I had a phone call yesterday with my friend Paul Madson. Paul and I both planted churches in 1990. I was in Castaic, California planting Lake Hills Community Church. Paul was in Peoria, Arizona planting New Life Community Church. Both of us were blessed to be part of the Missionary Church Western District.
Yesterday as we spoke, Paul said, “One of the hardest tasks in ministry is church planting. It’s not for the faint hearted and not for who aren’t called and gifted.”
I agree with Paul – yet how do responsible leaders in churches, networks and denominations discern who should plant churches. What about those who are very passionate but not skilled? What about someone who says, “I feel God has called me to start a church. Whether you send me or not, I’m going to do it?”
Tonight I was speaking with my friend Wladimir Navarro, pastor of worship at Mountain View Community Church in Fort Collins, Colorado. He shared with me from I Chronicles 25:7 how those who were selected to lead in music ministry at the house of God were to be “trained and skilled.”
Along with their relatives—all of them trained and skilled in music for the Lord —they numbered 288. (emphasis added)
It makes sense to me that if it mattered to God that those where were selected to lead in worship were “all of them trained and skilled,” this must also be true for church planters.
Just because someone feels called to church planting does not mean they should go plant a church!
This calling must be confirmed by the Holy Spirit and those in leadership within a local church. (See Acts 13 where the Holy Spirit sends Barnabas and Saul to plant churches).
I have seen that there is a direct relationship between the impact and sustainability of a new church and the giftedness of the church planter.
When will we stop investing kingdom resources (time, energy, volunteers, money, etc.) in those who are not proven multipliers?
Let me say this again – Just because someone feels called to church planting does not mean they should go plant a church!
Who Should Plant Churches?
This is not an easy question to answer – but one that needs to be addressed. I got an email this week from a pastor who asked this question: “I was wondering if you have any material on training pastors to assess church planters. If so, can you email them to me or tell me how to purchase them?”
I’ve posted before on qualifications for church leadership. I believe that only those who are gifted to lead should lead. Just like only those who are gifted to preach should preach. Therefore, church planters should only be those who demonstrate gifting in the area of leadership and skill in the area of making disciples and multiplying leaders and groups.
Most importantly – if someone who wants to start a church hasn’t been making disciples who make disciples who make disciples (to the 4th Generation), then don’t send them out to plant a church until they have done this. Send proven multipliers!
Over the years, I’ve done many behavioral interviews of church planting candidates. There are many that I have not recommended. Why? Because they didn’t demonstrate the behaviors necessary to plant a church. It didn’t matter if they had a good plan or could preach well – the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.
Jesus didn’t command any of His followers to plant churches. The Great Commission isn’t about starting churches, it’s about making disciples who make disciples. That’s what Jesus sent all of His followers to do! That’s what His followers are still doing today!
Jesus didn’t train the twelve disciples to start churches to make disciples. He trained them to make disciples – and making disciples will start new churches.
So who should plant churches? Those who are effective at making disciples!
Evaluate a candidate’s ability to handle Scripture accurately and preach the Gospel. Evaluate character and credibility. Evaluate what they understand (Knowing) and who they are (Being) – but also pay attention to how they are involved in the mission of Jesus to make disciples (Doing).
Before sending anyone out to plant a church – ask these simple questions:
1. Would I follow this person as a leader?
2. How have they multiplied disciples, leaders and small groups?
3. Who are their non-Christian friends?
4. Would my wife and I enjoy hanging out with them more?
While we need more church planters – don’t encourage anyone to plant a church if there is not evidence that they are a spiritual leader who is making disciples, multiplying groups, relating well to non-believers, and relationally competent.