It's funny the things one remembers from the people the Lord brings into our lives over the years. Back in the mid-70's, while getting a music degree from the University of North Texas, I was active in our local church choir at Grace Temple Baptist Church. Terry Fansler was an extraordinary church musician, conductor and mentor. But what I remember most from Terry was his refrain, "the best way to have a great choir is to have a great choir." I have never forgotten those words.
These words can be applied with equal weight to just about any worthwhile endeavor, including church planting.
The best way to share the Gospel? Share the Gospel!
The best way to make disciples? Make disciples!
The best way to start a church? Start a church!
It seems a lot of our failure to obey the commands of Christ (and here I am speaking more personally of myself and our team's ministry) is rooted in our thinking if we can just somehow get people together in a room and tell them how to do something, they will do it.
I know, because this is what we have been doing now for the past 10 years and it just doesn't work...well, actually a few do catch on to the ideas (the ones I usually end up blogging about!), but they are a small percentage.
Personally, I think we have some of the best contextualized church planting materials and methodology being used in Latin America. But the "best" means nothing unless implemented. What is missing?
Desire may be there, but if there is no real intention of going out and planting a church, a church will not be planted.
I may desire to lose 20 lbs. Believe I need to lose 20 lbs. Feel convicted about losing 20 lbs. Pray about losing 20 lbs. But I will never lose 20 lbs. until I actually start by losing those first few pounds on my way to losing 20 lbs.! You have to do it, to do it.
Embarrassingly, it has taken ten years of continuous training/teaching to finally begin to figure this out. Well meaning believers flock to our trainings throughout the year. But the truth of the matter is that very few really intend to actually plant a church. It doesn't matter how good the trainers are, how wonderful the materials made available, or how much one might affirm or believe what is being taught IF THEY DO NOT PERSONALLY INTEND ON BEING AN INSTRUMENT IN THE LORD'S HANDS TO PLANT A CHURCH, THEY WILL NOT PLANT A CHURCH.
So, where do we go from here?
In our case, we have resolved that we will continue to train anyone for ONE MONTH to expose them to the concepts of Jesus' Luke 10 methodology, start them praying for their lost friends/family, help them identify men of peace, begin to love/serve/minister those they are seeking to reach, teach basic evangelism/discipleship tools, etc.
But after one month, it is DECISION MAKING TIME. Do it now, or don't come back. The only way to plant a church is to get out there and intentionally plant a church. Those who do start at least one group (what we initially call an outreach group), we will continue to train/mentor/coach. Those who don't? Well, Dios te bendiga...it has been fun...see ya around...thanks for your time...chao (good-bye!)
Does this sound too harsh? Un-Christlike? Too much like the business world? How did Jesus respond to the undecided, wavering, excuse-making disciples in Luke 9:57-62?
As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, "I will follow You wherever You go." And Jesus said to him, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." [that guy never appears again in the pages of the NT] And He said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father." But He said to him, "Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God." [Jesus leaves this guy standing by the road and moves on] Another also said, "I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home." But Jesus said to him, "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." [Not fit? Sounds pretty harsh and to-the-point to me. I don't think Jesus was able to use this guy either!]
What do you think about these things? What has been your experience in training church planters? If you have personally experienced a better way to start churches (not something you might have read in a book, but something you have actually done and it works), THEN PLEASE SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH US. We would love to hear your thoughts.