Emphasis on Teaching the Bible

Our mission statement: “loving God & living His word” – implies that people are taught & learn the word so they can live it. The teaching of the Bible is the hallmark of a true church – 2Tim.4:2 “Preach the Word!” John Stott observes, “Whether the text is long or short, our responsibility as expositors is to open it in such a way that it speaks its message clearly, plainly, accurately, relevantly, without addition, subtraction or falsification.” The Bible and message of the gospel is the primary revelation of God and Christian Living.

The strengths of the teaching [doctrine-driven] model are the church is taught sound doctrine & the assembly is encouraged to study the Bible for themselves, and consider and reflect upon deep theological truth. Nevertheless, we must guard against creating self-righteous people who lack compassion. Bible teaching may not always be popular but people will respect and be drawn to God by declaring, “This is what the Bible says, and this is how to apply it. We are trying our best to apply it in our lives and you can, too.”  A primary role of the lead pastor in this model is to teach the Bible.

Expositional verse-by-verse teaching allows people to understand God in the context of books of the Bible. If you start at chapter one, verse one of a book and teach systematically through verse-by-verse, paragraph-by-paragraph, chapter-by-chapter until the end of the book people are likely to understand doctrine and theology. Paul declared that he was innocent of the blood of all men, “For I have not shunned to declare to the whole counsel of God.” [Ac.20:26-27]. It seems that the only way to teach the whole counsel of God is to teach through books of the Bible.

In Nehemiah 8, when the children of Israel had returned from captivity and were rebuilding the city, the leadership gathered the people together and began to read the Word of God to them. Nehemiah 8:8 declares, “So they read in the book of the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.” This is the essence of expositional teaching. Read the text, observe, explain what it means, and help people to understand how to apply the truth of the Word to their lives.

I encourage you to consider teaching the Old Testament during the mid-week Bible study and teach from the New on weekends. There seems to be very few churches that teach through books of the Bible, and even fewer that teach through the Old Testament. This approach will set the church apart in the community and help establish a reputation as a strong teaching ministry. Your teaching must edify believers, reach mature disciples, and strengthen less mature. Also, teaching should encourage pre-believers to decide to follow Jesus. The teaching should be simple but not simplistic. Consider what does the passage say about God, and what are the likely objections that people are thinking or feeling, and then refute the objections.

Narrative texts [e.g. Gospels, Acts, Genesis] will grow even more popular as people resonate with story as a means of communicating truth. Books that emphasize doctrine [e.g. Paul’s letters] are essential to teach so that people understand Christian life. Thematic or topical expository teaching in a series can be very helpful for a church to understand what the Bible teaches about a particular subject such as prayer, worship, marriage, the Holy Spirit, etc. Consider offering a topical series in the middle of a long book study or between books.

A teaching style has been modeled and taught at Calvary that is effective in regard to elements of teaching [see, appendix re teacher training materials], but discover who you are as a teacher and develop that gift and style. Nevertheless, Teachers should help the audience remember the message by identifying a theme [subject], object, using biblical cross-references, support material, and illustrations. Personal short-comings & struggles are easier for people to relate to [be real]. Know your audience. For example, the challenges of jr. high students are different than high school students, and college students have their own unique experiences, etc. Let listeners be challenged and shaped by the truth of God’s word in the context of the passage and in the context of their culture. An appropriate hermeneutical question is not simply, what does this text mean? but rather How is the text asking me to change?

Be committed to the Word of God. As Paul said to Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” [2Tim.2:15]. You can be taught how to study and how to teach the Bible but you must choose to remain diligent as a student and teacher of the Bible. Remember to, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” [2Tim.4:2].

Finally, it is important to recall that evangelism, worship, community service, and fellowship should not be ignored which will eventually cause the church’s demise.

a pastor’s perspective: as a church planter there is a temptation to want to gather a large following as soon as possible. A “dog and pony show” would seem like a great way to accomplish that goal. For example, invite special guests like a celebrity to share their testimony, an athlete to display their skill, special music, or an epic display [think skate demo, bmx, bungee baptisms, fog machines and light show, etc]. The problem isn’t that any of those things are wrong. The problem is that it tends to erode confidence in the Word of God and Spirit to draw people to God. You will tend to think that you need to reach people through some “new” thing. Furthermore, if people were attracted by “the attraction” then you will need to constantly up the ante to keep them interested.

The Book of Acts as Our Model

a pastor’s perspective: when I first moved to Camarillo and met with some local pastors I was asked about my model for ministry. At the time, some of the popular trends were being explored by Bill Hybels at Willow Creek [seeker sensitive model], Rick Warren at Saddleback [purpose driven model] and C. Peter Wagner [various church growth methodologies]. I replied that my model was the Book of Acts. Some of my peers were perplexed, or perhaps astonished at my ignorance or naiveté. Nevertheless, it is the only model I have known, sought to know, or care to rely upon. Fifteen years later [2011] I can affirm that from my experience it definitely is sufficient.

The New Testament, early church, described in Acts is holistic in that it has: sound doctrine, strong devotion, genuine community, evangelistic passion, and meaningful social justice. The church as described in the Book of Acts is presumed to be our model for the Church because, it was established by the apostles selected by Jesus, it has a record of being extremely effective in performing Jesus’ mission, and the majority of the seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3 were admonished for their departure from the model. In less than sixty years the church had generally departed from the blueprint and was rebuked by Jesus. We’ll consider these traits in greater detail later in this section, however it is good to consider a snapshot of the Acts church:

a. sound doctrine: means that the church emphasizes the Word of God, and the teaching is consistent with orthodox theology. Each of the writers of the New Testament opposes false doctrine whether it is the Pharisee’s legalism, the Gnostic’s liberalism, or the Sadducee’s failure to recognize spiritual realities. Continue in the apostles’ doctrine [Ac.2:42].

b. strong devotion involves prayer worship and the work of the Holy Spirit: the early church as described in Ac.2:42-47 continued to emphasize prayer and worship [see, Ac.3,4,6,12,13,]. The church was birthed by the Holy Spirit and the apostles were keenly aware of Jesus’ admonition to wait for the power of the Holy Spirit [Lu.24:49]. The early church understood that effective church (and Christian) life requires the work of the Spirit. Jesus promised expanding influence if the Holy Spirit was empowering the church [Ac.1:8]. As the church at Antioch ministered to the Lord [worship, prayer, and the Word] the Holy Spirit directed, guided and empowered the expansion of God’s kingdom as Barnabas and Saul were sent out to begin New Testament churches. The Holy Spirit inspires true faith adventures. Too often, church leaders pursue a radical idea birthed by the intellect or flesh rather than the Holy Spirit.

i. the need to start and finish in the Spirit: the church must not only begin in the Spirit, but needs to continue and end in the Spirit [Ac.2]. Assuming your church begins in the Spirit and experiences expanding influence there will be a temptation to neglect the work of the Spirit. The danger of “success” is the tendency to confuse momentum and emotion with the work of the Hoy Spirit. Where the Spirit is moving there is life transformation. Make sure you continue to depend on the power of the Holy Spirit. Church history reveals a life cycle in a local church or movement of God. Movements become monoliths as the Spirit of God is neglected and routine and ritual replace power and anointing. As Paul warned the Galatians, it is foolish to believe that we can improve upon the power of the Spirit by the works of the flesh [Gal. 3:1-5]. As the Lord promised, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, 
says the Lord of hosts” [Zech.4:6].

c. community involves authentic relationships experienced in the context of smaller groups. The early church grew exponentially so that there were soon several thousand. They continued daily with one accord in the Temple, and breaking bread from house to house [Ac.2:46]. In addition to emphasizing teaching doctrine and worship as a larger group the early church was intentional to develop community in the context of smaller groups. The early church shared their resources so that those in need would be cared for [Ac.4:32-37]. Authentic relationships help to identify physical, emotional and spiritual needs that the members of the community can care for. Genuine community and authentic relationships are often experienced in the context of smaller groups that promote biblical fellowship koinonia [Ac.2:42-47] sharing togetherness in oneness in life through Christ –doctrine, fellowship, prayer, gathering together and sharing a meal.

d. evangelistic passion: the early church sought to seek and save the lost without compromising Biblical truth or avoiding the primary issues of sin, confession, repentance & faith in Christ [Ac.5:42]. The results were exponential growth [Ac.6:1;11:24], and missionary vision [Ac.11:19-21; Ac.13 Church at Antioch]. The early church was outward focused and sought to fulfill the Great Commission. The tendency is that established churches become more inward focused – creating an enclave rather than engage the culture around them. Keep breaking down walls that become obstacles and constantly model and encourage people to live on mission … to go into the culture and make disciples.

e. meaningful social justice: the Acts church was concerned for and purposed to influence and minister to tangible needs of its community. In Jerusalem, the church provided benevolence in the form of a program to feed needy widows. It provided opportunities to show the love of God in tangible ways, to establish new leaders, and create a bridge for pre-believers to know the Lord. The result, “Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith [Ac.6:7].  Not only did the church grow exponentially but even priests, perhaps the least likely to come to faith, came to Christ. Community service will always have an attractive quality and should supplement a teaching ministry of the church, not replace it. Remember, the apostles sought to delegate oversight of the community service to others so that they could continue to prioritize the word of God and prayer [Ac.6:1-4].

The Character of a Church Planter

a. the importance of character: Christ-like character is described in several passages such as 1Tim.3, Titus1, Gal.5:22-23, and 1Pet.5:1-4. A lead pastor must desire and demonstrate these traits above and beyond those he will lead. For example, all followers of Jesus are to be temperate, and loving but a leader must “have more” to influence others positively for Christ. A church planter must be able to see these characteristics in himself and receive confirmation from other spiritually mature leaders. Since leaders are charged with the spiritual well being of others, their character is the most important qualification. It is remarkable to read a passage like 1Timothy 3 regarding the qualifications of elders and deacons and discover that the only qualification dealing with ability relates to the requirement that elders be able to teach, Otherwise, all the qualifications deal with character. Integrity is the key! Whatever the leader is the followers will become. Jesus declared, “a disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher” [Lu.6:40] – people rarely rise above their leaders.

b. a snapshot of necessary character traits: Paul provided a list of qualifiers in 1Tim.3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 as a matrix to evaluate elders [elder as used in this context is synonymous with pastor or in this instance lead church planter]. With the exception of the ability to teach all of the qualifications deal with character. They are described as follows:

i. above reproach: there must be nothing in your life that others can use to attack Jesus or His church. Not perfect but generally blameless in the sense of no glaring sin or simply right with God.

ii. not given to drunkenness: alcohol is not forbidden but abuse of liquor disqualifies. The addiction to alcohol appears to be the key issue.

iii. the husband of one wife: a one-woman man is faithful to his wife. He doesn’t flirt, doesn’t observe pornography and lust for another woman, and is disqualified if he is an adulterer. One need not be married, nor is one who is widowed or has a biblically-based divorce disqualified from the call.

iv. temperate: not given to extremes and thus, reliable and trustworthy. You don’t have wide swings of vision, mood, or actions.

v. sober-minded: able to think clearly and with clarity. Able to be serious when necessary.

vi. of good behavior: orderly or modest, an appropriate sense of Christian dignity.

vii. hospitable: the ability to welcome others and make them feel at home, a willingness to open your home to friends and strangers.

viii. not violent: not given to violence either publicly nor privately.

ix. not greedy for money: if money is a motive for ministry or if you are continually seeking more money you are not qualified.

x. gentle: like Jesus avoids being harsh, cruel or insensitive

xi. not quarrelsome: a person who generally has a chip on his shoulder usually has wood higher up. If you desire to win arguments more than people it is a problem.

xii. not covetous: a man who is constantly dissatisfied is not fit for leadership among God’s people. Covetousness is broader than greedy for money.

xiii. who rules his own house well: The godly leader demonstrates his leadership ability first in his own home; Paul recognized that it is in the home where our Christianity is first demonstrated. It is true that a child may rebel from even a good home; but is the rebellion because of the parents or in spite of their job as parents? This is the question that must be asked.

xiv. not a novice: new converts should not be given leadership authority too quickly as it cultivates pride and abuse of power. One needs to be tested and proven. Thus, ideally a planter is sent from a local church where the man’s integrity and character are known.

xv. a good testimony: leaders must have a good reputation even among pre-believers, and the community outside the walls of the church.

xvi. just: being right toward men. While no one is perfect, you must generally have a reputation for seeking to do the right thing towards other people. When someone points out something that you’ve done is wrong you must be willing to listen, receive correction, confess, repent and ask to be forgiven.

xvii. holy: right towards God. You need to be right and get right not only with men but more importantly with God. Remember, the ministry is a “holy calling” there is no place for any profane element in your life.

xviii. self-controlled: right towards himself, “How unfit are those to govern a church who cannot govern themselves!” (Matthew Henry)

ixx. holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught: you must be a man of the Book ~ learn it, love it & live it. Teach the Word! don’t rely on fads or gimmicks. As he has been taught: This means that the leader has been under the teaching of someone else. A qualified leader doesn’t necessarily need to go to Bible College or Seminary, but they do need to be taught and discipled by someone, not just themselves.

lifework: the tendency is to review a list of character traits and fail to allow the Holy Spirit to work in your heart. One wrong attitude is to review the list and praise your own sense of character and that is simply spiritual pride. A second error, is reading the list sensing the Holy Spirit begin to reveal an area in your life and ministry where you need to grow and moving on without adequate reflection.

1. slowly and carefully review the list above and ask God to reveal at least two areas in your life where you need to grow to be prepared to plant. Write down what God reveals in the space below.

c. the keys to influence are character & vision: Leaders who are able to communicate a clear, significant vision for themselves and their ministry will draw people. Leaders with integrity [truthfulness, purity of motive, & honesty] are likely to retain people. Pastors who lack integrity leave in their wake wounded, confused, discouraged and distressed followers. During the years, I’ve seen too many pastors become disqualified for ministry because of moral failure – it is always incredibly messy and maligns the name of Christ. The answer is attaining and maintaining Christ-like character.

a pastor’s perspective: through the years, I’ve been involved in several efforts to restore pastors who have been disqualified because of failure to respect God’s boundaries regarding character. The issues have varied: pornography, adultery, drugs, alcohol, theft of church funds, but the root cause is always the same – spiritual pride and a lack of godly character. It is heartbreaking to see the angry, hurt, and confused people left in the wake of a leader who stumbles. It is also extremely sobering … there but for the grace of God go you and I. If you don’t respect God’s boundaries when only He is watching, don’t seek to be a church planter … you’ll only end up hurting yourself and too many others.

Lead pastors must be able to protect from false teachers, encourage and equip with sound doctrine, be men of prayer, have tested character and a reputation for integrity. Also, they must have self-discipline, maturity, and ability to relate to others. Leaders must have a sound family life: faithful to their spouse and able to lead their children; their family should be an example for others to follow. A church planter has to be self-controlled [re anger, addiction, diligence], gracious [not quarrelsome 2Tim.2:24-25, & hospitable to those who struggle], not covetous [must love God more than money 1Tim.6:7-9, Heb.13:5], and a hard-worker Col.3:22-23.

Are you a servant? Philosophically, you either choose to serve the people or you’ve implicitly chosen to be served. Jesus made it clear that the key to greatness in God’s kingdom was to learn to be a servant to all [Mt.20:8] it does not come naturally to our flesh. The Master Himself observed that He had not come to be served but to serve and give His life a ransom for many [Mk.10:44-45]. This is not only what Jesus declared but what He modeled – He put the needs of others before His own. Choose to be [become] a servant. Don’t look for the applause of people.

a pastor’s perspective: through my years at Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, I observed my pastor, Chuck Smith, in a variety of settings. He was (and is) a servant who would pick up the trash as he walked about the church campus. He is a man of consistent character and a man of vision. Much of what I learned about ministry was from observing pastor Chuck. Find a mentor that you can learn about character from observing their life; and be a mentor who demonstrates character.

What’s your temperament? I’ve discovered that the ones who are effective have a tender heart [compassion] and tough skin. Can you receive constructive criticism and grow without being defensive or hypersensitive? People who make other people feel like they are walking on eggshells tend to be ineffective.

Are You Called to be a Church Planter? part II

b. a planter must have a sense of calling in his heart head and hands:

i. the heart: for example, Nehemiah’s burden for the people of Jerusalem [Neh.1]. Nehemiah heard of the hardship of the Jews around Jerusalem, his people, and he was stirred to weep and mourn for many days, fasting and praying. Nehemiah was moved with compassion that was stirred by God to action. You will not be able to have an enduring ministry to see people restored without compassion – a heart for God and people. At the heart of compassion is passion! Passion is a burning desire that motivates and directs like a compass. For example a burden for the lost, for youth, for developing countries, the outcast and marginalized, the next generation, or a city. Passion develops out of a perceived sense of the needs of others, and has an enduring quality. While your passions will generally shift over the course of your ministry life those shifts are likely to unfold gradually like seasons rather than erratic pinball-like action.

ii. the head: an effective planter reasons & counts the cost of following Jesus so that others can follow & imitate him. Considers his philosophy of ministry, ministry style, theology, gifts, abilities & desires. Wrestles with the reality of a life of sacrifice to serve Him who called. Jesus confronted those who went with Him and admonished them to consider the cost of following Him, And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it — lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. 33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple [Luke14:27-33].”

All who seek to be Jesus’ disciples must consider the sacrifice of following Him, however it is reasonable to assume that those who will lead will make greater sacrifice. Paul and Barnabas were men who risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ [Ac.15:25-26].

Consider the impact and sacrifice imposed upon your spouse and family. If spouse [and kids] can’t fully support the call it is unlikely to succeed. Scripture places no expectation on pastors’ wives in terms of ministry, so be careful not to place a yoke that is not of God. Titus 2:4-5 places responsibilities as wives & moms, but doesn’t impose a responsibility to lead the women’s ministry, children’s ministry or serve in any other capacity per se unless led by God.

There is inherent pressure related to the “fishbowl effect” – your family will feel like they are constantly being watched. Kids should not have unfair pressure to be perfect but should have a genuine faith [1Tim.3:4-5]. If the pressure is going to seriously strain or destroy your marriage or family you need to use your head – perhaps you are not called. God loves your family more than he needs you plant a church.

a pastor’s perspective: one of the best decisions I ever made was to allow my wife [and sons] to simply be what God had called them to be. Unfortunately, at the start I didn’t know any better. I just assumed that Karen would oversee the women and children’s ministries. It didn’t really appear that there was anyone else qualified and she was willing. As the church grew, other leaders were revealed and she was relieved [in every sense] from those roles. In reality, she probably wasn’t even called by God to at least one of those positions [especially at the time]. If I had to do it all over again, I’d wait for God to identify the right person from the beginning and allow my wife to simply do whatever God had called her to.

Also, we have constantly allowed our sons the liberty to be who they are in Christ. We have tried to avoid placing any burden on them to be leaders at the church, and have sought to allow them to experience a “normal” Christian experience rather than having to be “super- Christian”

iii. the hands [gifting, skills]: mature knowledge of the Bible, doctrine & systematic theology. Leadership ability: receive vision & inspire others to follow. Able to organize, administer, and develop others. I urge you to commit to excellence in ministry: mediocrity is an obstacle [especially to unchurched who expect excellence in their world]. Constantly evaluate and improve the quality. If you are unable to do ministry well you are unlikely to attract people. Inevitably there will be mistakes – learn from them and try not to make the same mistakes [go out and make new mistakes and encourage those around you to do the same].

c. how was your call confirmed? God rarely calls two people in the same way. Paul’s experience on the Damascus Rd. was different than the invitation to the disciples’ to follow Jesus and be transformed to become fishers of men. Yet, each of us must discover and discern the Master’s call. The sense of call is often a progressive revelation rather than a dramatic single episode. There is no “typical” call but everyone must sense the call

a pastor’s perspective: for me, I’m not sure I ever “wanted” to be a pastor or planter per se … it wasn’t something I was striving for. I was invited by some friends to teach a home Bible study. As the group was rapidly growing I began to realize that I would be responsible for what I was teaching [i.e. was it sound doctrine]. I remember asking my pastor, Chuck Smith, whether I needed to go to Bible College and he suggested that I go to the School of Ministry instead. As I participated, and grew in Christ, I began to have more opportunities to teach and other spiritual leaders and peers began to recognize God’s calling upon my life.

I taught at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa’s School of the Bible, served as an interim pastor for a church in Oregon for about four months, and began to sense that perhaps God was calling me to be a pastor. Shortly thereafter I was invited by a pastor friend David Guzik to visit Camarillo to start a Calvary Chapel church. I’d never been to Camarillo before but I soon found a coffeehouse and grabbed a cup and began to pray outside at a fountain. While praying, I sensed God speaking to me in almost an audible voice that I would be ministering to Catholics [this in and of itself was perplexing as a nice Jewish boy who trusted in Jesus as Messiah]. As, I returned with my wife Karen to pray, again I sensed God calling me to Camarillo and that I would be ministering to Catholics. My pastor, Chuck, and my mentor, Pastor Carl, also sensed the call.

When I began to step-out trusting God’s call He moved in marvelous ways: our house in Santa Ana was leased within 48 hours, the law office where I worked approached me within 48 hours to open a new office close to Camarillo [before they even knew I was considering relocating to Camarillo], and we soon moved to Camarillo and met people God was calling to be part of a church plant. Soon the Bible study grew and we began Sunday services on Resurrection Sunday.

Then, our first summer and I discovered that people in Camarillo can generally afford to go on vacation, and do. One Sunday, instead of 50-70 people there were 4. It would be a defining day in discerning my call. I remember feeling so discouraged that I wanted to quit and complained to God, like the Hebrews in the wilderness, “Have you brought me here to die!” It was that evening as I prayed, fasted, and read my Bible that God lead me to Zech.11:17, “Woe to the worthless shepherd who leaves the flock …” I wrestled with myself and God like never before: what was my motivation for ministry? I remember thinking, “I don’t need this …” and sensing God reply, “I don’t need you.” I began to sense the call to serve God, and that I would be more miserable if I rejected the call than I would be if I yielded [see, e.g. Jonah]. So, I chose to submit to the call. That night, God led me to Deuteronomy 8, a chapter where God explains to the Hebrews that God will bring them into a good land and bless them abundantly because of His grace and for His glory but they needed to remember it was God’s doing not theirs. Again, I sensed God confirming that He was going to do a good work through the church plant but it wouldn’t and couldn’t happen until I came to terms with fundamental principle: His work, His grace, for His glory. The Lord and I had wrestled, like He had with Jacob, and I was humbled and changed. God has blessed the church remarkably since then. The prophecies were fulfilled, and about half the people I serve have been connected to the Catholic Church.

So, can you articulate how God has called you? Your experience is unique, but if you don’t know that you’ve been called … you won’t finish your race – the course is too challenging. Thus, I urge you to write it and keep it near because you need to know and remember you are Christ-called.

lifework:

1. describe how you came to believe that you were called to be a church planter:

 2. confirmation by peers, mentors, and open-doors [Rev.3:7-8, Ac.16:6-12, circumstances] are extremely important to affirming the call. Consider those factors in your journey:

Are You Called to be a Church Planter?

a. what is calling? Calling: a strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action, especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence. You must sense that God has chosen and called you to serve Him. William Willimon observes, “Ministry is not a profession. It is a vocation … one must be called to do it.”

The prophet Jeremiah was called to deliver a message to God’s people warning them of God’s judgment for their sins and calling them to repent and yield to God. God had called Jeremiah for this ministry before he was born, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” [Jer.1:5]. God had selected Jeremiah for a particular ministry before the prophet was even conceived, and then gave him a strong inner leading toward that course. Like Jeremiah, those that are called have a burning consuming passion to represent God despite the certain hardships, “If I say I will not mention him or speak any more in his name, there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am with holding it in and I cannot” [Jer.20:9]. Paul exclaimed, “Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” [1Cor.9:16]

C.H. Spurgeon advised his ministry students that if they could pursue any other occupation, besides ministry, that they should leave the pursuit of ministry and do so. The issue was not how many other options the student had at his disposal, but the ones who were truly called could not follow any other course for their life regardless of how attractive it might appear objectively to others.

In contrast, there are way too many people seeking to be church planters for the wrong reasons – improper “calling” – unemployment, resentment toward another pastor, disgruntled staff, easier than looking for a ministry position, ego, it’s the “in” thing, etc. In their wake lies many wounded sheep that followed a man with a plan … but not God’s man.

Church planting requires faith: hearing God speak and responding with attitudes of dependence upon Him & acts of obedience to Him [Heb.11:1-39]. Planting is like the trapeze, the 1st bar represents security, but when God sends a 2nd bar, a call to plant, the 1st must be let go of to grasp the 2nd. The call is generally characterized by confirmation in prayer and Bible study, holy discontent, burden for pre-believers, and affirmation by mature godly counsel. Spiritually mature leaders will recognize God at work in the church planter, what Barnabas described as, “the evidence of the grace of God” when he visited the church at Antioch [Ac.11:23]. There are many indicators of calling but a planter must be able to: attract & equip leaders, persevere, and confront divisive people to name a few.

Consider the Apostle Paul as the prototype church planter. He received a clear vision & call from God [Ac.9:15; Rom.15:20-23]. Paul had an intimate knowledge of the Word and of God. He was mentored by Barnabas an incredibly godly spiritually mature leader. Paul was able to mentor Timothy, Luke, Mark, Silas and others. He lived an exemplary life [1 Th.2, 1Cor.11:1], was an evangelist [Ac.13:44; 14:1; 16:25-33], an entrepreneurial leader, and was able to develop team and remove from team [Ac.15:38]. Finally, he developed & appointed long-term leaders [Ac.14:23].

Paul articulated his calling to minister and share the gospel primarily among Gentiles, “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” [Eph.3:8]; “For which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle – I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying – a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth” [1Tim.2:7]. Yet, despite direct revelation from Christ regarding his calling to Gentiles [Ac.22:21] Paul had a desire to share the gospel among his people the Jews [Ac.21] … albeit generally unsuccessfully. So, called church planters discover their niche – their particular call – as a process, as their journey with Christ unfolds.

The more extensive your ministry experience the more accurate the assessment generally is [thus need for ministry experience in addition to academic training]. In essence, you’ve had the opportunity to discover your strengths and your weaknesses – what you’ve been called to do and “not to do.” Some are evangelists, some are apologists, some are teachers, etc. You may want to be an evangelist but that may not be what God has called you to be. Like David, you can’t fight your battle(s) in another man’s armor … it just won’t fit [1Sam.17:37-38].

Consider the following: do you have a burden to reach pre-believers and the unchurched? A planter will typically initially reach those who are like him re: age [generally within10 years of the planter], marital and family status, and socio-economic status [white v. blue-collar orientation].

lifework:

1. what or whom do you feel strongly/care about?

2. if God gave you your desire for ministry what would it be?

3. what do you really want to do for God with your life?

Book Review: Leaders Who Last by Dave Kraft

A couple of weeks ago I started a series on important books that every church planter should read. This isn’t a theological series but a practical helps series that helps us with the areas of church planting you often don’t find training on. The first book I reviewed was Simple Church by Thom Rainier & Eric Geiger. I encourage you to read it.

This week I a going to discuss Dave Kraft’s book “Leaders Who Last.” Dave started out in ministry with Navigators and just finished up as the Staff Discipleship pastor at Mars Hill Church. Nowadays he is traveling around training churches on the principles of his book. He writes a weekly blog here.

Leaders Who Last is one of the most important, in not the most important book on personal leadership out today. I took my staff through it and the discussion was profound and robust. They still refer to it when we have other discussions. The principles he lays out in here are essential and I would implore any potential church planter to read this before they do anything planning for their church. I have had so many copies I can’t even count anymore because every time a perspective leader sits in my office I hand him my copy. I have also had copies that went “missing.”

The book is broken down into three parts; Foundations, Formation, and Fruitfulness. In the first section Dave builds the basis of the the leader by looking at the purpose and passion of the leader. The second section looks at the leaders calling and character, and the final section looks at the vision and legacy. Now I know what you are reading are some of the tired buzz words in leadership and may rub you as a little too business like, but let me assure you that is not the case. His take is a fresh new look at how to go about this.

I would encourage you to read through this and then go through it with your leadership. You will all benefit personally as well as sharpening one another as a group.

Keep It Simple

Over the next few weeks I am going to post a few resources that help me as I planted The Village Chapel. Probably the one that made sense from the start was Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger. There are so many books out there on church planting that it is easy to get confused that is why simple church is so good. The whole premise is that instead of doing everything you only do a few things and do them well.

This really released me keep it simple. Church throws enough at you as it is so we don’t have to confuse it even more by adding more and more. Simple church really presses you to know your mission where you are at and focus on three or four things. That is about all any church can do well. For a church planter this is gold because there is so much we want to do. When we started out we focused on Sunday Mornings, Small Groups, and Service teams. It helped say no to things that were good but more than we could’ve handled.

If you are planting a church or planning on it I would recommend this book. It will help you remember not to make things more complicated than they need to be.