I’m no church planting expert. Far from it, but for the past two years my wife and I have been on a journey of gigantic, spiritual proportions. In 2009 we set out from our home church on a prompting from the Holy Spirit. Being in prophetic ministry, I felt the need to be harnessed with an apostolic team of which there was none in sight at the time in our church. When I say “apostolic” I mean a sent one, senior leader responsible for planting churches and preaching the Gospel to unreached territories and culture.
To make a long story short, for the past two years my wife and I have been co-laboring with an apostolic leader whose mandate is to plant house churches and foster community in the Body of Christ. Over the past two years there has been rich, valuable lessons learned about what the church really is and functioning as a body. We also have learned some hard lessons that we probably would have implemented from the beginning if we would have had hindsight and the experience to show. It would be wrong of me not to share these with those involved in church planting or desiring to venture out in such a great cause for the Gospel. I stand behind the organic, missional house church movement 100%, yet its a hard, difficult path to pioneer. Those who are involved in church planting you already know the challenges you face, but you also know how rewarding and worth it all is. Here are a few of my keys that hopefully will help you and those reading:
1. Build a team. Before the church was birthed, Jesus was “team building”. In our experience, myself and another apostle were the only ones working together as ministries. I think we both found this limiting, discouraging, and at times, frustrating. I’ve always said church is a by-product of discipleship. Before you have church, you must have disciples who you are building into, spending time with and developing as leaders. Find those around you that are willing to prayerfully consider the vision of reaching the lost in the locality you’re called to. Also, make sure those individuals are also willing disciples. Those who aren’t willing to be led and taught cannot successfully lead or teach others.
2. Apostolic churches gather around relationships, not doctrine. Yes, doctrine is important, but should not be the crux upon we hang our hats to rest. Surrounding yourself with those who agree with your pet doctrines causes divisions and could potentially do more harm than good. We aren’t talking about essential teaching here, we are talking about “side issues” like women in ministry, speaking in tongues, and ministry style. I will say that YOU have to decide what you consider “essential” within your statement of faith and find those who are like minded. My point is that we should value our relationships high above our denominational preferences.
3. Establish Pastoral Leadership ASAP. I’m not the most patient person in the world. I have to confess this is an area the Holy Spirit continues to work out in me. Church planting is long, laborious work. Especially if you are working with unchurched, heathens who have been converted by the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. This takes more than just a prophetic edge to deal with peoples issues. You must release and establish those who are gifted and called to pastor into their ministry to help those who need care, follow up and counseling. Certainly caring for people requires more than just a pastoral influence, but as stated in the first point, it requires a team of people all speaking into each others lives.
4. Programs, Planning And Structure Are OK. Being involved in the house church movement, we’ve seen the opposite extreme where people run far away from any kind of structure, leadership or direction. I believe the church should be both organic and organized to fulfill the mission of Christ to preach the Gospel into all the world. We must become strategic in our position in the city we are trying to win and continue with our efforts to win the lost. Shooting from the hip and calling it “spirit-led” can also be a lack of stewardship. We have to find the balance between being intentional in our gatherings and making sure we don’t loose our spontaneity of the Spirit.
For the sake of time, I’ll leave it there and continue this topic in my next post. A whole book could be written on church planting alone, and many are out there that would be a valuable read for those who are in the throes of plowing the ground for the Kingdom of God. Church planting is the best way to win new people to Christ. For example, in our town alone there are 110,000 people in our city. The largest church boasts a membership of only 3,000. That tells me there is still lots of people to win, plenty of ground to take and room enough for several new churches to start. Don’t give up! I’d love to hear your experience or thoughts on church planting below.