Thursday, May 3

Church planting lessons learned along the way

A few things picked up over the years working alongside the saints in planting house churches...

1) Work with what you have on hand. In Jesus miracle of the five loaves and two fish, he asked the disciples what they had on hand. Of course five loaves and two fish were not nearly enough to feed 5000, but when turned over to Jesus, He blessed those few loaves and fish so that they fed thousands. The same hold true in church planting. Start with what you have and turn it over to the Lord and watch him multiply the "little" into "much."

2) The importance of a few key details. The difference between success and failure in church planting often hinges on attention to a few key details. For us, it is vitally important that within 48 hours of someone making a decision to follow Christ that we begin the discipleship process with them. Another is baptizing new converts as soon as possible. Ongoing relationship and mutual nurturing of leaders within an accountability group of fellow believers is another biggie.

3) Materials are not the key. The most frequent question people inquire about is what materials we use. "Show us your materials." This is the least relevant thing and yet is what everyone thinks is the key to a successful church plant. Just get the right materials and voila you get a church planted. Not so. What is important is the person's perseverance through the ups and downs of planting a church. Knowing how to effectively use a few simple tools (materials) can carry them a long way and is an important part of training, but nothing takes the place of an inner drive and love for the Kingdom.

4) "Just do it." Nike's slogan is ours too. Don't wait to have all the answers before beginning. It is better to just get out there and start something, than to stand back waiting for further clarification, more training, and for conditions to be just right. The best way to learn is to get out there and "just do it." Yes, mistakes will be made, but seldom are mistakes fatal to the overall work if the heart is right. The grass is NOT greener on the other side of the road. It is no harder to plant a church where God has placed you, than it is for someone else in another "easier" location.

5) Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers. Once you settle that He is the one who does the calling, then it becomes important to accept those he sends, regardless of the initial unpromising impression these folks might make upon you. Over and over it has been the "least promising" individuals who have panned out, while the really sharp, cool, educated dudes fizzle along the way. In our network of house church leaders there isn't a single leader who stands out as a model church planter. ALL are quite common folks--like you and me!

6) Dealing with the "authority" issue of who can plant a church. Many are looking for authorization or blessing from their pastor, denomination, an ordination council, or respected leaders to give them the "green light." If there is any doubt in the mind of the novice church planter that he/she has the authority to plant a church, they will not do so. If, however, they understand their authority comes directly from Jesus, they will be mightily used of the Lord. Every church planter needs to settle in their hearts and minds that Jesus is the source of their authority issues. "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth [therefore] go...make disciples...baptizing...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you..." One of my roles as a missionary is empowering people to do those things that Christ has already empowered them to do!

7) Have a clear idea of what it is that needs to be done. Many of our folks see themselves as simply "evangelists" and are out trying to win a few to Christ. Once they get it into their heads that they are apostolic church planters, fully invested with the authority to do ALL that such an undertaking entails--baptizing, serving Lord's Supper, counseling, teaching, praying for the sick, planting a church, etc.--they are transformed into amazing vessels for the Master's use.

8) Simplicity. This one cannot be emphasized enough. Neil Cole simply says, "Simple is transferable, complex breaks down." He goes on to say, "Simplicity is the key to the fulfillment of the Great Commission in this generation. If the process is complex, it will break down early in the trasference to the next generation of disciples. The more complex the process, the greater the giftedness needed to keep it going. The simpler the process, the more available it is to the broader Christian populace." Almost every mistake we have made in the church planting process can be boiled down to our making things more complicated than people can actually handle. I have the tendency to think "more" is better, but "less" is always more in the long run. This certainly applies to church. The more simple church is made to be, the more likely it will take root and grow. The more complex we make it, the more likely it will fail.

What do you think of the above? Anything resonate with your own experience? What are your own observations?

16 comments:

The Krow said...

thanks for the encouraging post. as someone who is looking at church planting you have shown paths around roadblocks with this post.

Larry Who said...

Number 4 - "Just do it" - seems to be what most of us need to hear. Thanks.

WTJeff said...

The "authority" point resonates with me most. I work for a baptist association. It seems we focus so much on what other people think that we don't get anything done. Jesus has all the authority and He said "go". That should settle it.

S.A.M. said...

I'm keeping all these points in mind for going into the field. The just do it one seems to be the best one for me. Just like Paul he didn't wait until everything was perfect to plant a church. When the Spirt of the Lord hits you, obey what it directs you to do. Just have and open heart for what He has planned for you. This has taken a lot of growing for me to understand this concept. This is the reason I read your stuff, Guy. You give me much to think about and learn from. Thanks for the advice and leadership, and keep it coming!
SAM

GuyMuse said...

Krow, Larry, wtjeff,SAM,

Thanks to each of you for stopping by and sharing a word. It has taken years, in some cases, to figure some of these points out. Our work is a hodge podge of all kinds of strange looking "ekklesias" that tend to mirror the lessons shared in this post as they are put into practice.

A ninth lesson learned is that out in the real world of church planting, things usually end up quite differently than intended!

Sometimes I wish people would follow more of a SOP for church planting. We try to teach a clear, concise method for church planting, but in the long run they always end up looking quite differently than we would have envisioned.

Tim Patterson said...

Guy,

Thanks for sharing these lessons and valuable insights.

The one that hits me is: "Almost every mistake we have made in the church planting process can be boiled down to our making things more complicated than people can actually handle."

Amen to that! That simple DNA that will reproduce healthy disciples, leaders and churches over and over again seems to elude us.

I think we need to post more about that DNA.

GuyMuse said...

Tim,

As I see it, part of the problem stems from the fact that most M's trying to be church planting catalysts are highly trained, intellectual types. We thrive on reading all the latest books, theories, etc. and then want to pass on all this stuff to those we are training.

The idea of "less is more" eludes us simply because, for us, "more is more." The more conferences I attend, books I read, the better prepared I am. Not so. We need to remember Jesus words to Martha about her being preoccupied about many thing, but Mary had chosen that "one thing" which was truly important.

EL OJO PROTESTANTE said...

Creo que cada lección que comparte es desde todo punto de vista inobjetable. Y sobre todo porque la experiencia avala cada concepto.
¡Bendiciones!.
Daniel

GuyMuse said...

Daniel,

Gracias por tus palabras. Uno aprende algo nuevo todos los dias al abrir los ojos a lo que Dios hace a nuestro alrededor.

Tim Patterson said...

Guy,

What is that "one thing" Jesus is referring to in His answer to Martha? I think I know what you will say... but want to hear more of your perspective.

GuyMuse said...

Tim,

My understanding of the "one thing" is Mary's choosing to sit at the Lord's feet, listening to what Jesus was saying. Listening to the Master comes first before busying ourselves with doing.

I'd be interested in hearing your take on this. How do you understand the "one thing is needed" that Jesus said to Martha?

Strider said...

Great post Guy. The big one resonating with me is the materials one. We have said for a long time that the Bible is the ONLY material we will rely on. Showing a Jesus film once in a while is ok but only the Bible is our authority and guide. Materials are way too often crutches for the CPer rather than aids for the disciples. We need to handle the Word well.
Thanks for again for your ability to outline these principles so well. Your blog is invaluable.

GuyMuse said...

Strider,

Thanks for the kind words. You have a strong point with the Bible being the ONLY material to be relied upon.

What we found though, in our context, is that there are good aids out there (like the Jesus film.) We view these as "tools" that assist us in doing the job. Depending upon what needs to be accomplished, one chooses the appropriate tool. We try to expose our people to a few basic tools (available materials) that will assist them. Of course, the Bible is the main tool. All the othes simply draw from the Scriptures.

Next to the Bible, probably the tool that is most appreciated by our folks is the song book and accompanying CDs that go along with it. People here love to sing, and this has been a great tool which is something completely in harmony with their culture and way of life.

Other tools we expose our people to are videos, discipleship courses (eg. Experiencing God), EvangeCube

J. R. Miller said...

Hi, my name is Joe Miller. Given your experience with church planting, I thought you might be able to provide some insight from your experience in church planting.

I am currently a church planter, and am doing some work on my Doctor of Ministry project through Talbot School of Theology. My project is focused on developing missional teams for church planting. I thought you might be willing to help by taking a short survey to share your expertise.

If you can help, please visit my website with details and the link to this 5 minute survey HERE.

I will keep an eye out for the results.

Thanks and God bless,

Joe

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www.MoreThanCake.org

Anonymous said...

All those were great comments except #6 concerned me. Every successful church plant should have a "covering" = meaning a well seasoned Christian or better yet church to watch over the affairs to make sure things are done decently and in order. And also what are your motives for starting a church? If it is out of rebellion, resentment or bitterness to your current church, then your work will never be a success.

GuyMuse said...

Anon.,

Thanks for your stopping by and reading, as well as taking a moment to comment. #6 deals with the whole issue that many feel they cannot, or dare not do what Jesus commanded 2000 years ago. They must first receive permission (or blessing) from a human authority. Jesus word on the matter doesn't seem to be quite enough.

I agree that we should not have a 'lone ranger' mentality which rebels against accountability, and denotes a bit of arrogance. In our own context we willingly submit to one another, seek one another's advice and counsel, meet together, teach one another, and share with one another our questions/victories/fears/difficulties, etc. But our 'covering' as such is not a pastor, church, denomination or organization. It is Christ himself. He is our covering. To Him we must give our first accounting for what we do or not do. Hope this helps clarify a bit what we are trying to share.