Core competencies of a church planter (2)

By Andrew Munneke

This might surprise some people, but I have a bit of a green thumb. I am one of the few people that complain HGTV is a little bit more “Home” than it is “Gardening” television. So as spring has come upon us and the grass seed we planted back in October has developed deep roots, I’m starting to get excited about cultivating and nurturing my lawn to the award-winning lawn it deserves to be.

Now besides the planting aspect of gardening, you might be wondering what this has to do with church planting. Well, here’s the thing…I might have the greatest passion and vision for my lawn. I can see the corner where I’ll start to mow, how short and thick I want my grass, and the type of flowers that need to bloom in direct sunlight and those that will thrive in the shade. But my vision and passion for my lawn is not going to take me anywhere in cultivating it if I do not have the right equipment.

You see, I know many church planters that are high on vision and are passionate about the Gospel, but they become ineffective because they didn’t take the time to assess if they had the right gifting and knowledge for the ministry.

Passion and enthusiasm for the Gospel is absolutely essential—and it’s good!—but that in and of itself is not qualifying. I could be passionate about singing and dedicate my whole life to it, but because I am not gifted in it I doubt that Blake Shelton will twirl his chair for my voice.

In my last blog I addressed the question, How do you know if you’re qualified to be a church planter? We looked at the characteristics of a church leader and discovered that only one of those characteristics is a skill—teaching—while the rest are about your character (1 Timothy 3). If you haven’t read the previous blog, check it out real quick then come back.

Now that we’ve tested your character and calling, let’s test your gifting.

Theological clarity

For me, the first core competency is theological clarity. By that I mean do you know the Scriptures? Can you answer doctrinal questions? Can you bring the Gospel forth in every Scripture? Do you know what you believe and can you apply it to all circumstances?

If you’re counseling someone who’s had a miscarriage, are you sympathetic but also grounded in Scripture as you counsel? Or if someone comes to you and they’re in debt, can you resist the temptation to give them great principles (like cutting up the credit cards or taking a Dave Ramsey class) and instead say, “There will be a time to cut-up those credit cards, but let’s look at the heart of why you keep running to materialism rather than finding joy and satisfaction in the Lord”? 

I talked a little bit in the last blog about the only “skill” is the ability to teach, so obviously the ability to teach is important. So you can ask yourself, your mentors, and the Lord if you need to grow in that, and perhaps even consider more education in that.

Leadership ability

The second one would be your leadership. Do people follow you? Do you have a history of starting things from scratch? Do you live a lifestyle worth following? How you lead people in the microcosm of your family?

Just saying this now, but as the pastor of a church, your marriage is going to be the lead example for your church. Paul says this in (1 Timothy 3:1-5). The first thing you can do is examine if your household resembles what your ministry should look like.

What about other aspects of leadership like casting vision, or attracting and building and connecting leaders? How do people react under you? Do they feel squashed and stepped on?

And something that’s really important before you tackle being a lead pastor: do you have any experience in leadership? If not, let’s get some more reps under you…

{ …in a microcosm you definitely learn what it’s like to shepherd people through hard times. }

In a microcosm like your family or a small group, you learn how to communicate, “This is when we’re meeting. This is when we’re hanging out outside the group. This event was cancelled. Here’s what we’re studying…”

And, more than just logistics, in a microcosm you definitely learn what it’s like to shepherd people through hard times. Hopefully you’re getting people to come and talk to you about their heartbreaks, doubts and struggles, and because of this you’re learning how to shepherd.

I do want to say this about leadership in a microcosm: when a small group shrinks or grows, it can be for many different reasons. However, there is a point where it is an indicator of your leadership.

Making disciples

The third competency I would mention is discipleship. That might seem like a no-brainer, but what I’m talking about is not just teaching someone but walking the whole spectrum with them—taking someone from being an unbeliever to being a disciple and an elder.

So there is evangelism (which is preaching the Gospel), and obviously unbelievers need to hear the Gospel. But if you take a look at the life of Jesus, He had that missional-relational kind of living life with people and brought them into the body of Christ.
empty church

Can you do this? Maybe you’re a little socially awkward or shy, but can you connect with people? Can you walk with them daily and speak the truths of Scripture into their life? 

At the same time, I also believe that discipling an unbeliever to the point of a devoted Christ follower is more of a community effort than individual effort. I think where we have crippled ourselves is when we say, “Bill, it’s up to you to lead your neighbor to Christ,” but Billy’s not the best at presenting the Gospel in a way that’s compelling for his neighbor.

This is where I want to say, “Bill, that may not be you; it may be Sally who has that gift set. But your job is to invite him to our church, and once he’s here someone else can talk with him about what he believes, why he believes it, and then present him with the Gospel.”

So what camp are you in?

Maybe you’re not cut out for church planting. If you’re thinking this or someone close to you says this, it should not be an identity-crisis thing. For most people who don’t have the gifting of church planting, that absolutely does not mean that you can’t lead a small group or spend time with non-believers!

On the other hand you might have the gifting of church planting, but you’ve still got to establish the groundwork and framework that will drive you even when the passion leaks out.

So if we were talking face to face, I would expect to see one of three reactions. So let’s figure out where you are and consider your next step…

  1. Absolutely this is not for me. I know I’m not a church planter. I like the Bible but it’s confusing to me, or I don’t have a strong leadership profile, or I’m a follower more than a leader.

That’s okay! You can still be passionate about church planting and contribute in so many ways without being the pastor of a church plant. The person who’s great at one-on-one or who is more reserved when it comes to the crowd is just as needed for building up the church. Church planters need you as a team member and to excel in your gifts—especially in the gifts that we don’t have!

I would say your next step is to serve your church plant or team up with someone who has the gifting. There are plenty of avenues for you to be a part of the missional strategy of church planting.

  1. I don’t feel the passion, but I’m seeing some areas to assess and work on.

This is a good place to be. First, have you told your pastor and people who can speak into your situation? Second, have you looked for opportunities to help you grow in your leadership ability, to meet lost people, to make disciples? Consider getting involved with a residency or pursuing more education.

  1. I know church planting is for me! I think I have the right stuff and I’m ready to move forward to the next step.

Awesome! For that next step, read blog three in this series.

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