5 Things To Know Before Starting A Church
1. Know why God is calling you to plant.
Determining your motives and examining your heart is of upmost importance when feeling called to plant a church. Often times, our honest intentions of reaching people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ are mingled and muddled with personal goals, hidden agendas, and prideful motivations. Some of these unhealthy causes might include creating a salary for ourselves, reacting against other churches/ministries, or refusing to submit to spiritual authority. These factors stem from fear, desperation, and entitlement and are by no means the solid foundation needed to start a church. Left unchecked, these ingredients will only lead to destruction in your ministry and in your family. The primary, biblical reasons for starting a church should always be the following: (1) to bring God glory, (2) to obey His Word, (3) to teach His people, and (4) to save His children. These must take precedence above anything and everything else including church programs, community efforts, and humanitarian aid. These things are the foundation of the church (Acts 2:42-47) and must be kept primary and in order.
First, all throughout scripture we see God placing emphasis on worshiping Him, even above ministering to the needs of people. This framework keeps us from idolizing ministry influence, prestige, and power; instead, it keeps God at the center of every decision and action. Second, we must remember that church planting is ultimately obedience to the Great Commission. Jesus told us to "go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." (Matt. 28:19-20) These things are primarily done through the advancement and work of the local church. Third, teaching and instructing the people of God into Christlike maturity and christian service is how the church operates as a “pillar of truth” in a community. (1 Tim. 3:15) Last but not least, our goal must always be to see those far from God reconciled to Him through the precious sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ.
2. Know who God is calling you to plant with.
Also of upmost importance is who you partner with in starting a church. The backbone of a church are the men of God called to lead. The future of the church rises and falls upon their character. It is not about surrounding yourself with men of talent and charisma, although God can use those things, the leaders of the church must have integrity that is rock solid and convictions that are unwavering based on the Word of God. Too often we rush to recruit people to partner with us that we know and enjoy rather than waiting for God to network like-minded men to form a solid team of biblical elders. We believe that God has a specific plan and model for church leadership that fits into five categories: (1) pastoral leadership, (2) shared leadership, (3) male leadership, (4) qualified leadership, and (5) servant leadership. These are the descriptions and designations in scripture in regards to New Testament church leadership.
First, elders/overseers should be appointed to “shepherd the flock of God,” taking daily interest in the congregation's practical and spiritual needs. (1 Peter 5:2) This goes against the culture's idea of distant and removed elders voting on a committee time to time. Instead, it calls for elders to completely invest their time, talent, and treasure as pastors of the church. Second, elders/overseers should lead the church as a team and not as a hierarchy of dictatorial leaders fighting to sit atop a governmental pyramid. This model is no where in the New Testament as even the apostles were called to be “first among equals.” (1 Tim 5:17) Third, the Bible is clear that the office of elder/overseer is reserved for godly, qualified men, and not women.
[This is not to demean women or to say that men and women are not equal, but simply that they have different roles in the church. Paul makes this point clear when he says that he “does not permit a woman to teach or take authority over a man.” (1 Tim. 2:12) The context of this passage is elder-level authority in a local church, and Paul uses a timeless principle example to make his point when he refers to Eve being deceived. In this way, Paul’s argument is not contextual to the time but applicable to all times.]
Fourth, elders must also be examined and meet all the biblical qualifications before ever being appointed to lead. (1 Tim. 3:2-7; Titus 1:6-9; 1 Peter 5:1-3) Lastly, the biblical model of leadership, as most perfectly displayed in our Lord Jesus, is the servant-leadership model. (John 13:14-15) This model is a constant reminder for elders/overseers to serve, rather than be served, and to place the needs of the body above their own. These are the type of men you want to surround yourself with when planting a church.
3. Know where God is calling you to plant.
Understanding which city God wants you to impact through the preaching of the gospel is crucial to your success in the Kingdom of God. Some practical advice here is necessary. Assess the needs of the city your are feeling called to. Gather information about church statistics, religious affiliation, median age, common occupations, population, gender, race, and anything else that will help you better understand the people. When God calls you to a specific place, it’s because he wants to reach the people through you. (Jonah 1:2) This means that His primary concern is not your preference on location, climate, or scenery, but where you and your team will be most effective at bringing Him glory and reaching people with the good news of Jesus. Oh, and don't forget...PRAY. Ask God for wisdom on where to plant and He will give it to you. (James 1:5)
4. Know when God is calling you to plant.
We cannot emphasize enough the importance of seeking God’s timing in this process. You must learn to wait on His providence to align circumstances. As the leadership team of Start Church we have each individually learned hard lessons on this matter. If you step out in faith prematurely, you could be guilty of presumption. (Psalm 19:13) If you don’t move promptly when called, you could be guilty of disobedience. (John 15:14) This process of seeking God’s will requires patience, persistence, and perseverance. Again, some practical help includes seeking counsel, fasting, and meditation. Most importantly, wait for God to open clear doors and be attentive to the seasons in your own life.
5. Know how God is calling you to plant.
Finally, it is necessary to understand what kind of church God is calling you to plant and the proper strategy required to succeed. Too many church plants fail due to lack of provision and planning. The Bible is clear that strategic planning is a non-negotiable for successful enterprise. (Prov. 24:6-16) Is God calling you to start a large church or a small church? To be one campus or a multi-site? To specialize in pastoral training or possibly overseas missions. What percentage of your budget will be used for facilities and salaries? How will you fundraise initially? How will you use marketing to your advantage? What kind of ministries will you offer and which ones will you intentionally not offer?
Understand your doctrine, theology, ministry philosophy, and methodology and be able to articulate it and defend it well. Some helpful tools might be to go through church planting training with a particular network or program. You might also want to consider becoming affiliated with a denomination. Obviously, study up and read good books on church planting. But more than all of this, it is ultimately the Holy Spirit who moves and grows His Church (Acts 2:47). Seek Him and submit to Him every step of the way, and you will see good fruit. Don’t let the stats about church plants failing scare you. If you keep these five things in proper perspective, you will do well.