Have you sensed the Lord’s calling to plant a church? Here are five things future church planters can do now to prepare to be sent later.
By Gabe Martin
You’ve sensed the Lord’s calling to plant a church, but you’ve got a while before you’re sent out. What should you be doing in the meantime?
Here are five things future church planters should be doing right now:
1. Actively participate in a local church
Youtube won’t prepare you for everything. You can watch a hundred videos about hitting a fastball, but without time in the batter’s box, your chances of hitting a home run off a big-league pitcher are slim. Similarly, no matter how many videos you watch, books you read, or conferences you attend, if you are not faithfully joined to and serving within a local church, you are not ready to be a church planter.“No matter how many videos you watch, books you read, or conferences you attend, if you are not faithfully joined to and serving within a local church, you are not ready to be a church planter.” — Gabe Martin Click To Tweet
Submitting to the authority of a church, coming under the mentorship of a pastor and other mature Christians, and serving alongside brothers and sisters are experiences for which there is no substitute. Your church leaders are essential in creating opportunities for leadership and discipleship that will prepare you for your mission field.
As a future church planter, you must be a member of a church that is going to not only help prepare you but will also send you, pray for you, and support you as you head out to plant. Now is the time to build that relationship.
2. Pray for clarity in your calling
When did you sense God calling you to plant a church? Eight months ago? This morning? The answer should be “both.” If God called you eight months ago, then He will still be calling you this morning. A leading from the Lord is a deeply personal experience that is hard to put into words, but a true leading from the Lord does not go away until it is fulfilled. For that reason, future church planters need to be on their knees every day, asking God to continue to clarify the calling.
Even if you are rock solid on your call to plant, there are a multitude of particulars the Lord may still desire to clarify for you. This never ends. When your church is one year, five years, or even 20 years old, you still will need to be praying for clarity regarding God’s will and plans for your ministry. Start now!
3. Do the things church planters do
You would find it extremely difficult to provide legal counsel or represent clients in court before you actually passed the bar exam and earned the title “lawyer.” Church planting is different. The primary work of a church planter requires no title, but there are two non-negotiables.
I want to caution the church planter who says, “I’ll start doing evangelism once I’m sent out.” If you are not doing evangelism now, you most likely will not do it then. This type of thinking reveals a perception of evangelism as a job requirement, rather than a kingdom privilege. If your heart is not excited to tell people about Jesus, consider your motives for church planting.“If your heart is not excited to tell people about Jesus, consider your motives for church planting.” — Gabe Martin Click To Tweet
We plant churches to reach people for Jesus and then help grow them in their love and worship of Him. A church planter needs to be both capable and eager to engage in the ministry of discipleship. Discipling others is an important way in which we also grow, and it is not uncommon for God to reveal spiritual gifts or callings in the process. Helping other Christians grow toward spiritual maturity should bring joy to all Christians, but this privilege should be especially joyous for the church planter.
4. Think logistically
You can’t take a trip until you pack a bag, and you can’t pack a bag until you know what you need. You may not be at the stage of packing your bag, but you should already be determining what you’ll need to plant a church. Here are a few examples:
Develop a financial plan
Where will your financial support come from? Will you work a part-time job? What jobs could work well alongside your ministry? Are you going to raise support? There are great books and courses you could be using to prepare right now.
Build a team
Begin identifying your strengths and weaknesses. Start praying for team members who will complement you and your competencies and be on the lookout for God to bring them into the picture.
Form a strategy
Now is the time to learn all you can about the community in which you are planting and begin generating your strategy. Learn about the culture. Get to know community leaders and groups. Start learning the layout of the community. All of this will help you be more effective when you plant.
5. Prepare yourself spiritually
Although I’ve listed this last, it is the most important. It does not matter how captivating your preaching is or how magnetic your personality is. If you are not spiritually healthy, you should not be planting a church. Church planting is a spiritual undertaking and spiritual warfare will abound. Therefore, now is the time to make sure your spiritual armor is in place.“The enemy doesn’t fight alone, and neither should we.” — Gabe Martin Click To Tweet
Examine your heart and your habits to identify any areas in which you are prone to spiritual weakness. Be honest! Do certain temptations arise regularly? What are you putting in place to guard against them? Do you frequently neglect certain spiritual disciplines? What routines are you creating to ensure you are spiritually consistent? Are there fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5) or elder qualifications (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1) that are absent or unsteady? Why is that?
A key component of this process is utilizing other Christians God has placed in your life for this very purpose. The enemy doesn’t fight alone, and neither should we. Bring in prayer warriors, accountability partners, and mentors who will help equip you to pursue holiness in every sphere of your life. After trusting in Jesus, this is the most important action you can take in your ministry.
Gabe and his wife, Misty, have been married since 2006 and have two children, Ross and Lily. Before coming to San Diego to plant Pillar Church, Gabe served as a pastor in East Texas.