I’m often asked what I would tell church planters or what a church planter should know before they take the plunge into church planting. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, here’s what I told them the other day:
1. Know that you (and your wife) are called. This seems obvious since the qualifications of a pastor and elder start with this in the New Testament, but it is amazing to me how many guys think church planting would be fun. Let’s define that. Fun is going to the beach, hiking with my wife, playing with my kids. As one author said, “Church planting can kill you.” It can certainly kill your marriage if you aren’t careful (or called). If you aren’t called, don’t even think about it. If your wife is not called, and she needs to be just as called you are, then don’t plant a church. You are now one, which means you must both be bought in. If she has doubts or hesitations, listen to her as the Holy Spirit may be using her to talk to you.
The reason calling is so important is because the Bible says it is important. There is a reason this is the first qualification in 1 Timothy 3. The other reason is that leadership is hard, and church planting can be brutal. There will be times when no one likes you, they are spewing venom at you, stabbing you in the back, leaving your church in droves, spreading rumors about you; core team members that bail, donors who forget to send a check, leaders who sin and then get mad because you hold them accountable. And those are just Christians. Wait until your church is fully on mission and reaching people who are far from God. The bottom line, on those days (and there are more of those days than any other days in church planting), your calling is the only thing that will keep you going. I can tell you from experience that the only reason Katie and I started Revolution and made it to where we are now is because God called us to it. It gives you the determination, the energy, the passion and the fortitude to fight.
2. Know what you will be, not just what you won’t be. Lots of people plant a church because they are too smart for the church where they are on staff. Every student pastor I have ever met (and I used to be one) is smarter than their lead pastor. Why else would they be the student pastor under the lead pastor? Makes sense. So many guys start a church simply to prove how smart they are, how innovative they are and how if only everyone who had stood in their way would have seen the light, revival would have happened.
Whenever I meet with a guy who wants to plant I ask him, “What will you do, and who will you try to reach?” This answer should take less than 30 seconds to give. Anything longer than this and it isn’t clear in your head. If it isn’t clear in your head, it won’t be clear for anyone else. How can you form a core team who will give up time, money and energy for something that doesn’t yet exist? How will you get churches to partner with you, support you and pray for you if you can’t tell them why they should?