A few months ago I had a conversation with a guy who was seeking my advice about training to be a church planter. My first question in this situation is always, “Tell me about your ministry experience." In this case, the young man had been on several short-term trips to a specific city to help church planters.
My follow-up question was this: “What pastoral experience or training do you have?” The question almost appeared foreign to him. He had none. He hadn’t served at a church, done an internship under a pastor, or learned anything about pastoring people. This concerned me and I pressed the matter. He revealed that all of his church planting understanding was from short-term trips with planters who took more of a business approach to planting. Somewhere in the midst of all of this, this young man had not learned about pastoring people from these planters.
I proceeded to encourage this young man to train to be a pastor before he trained to be a church planter.
We need pastors who are planting new churches, not entrepreneurs who are starting new businesses that they call churches. Sadly, I see this all too often.
They have great business strategy and no pastoral grit.
There are flow charts and spreadsheets, but no blood in the trenches of pastoral care.
They love to speak to the crowds, but don’t have time to hold a crying family over the loss of their child.
I told this young man that before he trained in the skills of church planting, he needed to develop the heart of a pastor and learn how to love and lead the church, not simply the church plant.
So how can you begin to develop the heart of a pastor?
1. Read the Bible
Read the Old Testament and look for the shepherding heart of God the Father, leading his people. Read the New Testament and learn from the longing Paul had for the churches he planted. Prayerfully ask God to implant the pastoral heart so evident throughout the Scriptures into you.
2. Be Mentored by a Pastor
Place yourself under a pastor who loves and serves his church sacrificially. Watch how he gives of his time, energy, and heart to his people. Learn how he embraces Paul’s talk of pouring himself out as an offering. Ask him why he said what he said and did what he did in that counseling situation. Learn from him humbly, as if you don't have all the answers. Seek wisdom.
3. Get Your Hands Dirty
Pastoring is not a spectator sport. You can’t learn how to pastor in a classroom. You learn how to pastor in homes, hospitals, and on the streets. Find a church that will let you learn from the pastor while getting your hands dirty in ministry. Learn people’s stories, cry with them in their pain, rejoice with them in their suffering, and walk with them through their sin.
Disclaimer: This post does not suggest that every pastor should plant a church. Church planting takes a very specific set of skills that many pastors do not have. Others have some of the skills needed to plant, but must make sure they have someone on their team with skills they are lacking. Please do not assume that because you have a pastor's heart you can plant a new church.
What I am saying is that all men who pursue planting churches should do so only after putting in the time to develop a pastor's heart.
The church planter who is not also a pastor births a child he is unfit to raise.