I had the privilege to plant and pastor a multiplying, gospel-centered, and disciple making local church. The last nine years of my life were devoted to seeing a gospel-centered local church birth in the religious culture of of the bible belt south. Approximately half of our membership joined by baptism, which was a testimony of conversion growth and the power of the gospel at ground zero of churched culture.
I can honestly say it was the most difficult and rewarding experience I have ever undertaken. When I am asked by new planters to talk about what to do, I alway's respond by telling them, let me tell you what not to do first. As with any journey, hindsight is always 20/20, we see clearly looking back. Here are 5 Lessons, in no particular order, I learned during my church planting journey:
1. Be Patient not Impulsive.
Most, not all:) church planters are naturally impatient. The last years of planting were the most enjoyable for me, just because I grew in patience. If you think you have to (fill in the blank with whatever scenario), it would probably be wise to wait. God is sovereign and your patience is a testimony to that reality.
It is easy for a passionate leader to confuse impulsive leadership with spiritual leadership.
2. Be a Shepherd not a Driver.
Shepherds know, feed, lead, and protect the sheep. Jesus call's us to shepherd the flock until he returns. Your personality can never be an excuse to not shepherd. I always see bedouin shepherds when leading trips to Israel. I have never seen a shepherd driving sheep, he is alway's leading them. If your shepherding doesn't look like Jesus, your following the wrong shepherd.
Cattle are driven; sheep are led; and our Lord compares His people to sheep, not to cattle. - A.W. Tozer
3. Be Teachable, not a Know-It-All.
The older I get, I feel the less I know. I am so grateful for men who invested in me, even when I wasn't very teachable. I learned this 20 years ago from Howard Hendricks in"Teaching To Change Lives". He made a statement in that book I have always kept in front of me, "If you stop growing today, you stop teaching tomorrow", leaders will be learners. I am reminded daily, that my journey as a leader, husband, and father is a display of the gospel as I am teachable and grow in Christ. John Maxwell, suggest 10 questions to determine, if you are really teachable:
- Am I open to other people’s ideas?
- Do I listen more than I talk?
- Am I open to changing my opinion based on new information?
- Do I readily admit when I am wrong?
- Do I observe before acting on a situation?
- Do I ask questions?
- Am I willing to ask a question that will expose my ignorance?
- Am I open to doing things in a way I haven’t done before?
- Am I willing to ask for directions?
- Do I act defensive when criticized, or do I listen openly for truth?
4. Be Accountable not An Authoritarian.
As a called pastor, you have derived authority from the Lord Jesus Himself. In His sovereign pattern He has placed pastors in position's of authority to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. The danger happens when we misuse our derived authority and become passive aggressive authoratarians. The only way authority is not abused is when it submits to authentic accountability. Who has permission to tell you no or stop? Who has permission to adjust your self-perception?
“shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:2–3, ESV)
5. Share the gospel personally, as much as you Talk about the gospel publicly.
I have never been more convicted about my lack of of evangelism than right now. Yes, I shared my faith during my planting years; but more often than not it was circumstantial evangelism, not what I would call intentional evangelism. Moving to New Orleans has been an eye opener! The needs and lostness here are overwhelming and the only hope for New Orleans is the good news of Jesus. In truth there was great lostness where I planted and pastored, but my context made it easier to talk about evangelism than be an evangelist. Share the gospel personally as much as you talk about the gospel publicly.