In the last 7 years I have planted 2 churches directly, led our church in planting 2 stateside churches, and helped coach and train dozens of church planters. I have learned many things along the way. Today I want to make 3 crucial suggestions for church planters. These come from personal experience as a planter and from experience coaching others to plant.
1. Join a residency.
A good residency will help you develop your preaching, leadership, theology, and missiology. While in this residency, make sure to spend time developing systems and documents (Bylaws, statements of belief, membership covenant, church discipline policies, missional strategies, child-care policies, etc). Joining a residency also allows you to be intentionally sent out by a local church to plant a church. This support, validation, and accountability is priceless.
2. Know your ecclesiology.
I’ve seen many planters get into trouble because they established elders without knowing what elders do, how they are appointed, what they are accountable for, and how they are removed. I’ve seen planters get in trouble because they don’t know what they believe about church membership, the process of becoming a member or what is expected from a member. They grow their church without membership, then try to bring membership in, but now have to deal with people in leadership in their church who don’t agree with the way they are doing membership.
Know ecclesiology from the beginning and build the church upon that foundation. This is even important for those who are apostolic planters, who desire to plant the church, then move on, handing it off to a pastor. When you plant the church, help the future pastor by planting the church on these foundations.
3. Be a missionary.
There are a lot of healthy ways a church plant can grow. It is healthy for your church to see growth because new people are moving into the community and finding your church a vibrant family of faith join. It is healthy to see growth from people in your community who have been driving a long distance for church and now they can be a part of a gospel-rich church in their own community. However your church is growing, remember this, church-planter, the nature of church planting is missions.
You are taking the gospel into a dark place and building a church upon the truth of the gospel. See your community through the eyes of a missionary, learn their ways, share the gospel in your workplaces, and always seek to grow your church through lives transformed by the power of the gospel. Then you may rest in God’s gracious and good plan to grow your church.