What Does it Take to be a Church Planter?
- Dr. Bruce McAllister <i>Today's Christian Preacher</i> Magazine
- 2007 6 Jun
Church planting is not for every preacher. Spiritual gifts, talents, and natural abilities are often combined in unusual ways in the lives of church planters. The church planter is a pioneer, entrepreneur, and catalyst. He is carving out a work for God, determining its direction, setting its pace, and establishing its permanency. He is building an armory for spiritual warfare, a lighthouse for lost souls, and a hospital for the spiritually sick. So what kind of man must the church planter be?
The Church Planter’s Character
The church planter must have experienced the new birth and be walking in obedience to Christ. The Holy Spirit must have worked in his personal life in such a way that the character of the Lord Jesus Christ is visibly being demonstrated in the man’s life. He should meet the requirements of the pastor as set forth in I Timothy 3:1–7 and Titus 1:6–9. His testimony before both the saved and the unsaved should be beyond any question. He must be a Spirit-controlled man who responds maturely to the pressures of life and ministry.
He should be a “people person,” who enjoys the company of others. He should be gracious and courteous toward others, compassionate toward the lost, and capable of patiently guiding them to understand the Gospel. He must be free from the love of money and material things. He should live an orderly life, setting priorities and accomplishing goals. He should have a happy and harmonious family life. His moral character must be beyond reproach. He must be a man who can lead God’s flock toward Christlikeness.
The Church Planter’s Gifts and Calling
There is really no special calling for church planters mentioned in the Bible. Actually, it seems that virtually all the pastors and evangelists of the New Testament era were church planters!
There are two ministerial gifts active today: the pastoral gift and the evangelistic gift (Ephesians 4:11). A church planter could have either an evangelistic or a pastoral gift. The evangelist, like the Apostle Paul, goes from place to place preaching the Gospel and forming churches. The pastor establishes the newly formed church and leads it on toward maturity (Titus 1:5). Some pastors will be endowed with church-planting abilities. They are especially skilled at soulwinning, initial discipleship, and bringing people into the local church. Missionaries often function as evangelists who win the lost to Christ and turn over the newly formed churches to national pastors.
The Church Planter’s Capacity
The ability to preach and teach the Word of God is a must for the church planter if he is going to be able to help and hold more than just a few people. He should be competent in the Scriptures for both public and private ministry. He should have the capacity for door-to-door visitation and the ability to train others in personal evangelism. It will be very helpful if he is able to lead singing. He should be able to direct all aspects of the worship service, though he will gradually allow others to lead singing and make announcements. He should have the stamina to work fifty to sixty hours a week, especially in the early months of church planting. He should not be seriously affected by discouragement, and by no means can he be a quitter. The more he knows about life, the better. Knowledge of finances, law, government, building, business, the working man’s daily struggles, local community activities, and family life will enhance his ministry.
The Church Planter’s Companion
The wife of a church planter is a special person. Her calling is to be his helper for life. Her constant encouragement will mean much to him. Often her companionship is his only human source of encouragement. Many disappointments and some discouragement will come to the church planter. People will let him down, break promises, and become critical. He needs an encouraging wife.
He also needs her input. She views life in the same manner that half the people in the world do—from a woman’s viewpoint. Her refined sense and her attention to detail may surpass his in the areas of building decor, cleanliness of facilities, and even tactfulness in speech. Also, she likely will have an intuitive sense about other women who could do harm to her husband’s testimony. He should listen to her, love her, and involve her in the ministry as an example to others.
She should be one of the best women, wives, and mothers in the church, just as the pastor should be one of the best men, husbands, and fathers. He should let her spiritual and natural gifts enhance his ministry but not let others view her as an associate pastor. She may be able to help teach a class, play the piano, help in the nursery, or plan socials. He should let her be herself without being forced into modeling her life after a famous pastor’s wife. He should schedule time to be with her to do the things she enjoys doing. She is the most important person in his life and ministry!
The Church Planter’s Preparation
The church planter should have completed his formal training for the ministry. This assumes undergraduate ministerial training and, preferably, graduate or seminary training. A lifetime of ministry demands sufficient training. A church planter should be debt-free or nearly so when he begins his ministry. Money likely will be tight. The burden of debt would detract from his ministry. He certainly must pay all his bills on time in the new community and should not be tempted to do otherwise.
Church planters should have several years of valuable experience working under a mature pastor. Selection of such a mentor is extremely important! The mentor’s zeal and burden for the lost should be especially keen if he is to set a proper example for the church planter.
It seems that a large percentage of church planters are men in their late twenties or early thirties. However, men in their forties and fifties can plant churches as well if they are full of vigor for Christ.
If God places a burden on your heart to plant a church somewhere, pursue a proper course of action. Seek advice from experienced pastors and church planters. Visit the area. Seek the face of God in prayer so that you might have His perfect direction in the great adventure of planting a new church!
Dr. Bruce McAllister is director of Ministerial Training and Extension and teaches church planting at Bob Jones University. This article is adapted from the BJU Church Planting Manual. All rights reserved.