Do you want to be a Church Planter?

A blog post by Jason Helopoulos

What should a church planter look like? Surely he must have gifts in preaching, teaching, leading, shepherding, etc. It is equally clear that he must have some ability to initiate and cast vision for a group of people. He must be a self-starter. And none of us would deny the essentials: that he is committed to preaching the Word of God, applying that same Word to the congregation, and that he have a faithful and active prayer-life. We also know that he must have a heart for the lost, the under-churched, and still be able to disciple those under his care.

I am not an expert on anything (except maybe Chicago Style-pizza and Diet Coke). And I don’t pretend to be an expert on church planting. But as I have reflected over my past four years as a church planter my understanding of what is necessary for faithful service in that field has become more well-informed. There are qualities I had not considered before that I would now say are essential. I would suggest that if a man isn’t marked by these attributes as well, he shouldn’t be considering or be considered for church planting. He must be:

  • Comfortable in Conflict: Who in the world likes conflict? Not many of us. And though a church planter surely does not enjoy it, he must be able to endure it. Maybe the greatest difference in church planting compared to more established churches, is that the church planter is “out front” by himself. There are no other pastors, elders, or leaders in the church, because the church isn’t established. This means there is no one to help carry the burden of conflict. And there is no other target for those seeking conflict. And conflict will come. You don’t have to be a prophet to make that prediction! A church planter must be able endure the burden (even alone) and continue to minister in the midst of it.
  • Have Knowledge of His Weaknesses: There are no buffers between a church planter and the congregation. The smallness of the work creates a close proximity physically, mentally, and spiritually. Due to this, a church planter will readily see his weaknesses reflected and adopted by the people under his care—often without their awareness. If he doesn’t know his weaknesses going in he will by the time he leaves. And at that point, it may be too late.
  • A “Multitasker”: I have a picture in my head. It is one we have all seen: a man holding sticks with multiple spinning plates residing atop them. How does he do it? I don’t know, but it is quite a balancing act. Welcome to church planting. A church planter is usually alone, at least to some degree. Therefore, he must be able to multi-task. There are so many areas of church life and ministry that will call upon him each day. He must be able to do anything from preaching to counseling to preparing orders of worship to washing nursery toys. He is the secretary, pastor, man-on-call, emergency ride, and nursery recruiter. On any given day, he will wear a myriad of hats. Does the average pastor? Yes. I would never argue otherwise. But the church planter usually does so to a greater degree.
  • Persevering: Let’s face it, some of us throw the towel in much earlier than others. There are those who labored through those two-a-day practices during high-school football and others who quit. A church planter must have a persevering personality. Because the ebbs and flows of church planting are quick hitting and continual. This week a family visits and shows interest. And it easy to ride the tide. But the next week two families announce they are leaving and your congregation shrinks in half. There will be weeks and even months that the average church planter wonders what they have gotten into and in those moments perseverance matters a great deal.
  • Able to Step-Aside: Having said that a church planter must be persevering we also must say that an equal attribute is that he  have it within him to step-aside when it is needed. It may be that he is laboring in an area that is difficult for the gospel to penetrate, he has labored for years, and that initial zeal and energy is dissipating. He must know when it is time to hand the reigns over to someone else or even to close the doors of the work. He must persevere, but be self-aware and humble enough to know when to step aside.
  • Humble: I know, all pastors (for that fact all Christians) are supposed to be humble. But in reality, this is a rare quality among men. But among church planters, it must be one of the chief qualities. Pride will kill the efforts of the church plant and his congregation faster than anything else.
  • Have a Love for All Types of People: Again, this seems to be a “no-brainer” and something that we should all embrace. But if we are honest, this is not the case. All kinds of people will be drawn to a church plant. This doesn’t happen to the same degree in well-established churches. As much as we would like it to be otherwise, established churches have reputations. They have been marked by many in the community as the upper-middle class church, the doctrinal church, the black church, the young church, the homeschool church, etc. But a church plant is seldom marked at the beginning. This means that all shades of people will come through the door. And the church planter must be ready in love to minister to all of them. I have found it fascinating to see how many hurting and needy people find their way into a church plant. They often do so, because they have access to the pastor. For some pastors, this is uncomfortable. If that is the case, then church planting isn’t for you.