Previously at FTC I wrote an article titled “Planter, be a Pastor," in which I argued that a church planter must have the heart of a pastor, lest he be in danger of starting a business, not planting a church. I cannot stress enough, how important I believe that truth is. Today I would like to propose that not only should a church planter have the heart of a pastor, but he should also have the heart of a missionary.
Disclaimer: I am not saying in either article, that a planter must have the pastor/shepherd or apostolic spiritual gifts. Though, I believe that those gifts serve the planter in very strong (and different) ways in the process. What I am saying is that the planter should develop the heart of a pastor and a missionary before planting.
Why should a planter be a missionary?
Simply put, church planting is missionary work. If you look through the book of Acts, the believers went forth from Jerusalem, and everywhere believers went, the gospel went. Further more, everywhere the gospel went, people became believers. Everywhere people became believers, churches were planted. Everywhere churches were planted, more believers went out. The process repeated itself throughout history. Evangelism, missions, and church planting cannot be separated.
If this is true, how then does one develop the heart of a missionary?
Read the Bible. You cannot truly read the Bible without seeing God as a missionary God. He sent, he came, he pursued; to save the dead. Read Acts and see how the church planting movement was birthed out of evangelism, how Paul contextualized his delivery of the gospel, and how new churches sent out more missionaries to start more churches.
Tell people about Jesus. It’s that easy. If you begin to tell people about Jesus, you’ll begin to develop the heart of a missionary. If you do not tell people about Jesus, you will struggle to develop a missionary heart. Practice doesn’t make perfect in evangelism, but practice does make faith. As you practice evangelism, you will build faith in the one who does the work of salvation, which, will embolden and impassion you to do evangelism.
Go on a mission trip that focuses on evangelism. I would argue that you should go on a trip that is international. I’m amazed at the number of men who are training to be planters and pastors who’ve never been out of the United States. Get to a different culture, a drastically different culture. See poverty and lostness. Hear stories from missionaries in those areas of God’s faithfulness to save sinners and his faithfulness to the missionaries, whether their work is slow or fast.
Become a student of your community. Study the numbers and study the people. Ask questions such as, “What is the world-view of my community?” “What is the demographic of people in my area and how do they communicate?” “What does my community value?” “Where will I most naturally be able to have conversations with people about Jesus in my community?” “What can I do to build a reputation of trust with this community?” “Who is a person of peace that God is using to open doors in our community and how do I become friends with that person?” “Why are the schools massively more diverse than the population and what does that mean for our work of sharing the gospel?”
Pray. Pray and ask God to give you a heart that cares more about his glory than your comfort. Ask him to give you heart that cares more about their salvation than your safety. Ask him to give you the heart of a missionary.