirit is not behind it, it will be merely a human institution. God may continue to work in, around, and despite it, but overall God’s hand and movement won’t be seen in “God-sized” ways.(Because of this, I believe well meaning people, looking for God, sometimes attribute very common, ordinary things to him that perhaps he didn’t really have a hand in. I don’t want to take away from the role God has in the ordinary, but it seems that when people are really involved with what God is doing, extraordinary things happen which only God could be behind. If this isn’t being seen, it may be because Christ isn’t the leader in what’s happening. For instance, people may praise God for providing the money for a new building when in reality there was nothing miraculous about it. The church simply did an extended capital raising campaign.)
  2. Let Christ not only build the church but let him lead it as well. Christ is in every disciple, and wants to work through each one. He has given gifts to everyone. Allow him to work through everyone by given everyone a chance to participate fully. In other words, allow for more than just a question/answer time, and allow people to do more than pass out programs or communion. Lead by letting other people lead which really allows Christ to lead.
  3. All significant work of God begins with prayer. Seek God and listen to his guiding. Don’t simply ask that he bless our plans. In order for Christ to lead through each disciple, each has to be receiving from God. Therefore, teach people how to hear from God.
  4. If you want to build a church, make disciples. Planting churches is never instructed in scripture. Making disciples is. Don’t try to build a church by creating programing, trying to bring as many people as possible in, and then hope the church disciples them. Go to where the people are at. Be incarnational. Develop relationships. Invite people on the journey of spiritual exploration (discipleship). Then Christ will build his church out of this, organically.
  5. Be founded and grounded in love. God is love (1 John 4:8, 16), and his top commands are to love (Matthew 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-34). Make loving people more important than their actions, beliefs and sins which you disagree with, especially with those who are outside the church. (So this is not to say that there is no accountability within the church.) Jesus loved people enough that he let them reject him.
  6. Involve men. Young men are (from what I understand) the least likely demographic group to be involved in church. However when they are involved they are often quite influential to their families and those in their circle of influence. Find a way to engage them. One big way I believe this can be accomplished is by empowering them to lead and giving them opportunity to experiment and room to fail (though discernment is necessary of when the time is for this). We as leaders should be very wary of being too controlling and wanting to keep everything nice, neat and under control. The Pharisees did this as well.
  7. Being a Christian is defined more by having and putting into practice certain skills, rather than a mental ascent to a certain set of beliefs. Beliefs do play a role, but they develop in a context of participation. Teach through practice, not just to practice. Think more like a coach than a professor. We’re seeking for people to develop their skills, not just their knowledge.
  8. Allow room for people’s beliefs to develop over time. It’s about knowing God, not just knowing about him. That’s a relationship which takes time to develop. No one has God all figured out and knows everything. Resist the temptation to think that you do and think that everyone should agree with you immediately. Give people space to wrestle with different beliefs, including inaccurate, false ones. (We can disagree, but can’t force people to change their minds. We must communicate that they’re free to have their own views.)
  9. God is interested in two kinds of growth: adding new disciples and maturing existing disciples. There are times and seasons for each. Some fellowships do one better than the other. Do what God has called you to do well.
  10. Understand that, while there is a line and point in time when a person decides to follow Christ, there is a journey both to that point and after that point. It’s not all black and white, one or the other. Probably one of the biggest mistakes evangelists make is focusing solely on getting people to cross that line. In reality, each step of the journey is important. A step forward can’t be taken until the previous one has been accomplished. People can’t cross the line until they reach it. So I believe our job is to help, encourage and prod people along in they’re spiritual journey. There is a process to becoming a disciple, and a continual process after becoming one. All of these steps are important.
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