Did you know that Jim Elliott was 29, Nate Saint was 33, and Pete Fleming was 27 years old when they went in mission and gave their very lives in mission for the Auca Indians? They accepted a call of God to go and they went with a missionary spirit.
I planted my first church a very long time ago while in my twenties. In some respects, I should not have been on the frontline, starting a new church from scratch, 2,000 miles away from our side of the world with a young wife and three little girls. But we were following what we believed was God’s calling. It is time again for the missionary spirit to reach this country’s mission field.
As I explore my confessions with you, I hope it will serve as a caution as you passionately pursue the call of God on your life.
Church Planter dudes are typically risk takers. They jump off when most people will not even get close to the edge. In many cases, there may be an addictive, competitive idol inside the mind and heart of the Planter.
Church Planters can deal with lots of ambiguity, but also disappointment is greater because of the huge ups and downs. This leads to a greater possibility of burnout (personal or family).
There may also be an aggressive desire for performance-based success and if your identity as a saint-sinner isn’t grasped then you will chase the illusive dream of self-fulfillment through church planting. It’s a hard road to go down because it is filled with pot holes, road blocks and broken pieces of wreckage on which you will hurt yourself or others.
In the first “Confessions” article, I wanted you to know that I wished I had believed in Kingdom Centered Prayer, and also that I had gone out to plant with nothing to prove. I had believed more in my own strength and ability and a lot less on the Holy Spirit to do his thing. Continue reading that article here.
Somehow the church plant was so consuming, I had little time for non-church stuff. I confess that I didn’t have many friends outside of our church plant or people I wasn’t trying to recruit to join it.
Even in my marriage, the church plant was sometimes all consuming. Rachel and I once heard a marriage conference speaker challenge pastors and spouses to go on a date and not talk about kids, church, or money. He said, “There is more to your life than those things. What are they? Talk about it.”
Another deception I wasn’t immune to was that my preaching was so good that people would flock to hear me preach. The people in the two little churches that I served as interim pastor said that my preaching was amazing. They had never heard someone so clear and so grace-centered. I was sure that when we moved to the city we planted others would be wowed too. They weren’t.
Now, I know what you are thinking: “That may have been true about you but not me.”
I am sure you are really good at preaching, maybe better than most, so you think. A Planter who I coached had been the assistant pastor at a medium sized church. He told me that many people in the congregation would tell him after he preached that he was so good…even better than the senior pastor. I heard him. He was engaging and easy to listen to, but it wasn't the “trick” he needed to plant.
De-churched people are not sitting around waiting for you to preach to them. I wished I had understood that my preaching wasn’t going to draw people. It might turn them off if its moralistic or weighing them down with more duties, but preaching isn’t going to get people through the front door, no matter how exceptional I could become. Don't get me wrong... it is important that the preaching is solid, Biblical, engaging, gospel and Christ motivating and centric. That is a step away from actually getting to de-churched, not yet believing people.
Finally, my last confession: I did my first plant without a coach. Coaching was not part of the organics in place. But a coach sure would have saved my bacon. My second scratch plant involved a consultant in planting, but still no coaching.
One Planter shared in a Planter Community meeting, “When our church was struggling financially well beyond the agreed upon season for financial support, my coach became my best witness for my efforts. He’d been up close and personal for years already and knew why it wasn’t going well. He spoke up for me with my sending church even when I didn’t want to speak up for myself.”
Having a Church Planting Gospel Coach increases the likelihood you will live through this, stay married, and your kids won’t hate the church. It’s worth the money, the time, and the investment. Get someone who has been trained in gospel coaching and knows church planting. You need a friend and a buddy you can call, but you also need a coach who knows the dynamics and seasons of planting. A certified Gospel Coach is one of the men who watches your back. He’s been there and done hard things. He cares about you, your wife, and, your family. He can speak truth, point out skills needed, and connect you to the gospel when you forget it. And you will. And if your supervisor(s) are wise, they will listen to him as your advocate when things are hard.
Remember, you don’t have to plant a church alone. If you want to have a Gospel-centered church, it’s important to have a Gospel-centered coach. Gospel Coaching is an intentional Gospel conversation about the planter’s Relational, Personal, Missional and Spiritual life.
If you need a specific, dated plan for reducing your own dependence on yourself and more on Christ Jesus, learn from the wisdom of the fighters who have gone to battle prior to your arrival. We suggest getting a C.R.O.S.S. Coach to help walk with you through the challenges you’ve never faced before. Click here to learn more about C.R.O.S.S. Coaching for Church Planters and Pastors today!
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!