When God gives a vision and calling to a church planter, the planter’s first inclination is to go for it! People need to hear about Jesus and learn how to follow him. People wandering through life need a community of faith. The planter is fired up and ready to go. And often, a small core of folks have heard about the vision and enthusiastically encourage a just go for it approach. I can identify with this attitude.
Yet, one of the main factors in a church plant not making it is when the planter or leadership team launch too soon. So, don’t let people rush you—even if they are close to you. When things are not going well, many will not take responsibility. They probably will just drift away.
In scripture and across the history of the church, I see that God does not get in a rush. The children of Israel waited 400 years to re-enter the Promised Land. Jesus took 3 years to prepare the disciples to go make disciples across the Roman world. John Wesley was an ordained priest for a more than a decade before he launched his first faith community. In one of my churches, we prayed, shared vision and gathered leaders and new people for 18 months before we launched our first multi-site. I’m so glad we waited and listened closely to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
So, why wait when we have the vision, passion, calling, encouragement, and we certainly see the need for transformed lives all around us? We need to wait so we can have maximum Kingdom impact. Maximum kingdom impact comes with a marathon-capable spirituality that can support the long journey of planting and weather the certain spiritual battles and challenges. Maximum kingdom impact comes through assessing the mission field fully and making sure we have fully discerned God’s will and timing for the church God is calling us to plant. Finally, in my experiences, maximum kingdom impact comes with the health and wholeness of the planter.
So, if you can identify with the desire to get your church plant started, then let me offer the following suggestions as you wait to launch.
First, develop your spiritual routines of prayer, Bible study, journaling and small group accountability. You’re going to need a deep well of faith, prayer, insight, and community support to survive just the first year leading into and through the launch. Even more support will be needed for the next steps of shaping new disciples, growing leaders, building systems and impacting the community.
Second, practice regular physical exercise and good eating habits. Take time with your spouse and extended family to share your vision, discuss the stress on your family and how they will share this vision and support you in this calling. I recommend the planter develop a relationship with a pastor who will shepherd them or Christian therapist who will oversee them. You are going to need a confidential, safe and healthy place to process stress, major decisions, and disappointment, and to learn how to deal with people who are hard to manage or working against your vision.
Third, build a core group of folks who buy-in completely on the vision of the church plant. You will need to develop small groups before launch for people at different points in their spiritual maturity. This may be a new believers group, a deeper study for mature believers and then a leadership small group. I would definitely fill these groups with people from across the spiritual maturity spectrum so they learn together and from one another.
May God bless and prepare you as you wait, pray, listen, gather visionaries and discern the divine appointment for your new church’s beginning.
Your second point includes “Take time with your spouse and extended family to share your vision, discuss the stress on your family and how they will share this vision and support you in this calling.”
I am more focused on the mention of a “spouse.” What about those who are celibate to dedicate themselves more fully to ministry? Do you think it would look any different?