We’ve all heard the stories of overnight success. Church planters who launched their church with no advertising and hundreds of people showed up on day one. This can leave us feeling that church planting must be a mystical work. Who can know if the church will grow and thrive into a self-governing, self-supporting, and reproducing church?! But you can know—or at least have a pretty good idea.
The Rest of the Story
There’s usually a story behind the story. For example, you hear of a 30-year-old church planter who launched his church with 150 young adults and has grown to 500 people in five years. You’ll likely hear that it was all a work of the Lord. And it is. But you’ll be prone to think that there’s no practical explanation for that—that sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t.
The rest of the story is that the 30-year-old church planter served as youth pastor at the “traditional” church on the other side of town. He hauled those young adults to mission trips and church camps when they were teenagers. And when they heard their former youth pastor was leaving to start his church, they felt led by the Lord to join the work.
There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s a great strong start for a church plant. But the real story here is that the groundwork for that church plant was laid when that youth pastor was hired years ago.
Church Planting Is Practical
As you can see, there is a serious practical element to church planting. At Valley Life, we’ve learned a number of practical lessons that have made us better.
For us, a good launch season for public worship services is in January. Valley Life | Surprise, which I pastor, launched on Easter with high attendance and suffered through the summer slump soon after. Other Valley Life plants that launched in January grew slow and steady and gained the momentum needed to push through the summer and prepare for the fall.
Also, if you are “parachute” planter who is moving to a new city to plant your church, it’s a good idea to move at least a year in advance to your launch date. It will take that long for you to learn the new city and make genuine friends with people who will become the launch team for your new church.
Consider these church planting proverbs. You wouldn’t plant a tomato plant in December and call it faith. There is strong practical data to help planters best prepare to plant their church in a practical way. One of the strongest books you can put in your tool box is Planting Missional Churches by Ed Stetzer.
Church Planting Is Spiritual
If you are reading this, you are likely compiling all the data you can find to prepare yourself to plant your church. At some point, it’s going to dawn on you that you can’t do this. And you are right!
A church is not the summary of the skills and resources of the planter and launch team. Church planting is Holy Spirit work. If you are not overwhelmed by the calling and vision that the Lord has placed before you, then it isn’t from him. We cannot accomplish the things that the Lord has called us to without the ministry of the Holy Spirit. We work hard to plant and water the seed, but God makes it grow.
Church Planting Is Not Mystical
Church planting is a practical work. There are ways to know if you’re setting your church up for success or failure right away. Bad hires, launching too soon, and poor fundraising are all signs that you might be heading in the wrong direction.
Church planting is a spiritual work. The work is not the summary of the skills and resources of the people already there. The Holy Spirit will save your friends, make generous people, and gift others for the mission of Jesus.
However, church planting is certainly not mystical. There is no lottery in the throne room of heaven. The Apostle Paul is not calling church planters to “come on down and see what you’ve won.” Church planting is good, hard, smart work that is blessed by the ministry of the Holy Spirit.