Ellen and I were only in our mid-twenties when we were asked to consider planting a new church about sixty miles from Greenville in North Carolina. We were working at BJU, enjoying the early years of marriage and serving the Lord here. God blessed us with a new baby boy. I had the growing desire to pastor a church, in addition to my teaching and administrative responsibilities here at BJU. The Lord opened an exciting door for church planting on the weekends, and we were soon doing visitation in preparation for our opening services.
I would have never dreamed where this open door would lead. God blessed us with fine people to help us, and the church began to grow. We met in an American Legion building for about three years, built our first church building, and then the church called its first full-time pastor while I continued with my full-time ministry here at BJU. The church continues to this day and has an excellent pastor. In addition, our growing family helped to plant another church in a nearby county back in the 1990s. Since that time, each of our four children have helped to plant churches in various locations around the USA. Praise the Lord!
Planting the church in North Carolina opened the door for me to begin teaching church planting at BJU. I taught church planting for twenty-five years or more at BJU, teaching an estimated 1,000 men how to plant churches. I also wrote my doctoral dissertation on church planting. It has been a thrill to see many men and their wives go out and plant churches and to watch those ministries mature over time. I have prayed for them, worked with them, and preached for them over the years, seeing firsthand what God has done through their adventure of faith.
Perhaps you are curious about how God could use you and your family and friends to plant a sound biblical church in a needy community. You are probably wondering how you could prepare to plant or assist in planting a church. Much could be said, but let me give some basic pointers about how you can prepare to plant a church.
Church planting is an intensely spiritual undertaking. You need God’s gracious help. Ask God to show you where and with whom He would have you to start a new church. Prayerfully dream dreams together with your family and friends. Ponder the plight of those who have never heard the Gospel and where they will be in eternity without Christ. Consider the privilege of discipling new believers and establishing them in the faith. Pray that God will show you the need. Pray for target areas. Ask God to provide the wisdom and means to plant a new ministry. He loves to answer prayers like that!
Prepare Your Life
Finish your formal education. Get some seminary training, especially if you will be handling the Word of God regularly as the lead pastor of the church plant. Members of the church planting team profit from having a variety of gifts, educational training and experiences. All should use and develop their gifts now.
The pastor almost always needs to be a married man. His wife should have a heart for ministry. Their young marriage should be progressing and maturing, focused upon serving the Lord. The blessing of having children will be an asset in pastoral ministry. Singles also make very significant contributions to a new church through dedicated sacrificial service. Get your personal finances in great shape, especially with regard to shedding burdensome debt. Get in top spiritual shape and get ready to go.
Learn to Love Ministering to People
Biblical ministry in church planting is full of evangelism and discipleship. Church planting is God-focused, Gospel-centered, and people-oriented. Loving people genuinely is a big key for successful church planting. Be very engaging with new people. Learn the art of tactful, compassionate conversation. Love every age group, from the cute babies to those struggling with old age.
If you will be doing the bulk of the preaching, then certainly learn to preach the Word of God accurately and practically in a clear, simple and understandable way. Be very committed to your ministry of the Word by adequate weekly message preparation. But understand you must be very engaging with people personally, and that takes much time as well. People naturally bring their problems with them to church. Some will be hurting and suffering. Some will be sick of the consequences of sinful choices. Be ready to offer Christ-like compassion and biblical counsel.
Learn Church Ministry and Church Planting
You should develop a biblical theology and philosophy of local church ministry. Know your doctrinal position. Be ready to articulate and teach your core values. It is helpful to have a mission and vision statement for your new ministry. Take a church planting course and read church planting literature. Understand the basic legal, financial and budgetary issues and practices in church ministry. Investigate locales of interest to determine if a sound, biblical church is truly needed. Know the practical timetable of things to accomplish progressively throughout the church planting process. Learn from seasoned pastors and especially from seasoned church planters. Learn to navigate conflict resolution. Learn to lead like a shepherd as well as to follow pastoral leadership. Pastors should listen to others and love receiving their input and ideas. Get ready for occasional interpersonal conflicts, and be ready to apologize or forgive for there will be plenty of opportunities! Thankfully, church planting’s rewards far outweigh the risks.
I recommend that you get familiar with the Yes, But How? Handbook of Church Planting by Ken Davis and Roger McNamara. It is the most thorough book on the details of church planting that I have seen.
Let me know if I can be of any help to you as well. I would be glad to talk with you on campus or by phone. I immensely enjoy building new ministry relationships and connecting others with ministry opportunities through BJU’s church staffing services or through church planting efforts. My e-mail address is listed in the by-line.
This article was originally published on the CGO blog.