Am I Called to Plant a Church?
Below are a few questions to consider when discerning whether God is calling you to plant a church with the Forest Lakes District. These questions aren’t meant to be a rigid checklist by any means but should generally give you clues about whether church planting should be in your future.
1. Do You Have a Strong Desire to Plant?
How strong is your desire to plant a church and why do you feel so strongly about it? Church planting has become trendy in the last several years. While we are thankful that the biblical mandate of church planting has returned as a priority for the local church, you need to realize that there many ways to be in gospel ministry other than planting a church. Do you have a strong desire to plant a church or is this someone else’s desire for you? Are you trying to follow in the footsteps of your favorite preacher on the internet or is this a desire that’s been placed in you by God? Merely having a strong desire doesn’t mean you’re called, but having a strong desire is always part of a calling.
2. What’s Your Level of Character?
Are you characterized by the qualifications for an elder in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9? If you aren’t deeply familiar with these passages, we would strongly recommend you studying them with a pastor, elder, or mentor from your church. This is important because, generally, you shouldn’t plant a church if your current local church has not affirmed your character. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your skills can make up for a lack of character. If the level of your skills surpass your level of character then you’re setting yourself up for a train wreck. That’s because your skills will often give you success that your character can’t handle.
3. Is Your Primary Motive to Reach Non-Christians?
The primary motive for planting a church should be to reach non-Christians with the gospel. I think all planters have this motive in their heart, but for many this isn’t their primary motive. Planting a church to “do church better” than the other evangelical churches in town is not a good enough reason to plant a church. Granted, not all evangelical churches are equally faithful or fruitful, but that doesn’t change the fact that your church needs to be planted in response to the needs of the mission and not in response to how other churches aren’t getting it right. People are perishing without Christ, so plant a church with that as your primary motive instead of simply planting the church that you’ve always wanted to attend.
4. Where Are You Going to Plant?
Planting a church is ultimately about taking the gospel to a particular city to reach a particular people. If you simply have a generic desire to plant a church but aren’t sure about where or who it would reach, then we would encourage you to pray for further clarity from God before proceeding. Where and who is God burdening your heart for the sake of the gospel?
5. Is God Opening Doors in Your City?
How widely is God opening doors for the advancement of the gospel in your particular city? This is important to consider because the mere desire to plant a church in a particular city is not enough to proceed with your plans. For example, do you already have a substantial group of people in your particular city? Is there no gospel witness at all in your particular city? Is there a huge opportunity for funding in your particular city? If God has called you to plant a church somewhere, he will most likely be opening doors for you in that place.
6. Are You a Cultural Insider?
There are many times where planters are called to plant a church in a culture that is starkly unlike their own. We often see this in overseas tribal church planters and God is happy to use these faithful planters for his glory. However, it’s probably fair to say that these situations are more of an exception than the rule because, in our experience, most successful planters plant in a place where they are cultural insiders. If you’re a cultural outsider in the city you are planting, your church planting journey will most likely be long and arduous. Our encouragement is to get out a map and consider planting within a six hour drive of where you grew up. But keep in mind that this is a general suggestion and God’s calling shouldn’t be limited by such an exercise.
7. Do you have a Track Record of Starting Things?
Church planters are starters and builders of new things, does that describe you in a meaningful way? Since past performance is the best indicator of future performance, how many things have you started from scratch? Have you started new small groups, new businesses, new initiatives, new clubs, new organizations? If you don’t have a pattern of successfully starting new things, then you will probably need to wait for God to provide a team around you that will compensate for your lack entrepreneurial instincts. Remember, being a faithful Bible teacher or a caring pastor doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a great fit to plant a church.
8. What Has Become Sustainable Under Your Leadership?
Church planting isn’t just about starting something new, it’s also about growing something to the point where it’s healthy and sustainable. Remember, healthy things grow but so do cancers. Do you have a pattern of leading the things you start into seasons of health and balance? If you are great at starting things but don’t have a pattern leading them into health then you will probably need to wait for God to provide a team around you that can help your plant become healthy and sustainable for the long haul. If this is the case, who do you think God might want to add to your core group at the beginning stages of the plant?
9. Who Else Affirms Your Calling?
Affirmation is part of knowing that you’re called. Who are the people closest to you and do they think you should plant a church? What does your current church think about you as a potential planter? Who are the people in your life that have permission to speak hard truths into your life and what do they think about you possibly planting a church? Keep in mind that being called to plant a church is more than just polling your closest friends and family but you should certainly take notice if the people closest to you, and those in authority over you, have mixed opinions about it.
10. How Many People are Willing to Join You?
Sometimes church planters need to parachute into a new city without a core group moving there with them. But in our experience, this should generally be more of an exception rather than the rule due to risk factors pertaining to loneliness and isolation. Successful church planters are leaders who are able to gather people to join them, so who is willing to follow you to plant this church? If God is providing a core group of quality leaders to help you plant your church then this could be an indicator that you’re called.
11. How Do You Feel About Raising Support?
How would you feel if someone told you that you need to raise financial support for all of your income? Money is the currency of the Kingdom, that’s why if you want to do anything significant for the Kingdom of God then you’re going to need to deal with money. The bottom line is that your family is more important than your church plant and you need to provide for your family. If you are debilitatingly unnerved by the idea of asking people to fund your new church then church planting isn’t for you.
12. Have you Gone Through an Assessment?
Taking the time to go through a church planting assessment is a beneficial and worthwhile investment. Taking an online assessment would definitely be worth your time. And having a team of seasoned veteran church planters evaluate your readiness to plant is a step that would certainly be wise. This is something you should consider talking about with the leadership of the Forest Lakes District.
13. Is Your Wife Eagerly on Board With You?
If you’re married, is your wife committed and eagerly on board to the idea of planting a church? How does she feel about it? Generally, if your wife isn’t as excited and committed as you are then we are doubtful that you are called to plant. Your marriage and family are more important than your church plant. Keep this in mind as you prayerfully discern whether planting should be in your family’s future.
14. Are You Faithfully Serving in Your Local Church?
Are you faithfully serving in local church right now? Or do you tend to be a ministry vagabond who can’t seem to serve in a local church for for more than a few years at a time? Sometimes quality leaders are victims of bizarre circumstances which leads them to bouncing around from church to church over the course of several years. But while this is certainly true in some cases, most successful church planters don’t have this kind of resume. Instead, they have a pattern of persevering in the midst of murky circumstances. Before a leader decides to plant a church they should, ideally, put in several years serving their local church, learning to serve under authority, and learning the nuances of faithful and fruitful gospel ministry.
15. Is there Any Subjectivity to Your Calling?
Up to this point we have focused on elements of a planter’s calling that tend to be clear and objective such as character, ministry skills, assessments, ministry track record, etc. These are all vital elements and should be strongly considered when discerning your calling. However, it is our opinion that in addition to these objective elements you should also consider whether there are any subjective elements to your calling. Examples of subjective elements are a direct admonition from God, an unquenchable and unexplainable desire to plant in a specific city, providential provision from the Lord, or other seemingly unexplainable events that are leading you to plant. We don’t think a planter’s calling is necessarily insufficient if they don’t have any of these, but we do think that the average planter’s calling tends to include some degree of subjectivity from the Lord.