Do you feel like you’re being called to plant a new church? Well, not so fast. In this video, Daniel Im walks through some of the different questions and indicators you should ask yourself before setting out to plant a church.
Daniel Im the Director of Church Multiplication for NewChurches.com at LifeWay Christian Resources. He’s the author of No Silver Bullets: Five Small Shifts that will Transform Your Ministry and Planting Missional Churches: Your Guide to Starting Churches that Multiply (2nd Ed). And he also co-hosts co-host the New Churches Q&A Podcast, the 5 Leadership Questions Podcast, and a brand new podcast with his wife on marriage and parenting called the IMbetween Podcast.
The entire video is above, and the complete transcript is below.
The question, “Am I called to be a church planter?” is not a straightforward one. It’s not like, “Should I breathe?” or “Should I love others as Jesus does?” The question, “Am I called to be a church planter?” is kind of like asking, “Should I go into an arts program, science, or trade?” What’s implied behind this question is the importance of further education. So, the question is more a matter of which route will you take.
When we look at the biblical commandment “to go therefore and make disciples of all nations”, the natural outflow of that is the planting of new churches.
We see this through the early Church and how the apostles preached the gospel, made disciples, and planted churches. And then, preached the gospel, made disciples, and planted churches. I mean, just look through the book of Acts and then look at how the New Testament was written to new churches in their respective life situations. Essentially, the New Testament can be seen as an anthology of church plants.
So the fact is, just like we all need to eat food or we’ll die, we need to all be about church planting or the Church will die.
And the better question that we need to ask is, “Am I called to be about church planting?” And let me make this easy for you. If you’re a follower of Christ, the answer is a default “yes”.
Now there are people who will object to church planting and will say things like, “Isn’t one larger church better than a lot of smaller churches?” Well, the fact is it’s not really an either/or. Both are good and necessary, but according to our recent state of church-planting research at NewChurches.com, we discover that new church plants are extremely effective at winning people to Christ. So while there isn’t anything wrong with larger churches, there’s definitely something wrong if we don’t plant new ones.
Or maybe people give this objection: “We have enough churches.” Well, based on the census data from 2011, there are approximately 11 churches for every 10,000 Americans. Now, unless there are mega-churches in every neighborhood in this country – which there aren’t – there simply aren’t enough churches around. Add that to the fact that our population continues to increase and the numbers speak for themselves.
We all need to be about church planting.
In the second edition of Planting Missional Churches, Ed Stetzer and I walk through a few of the characteristics of Paul, the church planter, throughout the New Testament. Here are a few of his characteristics:
1. He was an evangelist.
2. He was entrepreneurial.
3. He empowered other leaders.
4. He cared for people.
5. He stayed committed to his calling despite the sacrifice.
So how many of those five characteristics do you identify with?
It’s not enough to just be excited about the idea of planting a church, being the boss, and not having to do ministry the way others do. Planting a church is much more nuanced than that. So if those are the types of reasons that are pushing you to plant, you will fail. The enemy will have his way, and the cumulative aftermath with be devastating.
So who is the ideal church planter? What does a church-planter look like? There certainly isn’t one type of church planter since there isn’t just one type of church. So depending on the model you choose and the context that you plant in, the type of planter will be different.
So regardless of model and context, the fact is every planter and pastor needs to first put themselves up against the biblical qualifications of pastoral ministry as outlined in passages like 1 Timothy 3. So when we think about church planters specifically, planters need to be above reproach. They need to be able to teach. Self-controlled. Not lovers of money and so on. So be sure to read through this passage and others like to put yourself up against it.
Now, in addition to that list there are a few other indicators that will give you a glimpse into whether or not God is calling you to be a church planter, specifically differently than a pastor.
1. Are you a starter?
Do you have a pattern of starting things? Maybe lemonade stands, Bible studies, compassion-based ministries? Are they still around after you’ve left? You’ll be doing this over and over again in church planting.
2. Are you an equipper?
Do you always have to be the one doing the work of ministry or can you lead and equip others to do the work of ministry? Now how about leading others who lead others? This is our task as church leaders and pastors. To be equippers, not doers as we read in Ephesians 4. So without this, your church will never break the 50 barrier or grow beyond your personal leadership lid.
3. Are you a dreamer?
Do you long to make a greater impact and change this world? Do you see the world in a different way? Can you help people catch that vision? This hunger and drive is critical for church-planters.
4. Are you a doer?
No, I’m not contradicting myself from a previous point. Instead, I’m asking, do you execute? Do you follow through and do you get things done? There are many pastors, church-planters, and visionaries who love the dreaming stage so much that they can’t actually get things done.
So if you see those four indicators in your life, God may be calling you to plant. If you see some, but not others perhaps this is the best time to develop those competencies.
Now what if you said yes to all four of those indicators? Well, then you need to ask yourself a few qualifier questions.
Do I have a burden and a calling to specifically plant a church?
In your time with God, is this something that God continues to bring up? Now I’m not asking if you’re interested in the idea. I’m asking if God is laying this on your heart.
Does my family support us planting a church?
If you’re married, God will not lead you to start a church if it means you have to leave your spouse and kids. This is because you can’t see planting a church as your day-job and expect it to not seep into the rest of your life.
On our New Churches Q&A Podcast, we recently received a question from a guy, who became a follower of Christ after getting married and who is now in ministry. His spouse is still not yet a believer, yet he feels called to plant. So the answer is, not yet. Wait.
And lastly, does my church support me? Do others affirm this calling?
If your church and friends are hesitant about your calling and gifting to plant a church, then you should also be hesitant. Are you allowing others to speak into your life? Are you currently sitting under the authority of another pastor, denomination, or team? If not, then why? If yes, then what are they saying about your decision? So involve them, involve others, into your decision-making process as soon as possible.
So if you answered yes to all of those questions and indicators, here are a few next steps that I’d encourage you to consider.
1. Get pre-assessed using a tool like the CPCA (Church Planter Candidate Assessment) by LifeWay Research. This is the only statistically-verified, church-planting pre-assessment out there. So check it out.
Now let’s remember, we’re all called to be about church-planting, but we’re not all called to be church-planters. God may be calling you to be a student director, an executive pastor, a worship minister, a launch team member, a funder, an elder, or to be a pastor of a church that multiplies and sends out church-planters.
So regardless of your specific role, the fact is we all are called to be about church-planting.