by: Rev. Ed Schneider

plantingIt never ceases to amaze me at either the good intended ignorance or blatant arrogance of some who wake up one day and decide they should start a new church without;

  • fervent prayer,
  • consultation with others,
  • any actual practical discernment of the actual cultural context of their environment, and/or
  • the obvious proof of a Divine calling.

What is also sadly humorous is when good intended folks, without having any clue what it actually takes to successfully launch a new congregation encourage someone to begin the journey without having a shred of evidence they actually have the requisite competency, capacity and divine “call” to successfully produce the desired outcome they are seeking to birth.

I can’t begin to tell you how many good intended and yet remarkably mislead individuals equate starting a small group bible study with founding a church. They are two totally different things entirely. 

accordionpianistConfusing a small bible study group with intentionally putting together a church planting launch team would be like equating a pianist with an accordion player.  They are both keyboardists. They are both musicians. They can be both highly entertaining and engaging with an audience.  However, no one with any ACTUAL KNOWLEDGE of the vast differences between the two instruments and musicians would ever think they are the same thing or will get the same results.  The same applies to Church planting.  The art and science of church planting is unique unto itself.

Another good example of confusing one of the components of a church planting with a well balanced and strategically formed launch team would be someone who brings strong evangelistic competencies to the planting leadership process.  Will a church planting leader need to be competent at some level of evangelism?  Yes.  To have someone trying to lead a church planting goal without a passionate heart for saving souls for Christ is a great and essential thing. However, from a church planting perspective it is far more important that the planting leader is highly competent in drawing others who can implement and sustain a general environment of attracting, calling and receiving new and un-churched Christians…..OTHER THAN THEMSELVES!

A dear friend and mentor, Bishop Clarence Carr, used to have a mantra he would share to anyone who would listen as it relates to generic church growth; WORKING TOGETHER WORKS! This especially applies to successfully starting a new Christian congregation….regardless of theological perspective, denominational affiliation, financial support, or any other practical identity markers.

Someone who is a great evangelist or a great teacher or a great organizer….who is then either unable or unwilling to build a group of legitimately empowered leaders who have the capacity to provide the wide variety of processes, programs, and a practical discipleship environment to accomplish a successful launch will absolutely and unnecessarily fail in their hopes of establishing a new and sustainable Christian congregation.

So…..in hope of supplying a reasonably accurate “check list” of the minimum desired characteristics and practical attributes of those who will succeed at opening, building and providing a sustainable environment of a new AND thriving congregation.

First let me state clearly that there are thousands of smaller churches who are doing great work in the context where they are serving. There are even thousands of failed or exhausted church plants….that while open…touched the lives of those they connected with in godly and empowering ways. However, for the purpose of this article I am setting as a discussion focus a successful and sustainable new congregation as being defined as;

  • At least 200 adults in weekly worship,
  • 5 years of continuous life,
  • At least 25% of current weekly attendees being New Christians, and
  • Financially viable without outside revenue being given to support the local congregation.

SUCCESSFUL PLANTERS GENERALLY HAVE THESE 13 ATTRIBUTES IN COMMON

1). They Understanding and appreciate the culture and context of the community they are planting within.

2). Successful planters are those who greatly value and commit to equipping and empowering people to do the task of ministry…..not “having to” do it themselves. relationships

3). Extremely effective planters must be team-builders. They must not only be willing to build team environments, they also need practical experience on how to actually accomplish “the art” and science of building people into a cohesive TEAM.

4). Successful planters have an innate ability of Discerning the actual spiritual gifts in others and intentionally match their gifts with practical and community needed ministry opportunities.

5). Successful planters are innate risk-takers. By their very nature they are never satisfied with the status-quo.

6). Even though highly effective church planters are typically obsessed with growth they balance this focus with step-by-step strategic thinking and “team-based” planning. Willingness to develop a healthy and attainable plan of action is a common value of planters.

movement7). Successful church planters must be able to cast a clear, concise, and inspiring vision of what the new congregation will be and what foundational elements of identity they will represent.

8). Church planters who are highly successful are self-starters. They tend to draw other planting team members who reflect the same characteristics. By developing a team of “doers” they cherish and enhance a group of individuals….working as a team….TO GET THINGS DONE!  Once an agreed course of action and outcomes are established, they do not need or will not wait for permission to move forward to a predetermined goal.

9). Church planters who succeed at establishing a sustainable congregation have a profound and unswerving sense of trust concerning God’s faithful and empowering nature.

10). They are genuinely able and willing to move as easily within the church and UN-church populations

11). Successful church planters are empowered and unstoppable evangelists and are driven to provide an environment where others can express their evangelistic gifts.

12). They must have family support that is active, obvious, and sustainable.

13). Successful planters must be fearless when dealing with abrupt change. Surprises come up all the time during any plant. Planting leaders will have to adapt, improvise and establish a calm and effective reaction to the inevitable unknown.

THESE ARE THE FOUNDATIONAL CHARACTERISTICS and ATTRIBUTES OF SUCCESSFUL PLANTERS.

If someone does not genuinely reflect this list IN A SIGNIFICANT WAY, please….PLEASE…. do not put good intended people who are dramatically ill-prepared and ill-equipped in a position to fail. The vast majority of the time planting a new church is a challenging and long-term CALLING!  Do not take the journey lightly.  Do not assume everything will be provided for your comfort.  Planting is hard work.  It is the very definition of a RISK.  However, it is a risk worth taking over and over and over again because FAITHFUL CHRISTIANS are called by God Almighty to “Spread the Good News” and to continually “reach out” to EXPAND God’s kingdom.

Spend your efforts prayerfully identifying, evaluating, recruiting, empowering, deploying and supporting those who exemplify the above characteristics.   If you do….God will be both better served and well pleased.

Peace.

For those who are wanting me to speak on this subject at their church or other Christian based gathering, please send an email request in the form supplied below.

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