Most church planters go through a very painful, but essential refining process. It goes something like this:
- I could plant a church.
- I could never plant a church.
- I believe God wants me to plant a church.
- I can do this by God’s help.
- I think this can work–we are going to do this!
It is obvious how important this process is. After all, if the leader is not compelled by the mission and vision then how in the world will anyone else be?
At the same time, within these seeds of vision and resolve, there are seeds of expectation and ambition. Most often we think in terms of numbers and influence. We have dreams for 50, 75, 150, 200, 250 and 500 people. We identify and pour into leaders. We pray for specific types of leaders to get on board with us. We think about training in such a way that more churches are planted. We know where we want to go, but sometimes we forget how to get there.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say you are relatively small (50-70 people) and 100 people showed up out of nowhere. You say, “That’s great!” But is it? Sure you’d have more people, feel like things are moving ahead towards your goals and also getting some (much needed) affirmation and validation. But is this best for the mission? Is this what you really want?
Let me explain. At the core of the church planting effort is the understanding and articulation of mission. The purpose of the church has to be regularly stated, restated, understood, and believed. If it is not, there will still be mission but it will be anything but cohesive and effective.
In our context at Emmaus our mission is to make and train disciples who make and train disciples. We are working to emphasize evangelism and discipleship. It is pivotal for our leaders to be synced up and clicking on this. Further, there must be another whole level of people who are with us, serving as mission catalysts. It is like painting a very large building. One guy could do it but he’d probably need to repaint by the time he got back around to the front. It is best to have a team who are all on the same page, covering the place in paint. This is what the church does, it presses the mission of the church down into the crevices, corners and hard to reach places.
If a church planter gets his wish of a ton of people without having a core team that can serve as mission catalysts with him then he will have a very difficult time syncing people up. Part of this has to do with the amount of people but it also has to do with the associated items that come with growth. In addition to the obvious, growth also brings counseling, questions, and conflict. All of this translates into time. Of course, this is ministry, it is what we signed up for. At the same time there is still a lot of other things to get done. If the pastor does not have a core team to help him then the little ferry carrying the mission will capsize.
Does the church planter really want a bunch of people to come? Of course he does. But he must realize if he is talking about impact by means of the mission catching on then it takes time. Instead of thinking about ways to get a bunch of people to come to their gatherings, planters would be better served by prayerfully and faithfully building into core people who could do the same.
The thing that got the church planter in the game in the first place was the mission. He was compelled by God and what he might do through him. It is this compelling mission catching on that he is after. This takes time and effort.