Top Issues Church Planters Face #1

Summary: This article on Top Issues Church Planters Face discusses some issue found in a Christianity Today article.

In this post, I am commenting on several websites on church planting that I have seen.

This article lists the following issues:

  1. Lack of Experience.
  2. Feeling the Need for Speed (Volunteers)
  3. No Core Leaders
  4. Feeling the Need for Speed (Paid Staff)
  5. Need for Resources
  6. Realities of Reproduction

While the lack of experience is a problem, those who have been in local churches all their lives will have a lot of background that counts in this. I cannot emphasize the importance of being in a good church, under a good man of God. This is essential for every Christian, and being under mediocre men will not cut it.

But I kind of laugh at this one, though. It is as if there are golden skills that a “real church planter” has that will take him sailing easily through the process. That is a crock. Really, truthfully, I have been in church planting all my life just about and pastoring these churches, and nobody knows what you will face. Being a good Christian, a humble man of God is about the only real essential here. What pastors face often cannot be foreseen, and you just have to react to it the best you can, saturating it with prayer, and the fact of the matter is, you, like the majority of pastors out there, will get it wrong, once and again. Don’t sweat it. Learn, change, prevent, build up against future problems of that same nature.

2. Feeling the need for Speed Volunteers

“Church planting can be lonely and messy.” Really? It would seem to me as I visit hundreds of churches in the US for missionary support that pastoring anywhere under any condition is lonely and messy! If you need a fuzzy, warm, emotional support to keep going, you should get out of the ministry altogether. People will grind you up and chew you up, and spit you out if you let them.

You have to have rhino hide to make it in the ministry. Church planting is no different. Most pastors have the situation where they cannot really get emotionally attached to anybody in their ministry (have a real friend) because it would be favoritism. They cannot form strong friendships with other pastors either because “they are the competition”. Rarely pastors will have a pastor friend that they feel confident enough to confide in. With pastor’s wives, it is 100 times worse.

The point in the article is that there is an automatic reception of anybody that offers to work. This is true. So many times we have asked people or they have asked us to work in some ministry in the church only to see their unfaithfulness unraveled before our eyes. I preached Sunday School as well as the other services, and so I offered the men in the church a chance to take a Sunday School class, any topic they desired. I made a schedule and gave one man a Sunday about 4 months off so he can get prepared.

The morning he was to give his class, when I was getting ready to open in prayer he comes up to me and says, “Pastor, I didn’t have time to get anything together, so I cannot give the class.” Did I give him more opportunities in the future? Yes. Why? God gives me the people we have, and I have to make lemonade with these lemons somehow. I wish I had Bible scholars, faithful men and women, but they just are not that. What they are is sinners, saved by grace. It is my duty to help make them into something else. That is our function here as a church ministry, to equip the saints, so don’t cry over people that are the rawest of material, work with them to make them what they should be.

3. No Core Leaders

I would differ here with this article. The problem is not JUST WITH NO CORE LEADERS, it is will bad leaders. Over the years we have been replete and overflowing with johnny come lately leaders that would take over the work from me. At one point, a man who had come into our fellowship only that same year wanted us to make elders, with this guy and myself as the only elders.

We had about 10 men preaching and teaching and helping with the administration of the church. I said, “well, okay, I have been pastoring and planting churches for 20 years, but why are you included?” Various times with different people the same has happened. People are jumping at the bits to take over the work from me, “and do it right,” or “pick it up off the floor”, etc.

My answer to all of these people is the same. I started this church from nothing, and built it up by my own energies and efforts. If you want to take over something, pick any of a million other places around and start a church plant. Don’t take over somebody already doing the job!

Leadership is totally misunderstood though in modern society. What people think a leader is is that a person gives orders to everybody else. That is not leadership.

True biblical leadership is being an example of Christ in your own life. This example is placed so that others can see it, copy it in their own lives, and enter into the godly walk the leader has. The Bible presents church leaders as “pastors” (shepherds), and this is the opposite of cowboys and wranglers. Pastors build relationships with their sheep, and when they move, the pastor walks out in front of them (leads) and the sheep follow. Wranglers use whips and cattle prods and push from behind. The difference is very important to keep in mind in church work.

See my tract ch51 Cowboys versus Shepherds

4. Feeling the Need for Speed (paid staff)

Okay, I can fully understand their point here. It is bad to hire friends, church people who need jobs, family, etc. That is exactly true. But the counterpoint to this is that many times it is cruel and unfeeling to those sheep under your charge to pass over them for somebody outside when they can also do the job. Being a pastor is about feeling the needs, pains, and struggles of your sheep. Compassion is why pastors do this more than ignorance or lack of experience.

5. Need for Resources

Resources are always a problem it seems. It is interesting that the article puts a typical church plant with 40 people at the end of a year. 85 is when a pastor needs a second full-time staff member. I would basically agree with these numbers.

Many churches are at 40 5 to 10 years into their existence though, so while it is possible, there are a lot of ups and downs in church work that are not so easily explained nor predicted.

I think that there is another factor here also. That is a really good, active second staff member versus a lazy one. Equally, the energy level of the church planter pastor is in view here. Those that are active and constantly evangelizing will have less problem with finances and resources than one that wants others to do their work for them.

This is an issue of two working together to do double the work, or one seeing the other as a way of getting out of work.

More Articles on the Church

6. Realities of Reproduction

I don’t follow the reasoning of having to plant a second church in three years of their existence. Frankly, churches need to establish their own base before they go out. Yes, they can support missionaries and other church plants during these formative years, but to force this requirement on them seems artificial and unnecessary in my experience.

Reproduction has a lot of elements in it, and wherewithal is the most important. Forcing that without reason or means is not wise.

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Pastor David Cox is a missionary. See my ministry updates here.