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The Experience of a Church Planter
- Church planters can often feel outnumbered, isolated and alone. If we are feeling like this, then we are probably in the right place!
- You learn from every single church plant. None of us will get to the point where we do it without mistakes – but we do serve a master craftsman.
- Soak yourself in the Bible and in the Holy Spirit.
- Your church planting will come out of your leadership. It is hard to separate the two out.
“You get your authority from one place, and you get your wisdom from as many places as possible.” (Robin Vincent)
Carving Out an Identity
- Start by carving out an identity for yourself.
- You need to know who you are. Don’t wear Saul’s armour.
- Be confident in the call that God has put on your life (no matter how frail you feel).
- Learn from others but don’t copy them.
- Conviction is absolutely vital to leadership.
- Failure is one of the best training grounds that there is (though it’s no fun at the time). Don’t be afraid of it, and don’t let it shake your calling.
- Build around the gifts you have, not the gifts that you don’t have.
- Then carve out an identity for your church.
- The identity of the church will flow out of your own identity.
- Pray for the prophetic to shape the direction and the edge of the church. Don’t just be shaped by the latest fads.
- Carve out the identity for who you are, not for who other people are.
“Church planters are not creative enough because they are afraid to fail.” (Tony Thompson)
“When we have started this, we had all to gain and nothing to lose. Now we’re talking like we have all to lose and nothing to gain.” (A Church Leader)
Carving Out People
- The identity of the church is shaped not just by one (or a few) leader(s), but by many people.
- People are a great asset. We should think of all of the people in our churches as called and beloved, and speak of them in the right way.
- One of the most common errors that we can make in leadership is to make assumptions about people. We need to think the best of people.
- People are more vulnerable than they appear and than we first realise.
- Where you speak well of people, you start to find the real gifting that they have and you see the church shape around the people that you have been given.
- Some people will serve for a season – and it will be valuable. God sometimes brings people along who help to from the crowd and then moves them on. Don’t resent it.
- Don’t be disappointed when people promise a lot and then disappear the following week.
“Build with those who want to build with you.” (Terry Virgo)
- Grow people, not attendance. Focus on developing people’s character, gifts, calling and confidence.
- People grow through resources, revelation, real life circumstances and relationships. Many church planters only focus on the first two, but we need to grow people in all four ways. Do life with people – especially outside our official meetings.
- Battle for the first fruits. Put a tremendous amount of effort into seeing the first non-Christian saved. This will lay the foundation in the church that allows others to follow.
- Church planters can become obsessed with creating structure and order and defining our doctrine. We need to teach people out of sin, not just define it. This might lead to doctrinally messy churches (just like those of the New Testament) – though not doctrinally messy teachers.
- Encourage freedom and creativity in mission.
- Choose your trustees very wisely. Don’t choose people just for convenience – choose people who are for you, who understand you, and who understand the church. They will back you when you need it most.
“Do what you love, and change the world while you’re doing it.” (Robin Vincent)
Carving Out Time
- We like everything to be done quickly – but this isn’t the New Testament
- Don’t let the speed of the church be dictated by your desire to have wages. Let it be dictated by a desire to lay a foundation.
- Have a plan for how you will support yourself whilst church planting.
- It is important to learn to relax and not burn out. Pace your life. When you go on holiday, take off well and land well.
- Being ill on holiday is not a good sign.
- Get out there. Be disciplined in leading your church in the hidden areas of your life.
- Avoid forced momentum starters, such as launching on Sundays when you have no momentum. Look for where God is working and ride the wave.
Four Nuggets of Church Planting Wisdom
- “Take as many positives as you can.” (David Stroud)
- “In preparing for battle, I have always found plans useless, but planning is indispensable.” (General Eisenhower)
- “Always go on. Something always happens if you just go on.” (William Booth)
- “Impressive dragon warrior, what’s your plan?” “Step one – free the five of you.” “And then what’s the next step?” “Honestly, I didn’t even think I’d get this far.” (Po from Kung Fu Panda 2)
Don’t worry about your success as a church planter. Worry about being faithful to the call that God is giving you, and have fun along the way.
What do you mean by ‘teach people out of sin’?
- Often, church planters want to define everything. There can be a deep desire for everything to be neat and tidy.
- As people come to Christ, they come with baggage and pain and they make mistakes.
- We need to teach people from where they are at, and it will be a journey.
- You can tell that many of the membership courses that we create are developed for people who are already Christians.
What advice do you have for people who are working full time and church planting?
- When Robin Vincent was part of a church plant in Birmingham he had a job but wasn’t the main leader of the plant.
- When he planted in Bromsgrove he worked for a time as a police officer, and then eventually went full time for the church.
- Now in Swansea, he commutes 1 hour 15 mins each way every day to a job in Cardiff.
- He has noticed God in it and has seen his capacity has expanded.
- To make up for it, Robin takes the church plant at his own pace, he is disciplined, and he gets up early.
“A church planter should be ashamed of himself if he lies in bed, hearing the footfall of his church outside.” (C.H. Spurgeon)
- Build into your life prayer for God’s grace.
- Make sure you’re always fully present.
Is there a way of doing a church plant quicker?
- Some people do seem to succeed at planting churches very quickly.
How much of the vision and identity of the church needs to be clear in the early stages?
- Don’t state too much of the vision too early as it will be based around you rather than the body that will form.
- Early on, base it around your values. Let people gather to that, and over time the vision will emerge.