PRACTICAL CHURCH-PLANTING POINTS OF ADVICE
When asked what advice I’d offer to someone who believed God was leading them to plant a local church, I responded with the following twenty-two thoughts…
1. If you haven’t already done so, violently nail the all-too-common romantic view of ministry to the cross (3 Jn 1:9). Genuine Biblical ministry, especially pastoral ministry, is often as unnerving as it is challenging. It can be as bloody and brutal as it is honorable and essential. It rarely garners the praise of men and more times than not, it’s incomprehensibly demanding, yet utterly thankless. Indeed, ministry, unwisely taken up by the ill-advised who harbor false expectations, will unmercifully chew up and spit out the bright-eyed-novice shocked, confused and often bitter against both man and God.
2. Pray-thru until you’re absolutely sure God is calling you to pioneer a church and pastoral ministry, if not, when difficult and trying times come, as they surely will, the winds of testing will likely discourage, confuse, and cause questions. Have a sure word of direction to stand on (Lk 6:48; Eph 5:17).
3. Be given to much prayer and fasting. Make sure you are filled with the Holy Ghost. If you think you ‘can’, you ‘won’t’. You must know the fulfilling of your call is impossible apart from the grace, power, and anointing of God’s Spirit (1 Tim 3:6; Jam 4:6).
4. If you are not completely free from the fear of man, it would be better never to begin (Prov 29:25; Ezk 3:7-9).
5. Preach the Word like a dying man to dying men, believing you will give an account for everything you do and say, because you will (2 Tim 4:1-4; Heb 13:17). Moreover, even though you are called to pastor, don’t forget to model evangelism to the local church by preaching the gospel open-air. A man unwilling to preach to sinners is unfit to instruct the church (2 Tim 4:5).
6. Ask God for heavenly wisdom to ‘feed the sheep’, but utterly ‘starve the goats’. Purge yourself of the popular mindsets that tend to honor the middle ground, seeking to placate in gray areas while rambling on and on about balance and cautious wisdom. Be utterly radical. Hate what God hates and love what He loves with all your heart. Let God’s Word define everything ‘black or white’, ‘heaven or hell’, ‘holiness or sin’, etc. Seek a spiritual atmosphere where everyone will be humbled at the altar or driven out the door (2 Cor 11:2; 1 Pet 5:2). Leave the satanic methods of worldly-wise appeasements and seeker/sinner-friendly-church-growth-gimmicks to the snake-bit scribes of modern Babylon.
7. Never compromise. Never. Not even in the slightest way or you and those under your oversight will pay dearly (1 Cor 5:6).
8. Above all you must be spiritually alive; all advancement in ministry is contingent on genuine spiritual vitality. As Jesus declared in John 3:6, ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit’. Flesh can never, no matter what it may look like, produce anything of eternal value; nothing. The church is birthed out of life and not vice versa.
9. Make sure your marriage and home is completely in order; Satan will seek to exploit every weakness in your closest relationships; this admonition cannot be overemphasized (1 Tim 3:4-5).
10. Planting a church is not for the spiritually feeble; expect misery and pain because you will experience both (1 Cor 9:4-13). More than likely, every expectation you have regarding the what, the who, and the how this will all unfold, will come tumbling to the ground. Your motivation must be solely the call of God and a desire to please and glorify Jesus. You must honestly determine whether you want to be a professional preacheror to truly build a congregation. If your desire is to truly pastor then you must set your face like flint to endure the wilderness and dry years ahead. Cry out to God for faithful men who will be willing to submit to you. God’s order is to give a vision to you as the leader and then see that visionbirthed through those that follow you as you follow Christ. These individuals must be willing to be impregnated with the vision God has given you and this should primarily be men. Women, of course, will have an integral part of what takes place, but to see the church truly built God’s way means you must have godly men lead out.
11. Remember, God has not called you to win a popularity contest, to be a glorified businessman, or merely a nice fellow, but a holy vessel to reveal His Christ and declare His Word. You will be utterly despised by many, cherished by few, and appreciated by hardly anyone. Don’t expect anything but to be a faithful servant (2 Tim 3:12; 1 Jn 3:13).
12. Concentrate on quality, not quantity. Remember, there is at least one thing worse than an empty church-building…an offended God. Spiritual growth is far more important than numerical growth. Everyone but Jesus is expendable, even you (1 Cor 10:31).
13. Adopt the Biblical definition of ‘success’, which is to ‘simply do the will of God regardless of any visible results’ (Jn 6:38).
14. Formulate, document, and establish, as much as possible, the vision, the polity, the doctrine, and the orthopraxy of the church from the very beginning (who we are, what we believe, how we live, and the order thereof—the practical, day-to-day fleshing-out of the corporate testimony, the service times, prayer times, evangelism, etc.). The vision is what God has revealed He will bring forth through faithful vessels before it’s manifested (Ezk 40:4). Granted, seeing what God wants is essential, but birthingwhat God commands is the primary ground where the battle will be either won or lost; incarnation is always the point of conflict. You must have a sound spiritual plan from the outset; avoid drastic fluctuations and alterations mid-stream.
15. The responsibility to lead is squarely on you. If, under intense pressure you are apt to shirk your moral obligation to rise up, be decisive, and march forward, then pastoring, and especially church-planting, is not for you. Your calling demands faith to heal, but just as needful and often far more rare, is an unwavering, calculated, and principled courage to slay. Never forget the inspired words of the Prophet Jeremiah, ‘Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully, and cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood (Jer 48:10-11). Sound leadership is not so much proven by the decisions that publicly are favorable and well-received, but rather, the willingness to be decisive in choosing the unpopular. Unexpectedly taking the narrow path when the broad way is preferred by the multitude and confidently, under Christ, making the difficult and costly decisions that few understand. From this point on, you must know, ‘If God has indeed called me, then He will faithfully equip me with strength, courage, and wisdom to overcome. He will guide me safely through every battle.’ All in all, it must be Jesus who is your source of spiritual strength to lead.
16. Know who to let stay (Judges 7:4-7; 1 Cor 5:11).
17. You must adopt and cultivate the mindset of a work-mule while maintaining the vigilance of a seasoned soldier or you will do very little and accomplish nothing. Planting a local church demands, almost more than perhaps anything else, unceasing, consistent progressive hard work, both natural and spiritual. The enemy will not rest as he violently opposes you every forward step you take. This is what the Apostle Paul meant when he declared, ‘I have fought with beasts at Ephesus’ (1 Cor 15:32). Thus, you must keepplowing, keep digging, keep building, keep pushing forwardthough the battle rages and the storm winds blow; you will be required to be equally adept at both shovel and sword. As you will see, if you don’t do it, it probably won’t get done. You and your family will be required to do almost everything while many will assume you do very little of anything. This will become your way of life, but don’t allow yourself to grow weary in well-doing (Gal 6:9; 2 Th 3:13). Cultivate a servant’s heart, and whatever you do, do it as unto Jesus and not merely for men. Expect very little recognition; from the point you step into pastoral ministry you will be under-appreciated and taken for granted. Yet, keep a right spirit and seek the praise that comes from God alone (Jn 12:43). Of course, remember, at your very best you are merely an unprofitable servant (Lk 17:10).
18. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. Establish Biblical goals and expectations while not limiting God. Don’t allow yourself to determine success by numbers. Keep your eyes on Jesus and concentrate on obedience to Him. The qualityof your service is far more important than the quantity of those who become a part. There will be an extended season of plowing that will thoroughly test your endurance and faithfulness. Be prepared for an intense warfare to center on you and your family. It will take time for the ministry to be established and authority given. Likewise, it will be by-and-by that you’ll completely understand both your giftings and weaknesses. Learn to delegate to those who are strong where you are weak.
19. Know and concentrate on your field of labor. You cannot build a church if you’re not where God has called you. Ministry vagabonds are never good pastors. True, sometimes simply preaching to the flock, like the realities of all genuine ministry, loses some of it’s luster and appeal making ministry anywhere else more enticing, but you must not lose your focus. Hunker down, resist the temptation to travel and preach out, though calculated seasons for revival and refreshment are vital.
20. Don’t push doors open; don’t get ahead of God, especially with finances (buildings, musical equipment, church vans, etc.). Only purchase what you need and avoid debt.
21. Establish a spiritual schedule and religiously keep it (service times, prayer times, evangelism, etc.).
22. Pray God kill you if you backslide (Prov 9:10, 16:6).
Of course, this list is merely my thoughts (and echoes of advice given to me by other godly men) and is not intended to be considered exhaustive.
-B.W. Britt Williams