Church planter: before you ask if something is good, you must ask what it’s for.
You already know this. You have talked to people who view themselves as good without giving a second thought to what they are for. Colossians 1:16 tells them that they were made by God and for God, but they don’t mean that they are good in light of fulfilling that purpose. They mean to say that their goodness, or badness, is seen by comparison to other people using measures they may have seen on a Facebook survey. It’s chaos when you really think about it.
What Is It For?
If you entered my office right now, you would see a book sitting near my front door. It’s a large book that was given to me as a gift. I didn’t ask for it, and I am not particularly interested in reading it. If you asked me, “Is that book good?” I’d have to get more information about what you actually want to know. Right now it’s being used as a door stop, and yes, for that purpose it’s a great book. It’s much better than Mere Christianity which, quite frankly, can’t hold a candle to this one in terms of door stopping.
The question, “What’s it for?” is everything for the church planter. At Valley Life, the answer was and still is, “Make disciples. Plant churches.” In our earliest days, the first disciples that needed to be made were the people that were in our core group, and the first church that needed to be planted was ours. Well-meaning people had all kinds of exciting ideas for us, but we couldn’t tackle the needs of the homeless or start a summer camp for youth because we hadn’t planted a church yet.
Stay on Mission
Asking, “Does it help plant the church or make disciples of my new friends,” kept me from wasting a lot of time. Someone who isn’t dying to get that church planted is all too willing to throw out ideas about brightening a person’s day or “just being Jesus to someone.” They will say, “We may be the only Jesus that some people will see today.” That may be so, but pretending to be Jesus while you hand out bottles of water at the bus stop just doesn’t move me like putting a real church in our community that those same people can join. Then we can do water bottles. The only problem with water bottles is this: they aren’t for planting a church. They are something a church does that’s for being nice to the community.
Don’t Fall into the Trap
The truth is, it’s a trap. It’s the trap of finding something to do. Making a real church and discipling new believers to faith in Christ is hard. It’s a lot easier to call up some churches to help you do a service project in an impoverished neighborhood or hold a backyard Bible club for kids in your community.
You’re an anxious church planter, new to the area, and you want to feel like you’re doing something good while you wait on your church to magically occur. And the mission team from the church in your home state needs something for their youth to do this summer since their church is already planted. Maybe it will be great or maybe you will pour your time, money, and heart into teaching those kids Bible stories for 5 summer days only to find out their dad is on the finance team at a church that someone already planted. He’ll be really thankful that someone cares about his kids, and he might even feel obligated to tell you that his family will try your church out once it gets planted.
Don’t Stop Planting
It seems odd to say, but the best advice I received when planning Valley Life Church was to spend my time actually making a church, instead of all the other things I would see or read about church planters doing. After our church was established, an older pastor built on that good advice by encouraging me, “Don’t stop planting. The things that got the church started are the things that will make it strong.” To make disciples and plant more churches is what everything we do is for, and that is what makes us believe they are good.
The work of a church planter is varied. You may find yourself meeting people at their workplace for lunch, scoping out a quiet place to prepare a sermon, or walking around a shopping mall to meet business owners. There are innumerable ways to go about making friends, discipling them to faith, and organizing them into a church. Any thing you do to get that done is a good thing; just remember, not all good things plant your church.