Having been a church planter (been there, done that, got the t-shirt and the scars), the first piece of advice I have for you is, “Don’t go alone!” It is way too easy to think that just you and your wife – you and your husband – or you and your best friend from college are enough to make this happen. The truth is, planting a church will take you to the very end of your capacity and resources and possibly mental health! It will require you to be physically, emotionally and spiritually strong. It will require you to be highly accountable.
It is always a good idea to go back to the Bible and see what the first plan was, rather than the 21st Century individualized plans that we manage to come up with today. The original plan for us all was to be part of an “oikos” (extended family/household) as referenced in the Book of Acts.
This summer, having read Rodney Stark’s book The Rise of Christianity, I was particularly struck by his detailed research into the role of both women and the extended family. His belief after thorough research leads him, and others, to believe that without the protection of the early church within the household of a noble woman, the early church never would have survived persecution and change. If it worked for them, I am certain it will work for us in 21st Century America.
For Mike and I, our first church plant was in inner city London during the 1980’s in an area which had massive social deprivation and poverty. We quickly realized that we could not do it alone, and therefore took with us a team – our “oikos” of 10 other people. We still found this time to be incredibly difficult and challenging, however, and we would have not made it even through the first year without this extended family. We encouraged one another, prayed for one another and held one another accountable.
Another key biblical principle for church planters to understand is the one of “the person of peace.” In Luke 10:5-6 it says, “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you.” Jesus’ message to His disciples was, and still is today, that as we are walking in this world, we are to be on the look-out for a person of peace.
Who is this person of peace and how do we recognize him? A person of peace is a person who welcomes you, receives you, walks towards you, likes you and wants to serve you. It is easy to spot this person because the relationship is usually easy and not forced. By this, you know that the Holy Spirit has already gone ahead of you and prepared this person for you.
Because the Holy Spirit goes ahead of us, we know that the people of peace will often be the gate keeper into a whole network of relationships that you otherwise would have had no access. They will be a person who opens up their coffee shop to let you meet there or the school teacher who allows you into her classroom, the shopkeeper who spends time talking with you.
If you can learn to find and identify these people of peace, church planting can actually be a lot less tiring and you will waste a lot less time. It is amazing, if we let God do the work of building the church, rather than ourselves, how successful He can really be.
Church planting can be an amazing adventure in understanding the faithfulness of God or it can be an unbelievably frustrating experience of understanding our complete weakness. Usually these two things go hand in hand. I cannot over-emphasize the need to understand your own weaknesses in the areas of the spiritual, physical and emotional, so that once you have recognized them you can invite someone to hold you accountable to grow in those areas.
If Mike and I had known all of these things when we first began, I am sure the places where we planted in our early years would have had far more lasting and long- term fruit. So, it is now my privilege to look back and to hope and pray that you can learn from my mistakes.
Sally Breen and her husband Mike have walked together in ministry for the last 38 years. They love to teach together about their different perspectives on living life as a family on mission.
Sally and Mike pioneered the concept of Missional Communities in the 1980’s, in the tough inner city of London. In the past 30 years, they have continued to practice and refine this method of reaching a community and networking. Together, they co-authored the best-selling book Family on Mission. In addition, Mike has authored over 20 books including Building a Discipling Culture, Covenant and Kingdom, and the three books in the A Passionate Life series.
Today, Sally and Mike live in South Carolina, where they founded 3DM, a movement/organization which has now spread to 5 continents – training thousands of leaders and churches in how to move to a discipling culture and missional mindset.
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This article is from our ebook What Every Church Planter Should Know, Volume 2. For more essays, stories and words of wisdom from respected church planters, pastors and leaders, download the ebook for free by filling out the form below.