Church planting is a highly specialized form of ministry. There is a huge difference between pastoring a church and planting a church. The focus of the pastor tends to be inward upon feeding the sheep and ministering to those who are already in the fold. The focus of the church planter tends to be outward on reaching those who are not believers and who are not yet in the fold. God equips each man with different skills, abilities, gifts, burdens and vision for the future. They each have their own calling.
Confusion Concerning the Planter’s call – Some people wonder if there is such a thing as a “call” to ministry. If there is, how do you recognize it? Is it based on feelings, experiences, circumstance, personal desires or some type of inner peace?
We know from Scripture that God intervenes in people’s lives and directs them to do special things. God called Abraham to leave his father’s house and to journey into a land he did not know (Genesis 12:1; Hebrews 11:8). He called Moses to leave his sheep and go into Egypt to deliver his people (Exodus 3:4-10). He called to Samuel in the middle of the night and appointed him to be his spokesman to the nation of Israel (I Samuel 3:4-10). The Apostle Paul spoke of being called to be an apostle (Romans 1:1). So, there is biblical precedent for being “called” to a particular ministry.
Clarifying the Planter’s Call – Romans 8:28 speaks of being “called according to his (God’s) purpose.” The Apostle Paul serves as the clearest illustration that God does call some men to be church planters. When Paul was saved on the road to Damascus in Acts 9, God told Ananias, “He is a chosen vessel unto me to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.” God already had a ministry in mind for him. It took several years for that “call” to become crystallized, but it was unmistakable when it came. The Holy Spirit made the “call” plain in Acts 13:2 when he said, “Separate me Barnabas and Saul (Paul) for the work whereunto I have CALLED them.” Later, Paul spoke of being “called” to preach the gospel to the heathen (Galatians 1:13-16).
The Conditions of the Planter’s Call – The call to be a church planter comes from God. It is not something you conjure up on your own. Sometimes it comes as a surprise to the person receiving it. It will often be accompanied by a deep burden and passion for lost people and for the unchurched. It may include a desire to carry the gospel to a particular location, area or people. Paul and Barnabas had a passion to reach the people (especially Gentiles and Jews) in Cypress and Asia Minor.
Sometimes the “call” is accompanied by a holy discontent that can’t be satisfied with your current level of service. You’ll find yourself wanting a fuller, deeper or different type of ministry. Be careful, however, that you are not just being negative or critical. Spend much time in prayer and Bible study as you seek to clarify God’s will for your life. If God has called you to the ministry of church planting, he will make it clear to you.
Confirmation of the Planter’s Call – While God calls people personally to be church planters, that call is seldom in isolation. Others will soon sense it as well. The church in Antioch recognized and confirmed God’s call for Barnabas and Paul to be church planters. The church may have actually been the ones who first recognized God’s call on two of their most faithful leaders. They did not rush into this conclusion, but spent
time in fasting and prayer to reach consensus and to confirm God’s call upon these men’s lives. If God is calling you to be a church planter, your home church and others should also be in agreement that this is indeed the case. If they have reservations about whether or not God has called you to this type of ministry, you need to take a step back and reexamine the situation. You (or they) may have misinterpreted God’s leading or the timing may not be right just now.
God often confirms a person’s call to be a church planter by calling the spouse as well. If God has truly called you to this type of ministry, he has called your wife as well. She too will sense God’s leading in this direction. You are a team, and you need to be in agreement if you are to move forward. In addition, if God is calling you to church planting, he will give you some of the traits and characteristics common to many church planters – things like a passion for the lost, being a visionary self-starter, a person of faith, and the ability to organize things and inspire people to follow your leadership. Being assessed as a prospective planter can confirm that the Lord of harvest has gifted and “wired” you to be a lead church planter.
Contact us for further information on going through an objective church planter assessment. This website also has information on the value of being assessed and where you can get it done.