Assessing the Call to Battle:
Preparing for the Mission
Preparing for life and what lay ahead on the roads of church planting is both an exciting and very serious matter. In Scripture Jesus used several examples to teach us about preparing our hearts and counting the costs of following him. As a follower of Jesus, who senses a call to church planting, we must hear the strength of his teaching:
25Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14:25-33 (ESV)
The first issue we must ask of ourselves is our level of life commitment to our Lord. Any man looking at church planting must first look at his own heart and look to his Lord.
Following Jesus: Being a Humble Student with Character
The above passage was articulated to a crowd of people. The call to be a follower of Jesus is one of full life commitment, the call to church planting means you must be able to say as Paul did, “be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). It has been said that in the early days of planting it is very much like plugging your life into an amplifier. People will watch you as an example of walking with Jesus and following him on his mission.
Church planting is hard work that has many stresses and pressure placed upon those who undertake this call. It will both shape a man and reveal who he really is. Church planters must begin with humble self- examination in the context of their family and local church community before they embark on this mission. The following are some questions to explore as you consider the noble work of taking the gospel to people through church planting.
- Why do you want to plant churches
- Are you doing this to make a name for yourself?
- Are you simply trying to be more radical than other Christians In order to stand out?
- Are you unwilling to work with others at your current church?
- Is this church plant going to be about you, your success, your failure, your renown?
Church planting for the wrong reasons is dangerous to your soul. Planting out of devotion and love for Jesus will fuel you in the work through all that hell will fling at you. From his Twitter account, Pastor Scotty Smith of Christ Community Church in Franklin, TN had this to say about the difficult work of church planting and its effects on the planter.
There is no commitment we will make as church planters of greater importance than living close to Jesus. For church planting can become an idol factory; a prostitution ring; a cruel taskmaster; a breeding ground for addictions...we need church planters who will love Jesus with abandon, and who cultivate a lifestyle of growing in His grace and knowledge. Until you know yourself to be slow of heart to believe the gospel, you will never cultivate a burning heart for the gospel. Churches planted with the DNA of the gospel will be led by those who live a life of gospel astonishment.
As you begin the process of examining your life, doctrine and calling to church planting I want to leave you with an encouragement about your motivation. Church planting should be done for Jesus, by Jesus and for the glory and fame of Jesus. We should do it to be unknown, to see Christ transform lives by the gospel and to see others honor his name. Church planting should be a spiritual act of worship, where in humble service to our King, we give our lives in gospel mission in our day.
Our hearts can be so deceitfully wicked (Jeremiah 17:9) so our motives will never be 100% pure and without mingling of sin. Yet, when motives other than Christ and him crucified, rise up in our hearts, we must repent. God graciously purifies our hearts in the church planting process. Do not resist his rebukes, discipline and refinement. Repentance and deriving our motives anew in the hope of gospel is the path we must take. As we examine our character, heart and motives in church planting some other questions of importance need to be asked. We’ll move to these next.
Who is confirming your calling?
It is amazing that many men feel called to plant churches yet nobody is currently with them in this idea. Now don’t get me wrong, God does call lone prophets to boldly step out and speak for him. God may call you to go out like Jeremiah and other prophets of the old school. What we want to assess is whether certain important parts of the family of God are standing with you to affirm your calling to plant. Wisdom tells us that without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed. (Proverbs 15:22) An affirmation from others of your calling to plant churches seems both wise and fitting for men who seek to be in community and under good authority as they process God’s call on their lives. The following are important people that I think you should consult when contemplating church planting.
Ask Your Wife and Children (age appropriate)
The government of the church is based upon the government of the home. This is born our in the Pastoral Epistles discussing the management of one’s own household and family as a test for qualification in as a pastor (See Titus 1:5-9 and 1 Timothy 3:4,5). Furthermore a man’s marriage is reflective of the type of gospel leadership he will have with others. If his response to be a servant leader and sacrificial lover of his wife is neglected (See Ephesians 5), he is sure to neglect this with others. A church planter will have to lead men to be husbands and fathers so being one can help. I’m not saying a single man cannot plant a church, but I am saying it should be highly exceptional.
In addition to leading his family, a church planter needs his family to be with him on mission and it simply cannot be thought of as “Dad’s thing.” The gospel is and always has been a covenantal and family affair. The community lives mission together, passes of the gospel together and this begins at home (See Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Psalm 78:5-8, Ephesians 6:1-4) Finally, as a practical issue a man’s wife is to be his helper, his friend, his confidant, his lover and an oasis from the stresses and labors of church planting. A man planting a church with his wife not being on his team will be bad for the marriage and bad for the joy of both parties. Seeking unity in calling to gospel centered church planting is a must for a man and his family.
Ask Your Church? Flip not your nose at ecclesial authority
The local community of faith is the place where a man’s gifts and calling can be observed operating in the body of Christ. A fruitful man in ministry within a local church is evident to many. Additionally, a man who cannot be under the authority of local pastors/elders might not be trustworthy to have such authority. I realize that some church settings are less than ideal and that not all local pastors have a vision for planting churches. We still need to seriously ask whether our local church confirms our gifting and calling to gospel ministry and whether or not our pastor(s) see this calling on our lives.
Ask Church Planters?
Many denominations and church planting networks provide great assessment processes to insure a church planting has the right metal for church planting. Some of these assessments are done by actual church planters and pastors who have planted and who are able to understand the stresses, needs, gifting, maturity and spiritual calling necessary to plant churches. Assessment has been shown to greatly enhance the viability of church plants and a good assessment can help identify issues which need to be worked through before planting. A man is wise to seek assessment through a church planting network or denominational entity to help him prepare and move forward counting the costs involved in planting the gospel in new communities.
You can find the Acts 29 Network assessment process described in some detail here.
Ask the Pope in Rome
Just kidding, but feel free if you like.
Most importantly, humbly ask God?
A call to plant the gospel involves God’s calling a man to himself first and foremost as a Christian. We are first called to belong to the Father with Jesus as our mediator and older brother. Our primary calling of grace and intimacy with God must be first. Secondly, God’s call to plant the gospel and preach his Word must be the solid foundation upon which we move forward. If you are uncertain that God has called you to do this. Wait. There is nothing wrong with waiting before the Lord and actively serving mission where you are. In Acts 13 the call of Paul and Barnabas the Holy Spirit for his work was evident to the community and to the men called. Seeking confirmation of a calling into church planting from family, church, other planters and God himself is essential to move forward in humility and zeal. Men, take the time here to wrestle this through.
What are you planting?
As you look at the call to establish a new church you must remember exactly what you were doing. You are serving in Jesus’ Mission, making disciples of Jesus and establishing a local expression of his beloved family. This is not your gig, your kingdom or a place centered on you. Don't ever forget this!
If we count the costs, submit our lives to examination and assessment we will be well equipped for every good work in church planting.