The recent hurricane that swept through the islands and the coast of the southern States brought back memories of the second church I planted with my family. In 1989, three weeks after moving to Charleston, SC, the largest and most destructive natural disaster to hit the USA in 100 years arrived: Hurricane Hugo. Not only did it wipe away thousands of homes, destroy hundreds of businesses, and disrupt the lives of a few million people, it re-wrote our well thought out five-year plan…or so I thought.
Now would be a good point to give you an important church planting principle: Whatever plan you make to launch a new church, write it in pencil!
For the four months following Hurricane Hugo we were involved in Disaster Relief work. It was not a time to think about launching a new church. People were in “recovery mode”— for homes, lives, and work. Resources (financial, services, and goods) were pouring in from our sister churches across the country.
The coming of the New Year allowed me the opportunity to regroup and set a course to plant a new church. Since the launch window for us was in April, there were plenty of jobs to do.
When we launched on Palm Sunday our teams were ready. Our musician was exceptional. We met in a large hotel with outstanding facilities, including an indoor pool! The morning went without a hitch. We had 160 people; the majority of which were people that had been unchurched for at least the past 10 years. The following Sunday, Easter, we had 168 attend.
The days of a large “Attractional” church launch have pretty much come to an end. Our post-everything culture isn’t “attracted” to a new church that way. So, as we explore new ways to introduce the Gospel to this generation and the next, find the paths. Don’t make the same old mistakes we made. Make bold, new mistakes!
At CMM, we believe every pastor, church planter, ministry leader, and missionary is created to thrive in ministry. We suggest getting a Gospel Coach to help walk with you through the challenges you’ve never faced before. A Gospel Coach will help encourage and equip you every step along the way. Learn more about C.R.O.S.S. Coaching today!
Not sure if being Coached is right for you? Visit our FREE resources page where you can download eBooks about setting up leadership, planning worship, and learning to center your life on the Gospel.
“I’m so glad I found your website! I am a church planting lead pastor and I see the inadequacies in my life and ministry and know that coaching will help remedy that. I want to be a certified as a gospel coach so I can coach our leaders and disciple people through the gospel for the glory of God.” Mike Wiggin
Is Mike’s story similar to yours today? Do you feel inadequate to handle the growing demands of your Church Plant? Have you ever felt ill-equipped to lead and disciple others in your sphere of influence?
Lately, we’ve discussed the term Gospelling. Gospelling is the present participle of the word Gospel. It means that the Gospel is active now, presently in life, not simply something that occurred in the past. It is the process of how the Gospel ignites the relational, personal, missional, and spiritual life of the disciple actively and presently.
No matter what phase of the Church Planting process you’re in, starting a new church is very complex and filled with all sorts of unexpected challenges. You’ll experience relational and personal challenges along with multiple complexities in the city or community, not to mention the inevitable spiritual attack.
Think of planting a church as a story. You will develop the storyline and what needs to be included in each successive chapter to move the story along. Remember: you, the Planter, are NOT the hero of the story! If you want to have a miserable life and a miserable experience in planting try being the hero of the story.
Let’s explore the various parts of “Gospelling your story.” (Make sure to keep a record of it as you go along. People 3, 5, 7 years from now will love to hear what God was doing in the earlier chapters, before they arrived.)
In every good story there is a Prologue or Backstory. For your story, this includes the time you and your spouse were being called to start a new church.
THE CALL: Most Planters sense the inward drafting of the Holy Spirit to pursue the specific work of starting a new church. Some of it is related to personal skills (i.e. communication, missional engagement, people gathering), style (people oriented, courageous, risk takers), a personality type (more driven and interpersonal than passive or task ordered), and leadership proficiency (visionary, directional, manage ideas and people).
You probably sensed a call to a certain context, whether it's a specific city, region, or country. Normally if God is calling, the missionary-planter has been readied to reach a certain people group. Sometimes there is a special calling to a different social, language or culture, such as the missionary planting call to Paul to go and reach the Gentiles, when he was a Hebrew of Hebrews.
As you consider the story God is writing in your life, take time to reflect on your calling. Be sure it is a missionary call to reach others with the Gospel and not a chance for you to do church better than the one you’re in now OR that you’re seeking to have a preaching station so you can “wow” people.
As you journal, seek the Lord, seek other wise leaders or mentors, collect your thoughts and keep track of them. One day, during the dark night of doubt, when your wife asks you, “Why are we doing this again?” you will be able to confirm in your soul, “God called us to do this.”
ASSESSMENT & CONFIRMATION: Another aspect of calling is the assessment and confirmation of the call by your sending organization or others contracted to help determine your readiness. If you have not been assessed you can contact cmmnet.org for guidance.
PRAYER STRATEGY: Before the story gets going, you should work on your own prayer strategy for the mission and the gathering of prayer team members. No advancement of the Gospel has ever occurred without the prayers of God’s people preceding it. Wherever a work of God is established that work will be opposed. Christ is building his Church and the gates of hell are seeking to destroy it. There will be obstacles but Christ overcomes them by the Gospel. He overcomes the obstacles not only to the Gospel, but by the Gospel. And prayer is a means by which the Gospel is pressed into your life and into the lives of those you wish to serve. We recommend a minimum of 100 people committed to praying for you and the new work.
CHURCH PLANT PROPOSAL: In this time, you will also be writing a church plant proposal. You will want to demonstrate a need for new churches:
1. Why are you starting a new church? What is the problem this church will uniquely solve?
2. What does it look like if you are successful at planting the church?
3. How will you know for sure when you have “succeeded”?
4. How do you plan to monitor progress along the way?
State your calling and your vision (briefly). Include where you are planting; the initial target area and future target areas:
FAMILY LIFE: One other part of your Backstory will be finding a place to live, moving there, and getting your family settled into a new city, schools, doctors, shopping, subways, and culture. Depending on your context, whether its urban, sub-urban or a small college town, each has its own unique issues to navigate.
We want you to know that you don't have to plant a church alone! In fact, you shouldn’t even try. If you’re just starting out, get a coach. Don’t be stubborn and prideful. Can you imagine Phil Mickelson saying, “I know how to play golf. I’ve won the Masters, three times! Why would I waste money on a golf coach?” But you don't need a golf coach or a life coach. And you don’t need a buddy who planted a church and can talk to you when you need help. You need a Coach who knows the gospel inside and out. It’s really a non-negotiable.
A C.R.O.S.S. Gospel Coach can walk with you through the challenges you face. For us, church planter coaching is an intentional Gospel conversation with focused discussions about your relational, personal, missional, and spiritual life. It’s holistic and intentional. It’s not complicated either. Coaching helps provide health and thriveability! Learn more about C.R.O.S.S. Coaching today!
Need help with your ministry or church plant? FREE eBooks are always available at cmmnet.org!
Dr. Tom Wood
I've been in the Church Planting business my entire career. I want you to know, you don't have to plant a church alone!