It is said that the greatest distance between two people is misunderstanding. And church planters, of all people in ministry, may be the easiest to misunderstand. In listening to many podcasts and conversations on the “church planting discussion,” I have discovered these three common misunderstandings. So here’s an honest attempt to clear things up and shorten the “distance”.
1. All church planters need to be entrepreneurs.
First, let me clarify that church planting is not for the faint of heart. At any given moment, you are pastoring people but also wearing about twenty-five other various hats. Church planting may require you to have a bit of marketing prowess, an understanding of processes/procedures, business savvy, website and graphic design knowledge along with a broader set of social skills, just to name a few. The actual ministry work may be preaching/teaching and prayer, but the organization of the church still needs organizing!
While it’s certainly true that having an “entrepreneurial spirit” is important, God is calling those who are obedient, not just those who are entrepreneurial! It’s more important that you obey Jesus than forsake your calling. Robert Murray M’Cheyne says “It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.” God can grow you in your leadership and abilities, but are you willing to trust Him and take a step of faith?
So if I’m not a gifted entrepreneur, what do I do? The church leaders in Acts 6 solved this quandary by raising up capable people to oversee practical ministry. Rather than bussing tables they focused on what they alone could not delegate. We don’t use titles at Shoreline but I delegate almost every practical task to capable people after I’ve invested the time to communicate our philosophy of ministry to them and outline the purpose for why we do what we do. This allows me to focus on the three “P’s”: prayer, preaching, and people.
2. All church planters start churches because they aren’t willing to submit to their senior pastors.
While some men have impure and selfish motives to plant churches, most church planters are aware of the needs in their city and experience a “holy discontent” before God calls them to plant out from the ministry they are associated with. Church planters understand that we can’t be everyone’s pastor. Some ministries will never reach a particular people group, and this is why we need more churches.
Peter Wagner reminds us that “The single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planting new churches.” Audrey Malphurs points out that “It is easier to have a baby than to raise the dead.” We must put new wine into new wineskins and sometimes that means stepping out by faith to start a new work.
If more churches would work together, we could fight the war on a united front. Every week at Shoreline we pray in the service for another local church in town and seek to build up the kingdom by working together for the Gospel. It isn’t “my” church, it is Jesus’s! And He promised to build it, to be with us in our scattering abroad to make disciples.
3. All church planters are pastors of the church they plant for life.
When God called us out of Reality Church Tampa, the church we had planted four years prior, I felt incredibly guilty. I knew God had called me to plant, so why was He calling me to leave? If you plant a church, doesn’t that mean you die in the pulpit there? The truth is, not everyone has the same calling!
Speaking of the Apostle Paul, Acts 18:23 says “After he had spent some time there, he departed and went over the region of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples.” Paul didn’t plant a church and remain, but raised up qualified men to continue the work, then moved on to plant more churches. It is important to know our calling and to fulfill it. Some are called to plant, others to water, but it is God who makes the ministry grow. And when God is speaking to us to step out and keep planting, we must be obedient. May we heed Ephesians 4:1,
“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called…”
God may have you pastor at your church in a stationary position until you die, like Peter in Jerusalem. Or, like Paul, God may call you to be a serial church planter. So whether stationary or serial, you must fulfill the ministry He’s called you to!
It’s easy to misunderstand church planters. One of my favorite commercials was an Apple commercial called “The Crazy Ones.” It reads this way, and always reminds me of church planters when I hear it:
Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
Pastor Pilgrim Benham is the lead pastor of a brand-new church called Shoreline Calvary Chapel, in southwest Florida. He is currently building a church planter residency/internship for potential Calvary Chapel church planters. For more information, visit thisisshoreline.com.