How do you know for sure that you are supposed to be a church planter? I’m pretty sure most of us have never woken from deep sleep to find “Thou Shalt Planteth Mine Church” scrawled by the finger of God in the ceiling above. Generally, I would guess the Holy Spirit has stirred a desire in your heart that was affirmed by leaders and members of your current church. It also seemed that your skill set fit church planting, and you were excited about the opportunities that church planting presented to attempt an entrepreneurial challenge.
Let Me Tell Ya.
Well, I’ve been in the game for about three years now, and here are a few of the challenges I’ve faced.
I built a leadership team. We wrote a church mission statement and created a new church covenant. I had to put together a philosophy of ministry and do intense study on proper ecclesiology. I developed an expository preaching schedule. We grew to appreciate deep, Christ-centered preaching.
I designed a new church logo. I had to create new signage, order said signage, and erect said signage. I had to throw up new paint in an old facility and plant new flowers. I had to help our church gain an online presence. I created a church website (and hosted it). I started and maintained a blog on current events, theological topics, and practical Christian issues. I got our church registered with TGC and 9Marks, created a Facebook page, and setup a sermon podcast.
We launched a small group ministry from my living room. I held meetings at local coffee shops. I’ve met college students and spent time in the student commons. I’ve grown in desperate prayer for our community. We’ve had to cultivate a new culture around the word and prayer.
I’ve dealt with church funding struggles. I’ve been an event planner and coordinator. We’ve had to come up with entrepreneurial ways to establish a footprint in our city, particularly in the schools and college. I’ve been meeting new people and developing friendships for the sake of the Gospel.
I’ve had to put together good liturgy. I’ve had to think hard about our church’s music, hymns, prayers, and sermons. I’ve dealt with interpersonal conflicts and how best to shepherd and disciple believers in an effort see believers knit together in love. I’ve had to teach people how to evangelize and disciple–and then had to do a ton of it myself.
I’ve built a network of ministry partners in the community. I’ve gone to a completely foreign part of the country and had to learn to contextualize. I’ve had to learn to balance family time and ministry time. We’ve learned to leverage our home for the sake of the Gospel, sharing meals with friends and families from the community.
But there’s just one thing…
I’m not a church planter.
I’m three years into a church revitalization. From the looks of all of the stuff I’ve been up to, you wouldn’t be able to tell that our church is actually sixty years old. When you really think about it, the differences between the challenges of church planting and church revitalization are quite few compared to the vast array of similarities.
Perhaps you are called to church planting after all, but I would encourage you: don’t slam the door shut on church revitalization just because you are into web design, or you enjoy researching ecclesiology, or you are really into launching small groups. In many ways, the only main difference between planting and revitalization is the age of the church. The church planter is planting a new vibrant church, watering it, tilling, and fertilizing in hopes of Spirit-given life. The church revitalizer is watering, tilling, and fertilizing a once vibrant church plant in hopes of new Spirit-given life.
Ultimately, we must always remember, “Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:7).