Learning From Those Who Have Gone Before

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity once again to attend the Calvary Chapel Western European Pastors/Leaders conference. This year we met at Schloss Heroldeck in Milstatt, Austria. It is one of my favorite places in the entire world to go to. Not only because the location is absolutely amazing, but it has been there, at the “White Castle” (as my kids call it), that the Lord has often spoken to me at critical times in my walk with Him. During the conference, they gave an opportunity for guys to get up and share what the Lord has been doing within the past year or so and they started with new church plants. Since we are only 1 1/2 years old, I raised my hand and was able to share what God has been doing here in Hamburg, Germany. I had no idea what I was to say, but when I got up to the podium and looked out into this crowd of men that I have grown to love and respect over these past 6+ years here in Europe, I could not help but simply say, “Thank you.” You see, I have had the advantage to come behind many of these men, listen to them, learn from them, and ask many questions of them that has in turn helped me out in our current church plant. In this post I thought I would share some important truths to those of you who are in the process of church planting or considering it.

1.      Sit and Listen

As I write this now, I can still remember my first conference here in Europe. The group was not as large as it is now. We were small enough that each of the guys were able to share who they were, where they were serving, and what the Lord had been doing. I was fresh on the mission field, having just left a very large church in Southern California. As I sat there and listened to those men, I could not help but think of how I wish I could record what they were sharing and then play it aloud to all of those whom I knew in Southern California. I believed it would be great for many to hear of the need for laborers here in Europe.

Although I can distinctly remember that first conference, one thing that I have learned over the years is to simply sit and listen to those who have gone before you. There are many things that you can learn from them. No, these men are not perfect, but their lessons may be able to help you with your current situation or help you avoid others.

2.      Ask Questions and Learn

We had been here for three years now and I found myself at the “White Castle” once again, seeking the Lord for our next steps. There I was at the missions conference and I wasn’t going to leave until the Lord had spoken to me. During the conference, I sat down with many pastors and other missionaries, asking them questions and taking notes. One conversation particularly comes to mind that I had with a friend of mine. He had already helped out in a few church plants and had now planted his own church. As is always the case, he was still in the learning process as well, but there is one statement that he told me that I never forgot. “Joey, if there is one thing that you do in church planting, learn this lesson at the very beginning, don’t start without a team.” Was that gospel? Is that the only way it can be done? No, but here was a long term missionary and church planter who had gone before me, who was speaking some “gold nuggets” and I was catching what he was putting down. My dear friends, listen to those who have gone before. Ask the questions. Ask the hard ones and then learn from them.

listen to those who have gone before. Ask the questions. Ask the hard ones and then learn from them.

3.      Get connected to a Trailblazer

Most of you have probably been connected with a “trainer.” How thankful I am for the one whom the Lord put in my life. You see when I started in the process of church planting, this Calvary Church Planting Network was beginning at the same time. So at the time, I was not directly connected with a trainer through CCPN, but the Lord was completely faithful to me and He was already at work well before I saw the need myself. The Lord connected me not only to another pastor/church planter, but one who had also done it on the foreign mission field as I am. Although he served in a different country, with a different people and language than I am currently serving, it has been very important to not only be connected to a trainer (trailblazer), but vitally important to be connected to someone who knows what it is like to raise a family and plant a church in a foreign mission field. All this to say, be praying that the Lord provides for you a trainer that will take the time to invest into you and to the work that the Lord has called you to. Don’t try to be a Superman and do it on your own. Allow God to place someone in your life that will help you through the process.

be praying that the Lord provides for you a trainer that will take the time to invest into you and to the work that the Lord has called you to. Don’t try to be a Superman and do it on your own.

4.      Learn the lesson and Step Out

There is going to come a time that no matter how much you may know or think you know, no matter how many questions you have asked, no matter what trainer the Lord has placed in your life, there will come the time for you to take the steps of faith and step out. Has God called you? Has He made the location clear? Is your wife on board? Then receive this word from the Lord. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

Joey Roper is the lead and planting pastor of CityLight Hamburg, which you can also follow on Twitter at @CityLightHH.

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