Tue May 21, 2013
by Amanda Edmondson
From prison to ReTrain: Russell’s story
Mon May 20, 2013
9 types of leaders in Scripture
Mon May 20, 2013
by Justin Holcomb
5 bits of wisdom for the professional Christian woman
Sun May 19, 2013
by Shandel Slaten
Sat May 18, 2013
by Hugh Whelchel
5 Tests Church Planters Face
I love being able to chat and dream with church planters, and one of the questions often asked by them is, "What's the one thing you would have wished you'd known before you started?"
My answer is simple: I wish that someone had told me the decision to launch the church was actually going to be one of the easier ones and during the next year or so I would face five critical tests that I believe every church planter goes through.
Test #1 – Finances
I believe that God tests every church planter when it comes to money within the first 12-18 months. I cannot tell you the number of conversations I've had with people who've said, "Things were going great until the biggest giver in the church got upset. Now, I don't know what to do because what he wants isn't the direction I feel God is leading the church... but he gives a huge percentage of the budget."
First of all, every church planter/pastor needs to understand that God is the biggest giver in their church! If it's God's will then it is God's bill. He knows how to take care of what belongs to him. Don't sell God out and put your trust in a dude with a huge checkbook (and usually an ego to match).
When your biggest desire is to keep the biggest givers in your church happy you have ceased to lead and are actually being led!
We faced a financial test early on when we started NewSpring Church. The people who were literally giving 65% of the budget and who were fully on board at the beginning began to back off as the vision of what we were going to do as a church became more and more clear. One night they asked me to come to their home; they shared their feelings with me and let me know that they were no longer going to be a part of the church (they did this in the godliest way possible, there were no hard feelings or verbal jabs on either side, and I still highly respect them to this day).
I would be lying if I said I didn't have an “Oh crap” moment while hearing them share their hearts; however, I had made a decision early on that the vision of what God had placed in my heart was not for sale—it never has been and never will be.
Unfortunately, I've seen so many pastors fail this test because they depend on people way more than they depend on God. When your biggest desire is to keep the biggest givers in your church happy you have ceased to lead and are actually being led!
Test #2 - Critics
One of the verses that has always amazed me is found in the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah is a guy who gets broken by God, risks everything to do a great work for God, gets full of vision and passion, and provides help to a group of people who had all but given up. He wanted nothing more than to see the "impossible" happen and for people to have their hope restored. Yet some people had a problem with it. See Nehemiah 2:10.
Dear church planter, you are foolish if you actually believe that everyone thinks what you're doing is a good thing. Learn early to develop thick skin and not lead through reacting to everything. Rather, be proactive and move on with what God has said. Your dream will be criticized early and often, but if God has set your heart on fire then don't let those who've never actually done anything for him define what they believe you can or can't do in his name!
Test #3 – Faith
Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:6 says that without faith it is impossible to please God. If your vision seems "impossible," if failure is absolutely certain unless God somehow gets involved, I would say that you're probably on the right track. (Please remember that there's a fine line between faith and stupidity, which is why it's so essential to make sure you've heard from God and didn't just eat some bad pizza!)
Church planter, the further along you get in the process, the larger the steps of faith God can call us to take. Don't ever make the foolish assumption that one day the decisions somehow "get easier." If we are walking with God, he will always lead us to the place where we are desperate for him!
Every church planter/pastor needs to ask themselves this question, "Can God trust me with success?"
Test #4 – Commitment
There is a huge difference between a group of people who like your church and then those who are actually committed to it. Sooner or later (usually better if you do it sooner), you've got to ask for commitment. So many pastors are scared to do this because of a fear that they might scare some people away. Let me make you a promise: You will! But as pastors and leaders in the church it's not our job to do all of the ministry, but to train and equip the body to serve the body (see Ephesians 4:11-12).
Too many professional church attenders are used to going somewhere where they "have their needs met" rather than being involved somewhere that allows Jesus to use them to meet the needs of others. Don't be afraid to ask for a commitment early and often—Jesus wasn't (See John 6)!
Test #5 – Focus
As the church grows there will be a temptation to do “more.” Questions will begin to arise such as:
- When are we going to start a midweek service?
- When are we going to start a school?
- When are we going to start a men's/women's/singles' ministry?
- When are we going to ____________.
For some reason church world has fallen for the lie that as a church grows it needs more programs and activities, which is why so many churches get stalled out and stop growing. Not because these programs are necessarily evil, but because they are simply not in the vision of what God wants for that particular church.
Every church planter/pastor needs to ask themselves this question, "Can God trust me with success?" Because having success in ministry often leads to planters/pastors completely losing their focus and leading their people into being busy rather than loving Jesus.
That's why a church planter has to know what God has called him to do before he ever launches. Everyone who walks in the doors of a church plant has a vision for it and if you don’t know what God wants (or if you're scared to say, "No") then your vision will get hijacked and you'll eventually be the pastor of a church that you don't like.
God saved you, God called you, God has equipped you, and God will sustain you. Focus on him and do what he says!