Before “I DO”

5 Questions to Ask Before Planting

Over the last 20 years I have had the opportunity to be deeply involved with church planting. My wife Stacie and I have planted two churches, Breakthrough Church in Arlington Texas while attending seminary and the other being Echo Church which launched in 2009 in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Over the years I’ve had no less than 100 conversations with potential church planters. These planters come filled with excitement to start their brand new church. It’s easy to share their excitement similarly to the moment when a young couple tells you they are expecting. On the backside of the excitement often there are hundreds of first time decisions for Jesus and tremendous Kingdom fruit. I love seeing these same church planters months or years later only to hear the great things God has done through their ministry.

On the flip side I will often see confused church planters who after stepping out find themselves dazed and confused. I’ve also had dozens of conversations filled with heartache and pain, all of which stem from bad church planting decisions. Most of the time there were a series of unwise decisions that led to an unfortunate story. It breaks my heart and it’s a tremendous waste of kingdom resources. This is why I’m personally committed to resource church planters and share from my own experiences, both from our church and countless others.

I want to give you five questions every potential church planter should ask before launching out to start a church:

  1. Am I called by God? There is a mystical side of calling. How does one know if they are called by God? Undoubtedly this is a complex and profound question that can’t be tackled in one article, but here are some things to consider. In every story of calling I’ve heard of key passages of scripture, key moments with God, support from Godly counsel and a deep sense of conviction. Every church planter needs to know that their vision is being birthed by God. God drops vision in our hearts like a seed and then we choose whether or not to water that vision. One thing is true, without seed it is very hard to grow something. Has God spoken to you? I would encourage you to get alone with Jesus, your bible and a moleskin. Ask Him to speak and make His will clear. One vital verse for me has been Psalm 32:8, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” Ask Him to make that promise come true in your life.
  2. Am I wired to plant a church? There are many different models of church planting and styles of leaders. From my experience the lead planter should have the spiritual gift of leadership. If you have never been able to get people to follow you, you are not a leader and should not plant a church. Look at your past performance. Secondly, church planters need to have some form of a teaching gift. If you are unable to communicate the deep truths of God in a way that leads to changed lives, it probably would be best for you to be in a supporting role on a church planting team. Can you get in your closet, get a Word from God, craft it to help people and then deliver it? Certainly this gift can be cultivated and developed, but I would highly recommend developing this gift prior to planting a church. Third on the list is about passion and desire. Are you passionate about reaching people who are far from God? You may not have the spiritual gift of evangelism, but in my humble opinion, if you don’t have a passion for reaching people for Jesus, you shouldn’t plant a church. Consider these questions and ask your mentors. Find some honest people and assess if these things are true.
  3. Is my spouse in agreement with this call? We could spend a whole course on marriage in ministry, and maybe at some point we will do a series of blogs on this. For now, my encouragement is to pray together with your spouse. Ask the hard questions, and make sure you are on the same page. Let me say this candidly, if your spouse doesn’t believe in your vision it’s going to be hard to get anyone else to come alongside you. You cannot fake this! Your marriage in many ways is going to be a foundation that God builds your church upon. Jesus is the rock, yes, but He uses people too. If that building block is weak, tap the breaks and get with some wise people who can help you assess your marriage and alignment with your spouse.
  4. Why am I planting? I’ve met people who think they want to plant a church, but in actuality they just want to be in charge of their own ministry. Some leaders will ride the wave of another ministry and then assume that they are supposed to plant their own church. We have worked hard with all of our church planters to plant not because they have a group of people who simply believe in their leadership. Plant because there is a group of people who don’t know Jesus yet. Find a community that does not have another church like what you envision. Do your research and read data on various communities. Church planters are apostles and entrepreneurs. Whatever spirit your church is birthed in is the spirit that your church will be built on. If you love and care about people your church will reflect that. If you are angry you will attract angry people. Make sure you embody the culture you want to build and plant for the right reasons. Your motivation matters to God, and it matters for the kind of church you will build.
  5. What is the proper timing? Every parent asks the question, “when should we start trying to have kids?” Often church planters because of their wiring get a vision and then they immediately go into action mode. I get this, and totally understand that wiring, but great leaders learn to harness that excitement and leverage it with wisdom. You will birth a better church if you have good process, good strategy and a GREAT TEAM. If you take the time to discern the call, build a team, raise resources, pick the community, market well, develop leaders and build relationships with people far from God, you will launch your church with health and strength. Churches that are birthed prematurely spend years in recovery mode. Ask a few wise entrepreneurial leaders to help you discern this. Don’t rush ahead of God! Sometimes He moves faster than us, and sometimes He moves slower. Stay with Him and He will bless you. Ask Him for wisdom, James 1:5-6 promises, He will give it to you.

There are many more questions to consider when planting a church, but from my experience these are five of the most important ones. Our goal with the Ascent Leader and our church planting cohorts is to help church planters win early and finish strong. We want to resource you so that you can avoid common pitfalls and simple mistakes. Being involved in a community of leaders like our church planting cohorts is one of the best ways to wrestle through these questions. We’re here to help you, if we can be of assistance to you please feel free to reach out.

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