The 1 Step Guide to Church Planting

August 23, 2011


At the risk of offending friends and colleagues who are doing a  lot of good ministry, I’d like to share the 1 Step Guide to Church Planting.

Step #1 – Go where the church isn’t.

Church planter – are you planting the church where it isn’t?

Tell me about your ambition...

The Apostle Paul put it this way:  “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation” (NIV, Romans 15:20).

Church planter – are you building a fresh foundation or baking stale bread?

We talk these days about being missional and creating reproducible movements but sometimes I think it’s all chatter that disguises our false motives.  A good friend of mine who is a church planter told me two weeks ago that he was unwilling to move his family halfway around the world, where most of the unreached peoples are.  So he is planting in a community where dozens of other churches already exist.

If we are starting a church down the block from three other churches, what is so missional about that?  If there are 30 churches in our county or 125 in our city or 500 in our state, do we think that our church is going to be better, more glorifying to God, than the others?  Based on what?  Our theology?  Our interpersonal skills?  Or has God specifically pointed out your location to do something new, relevant, ground breaking in the Kingdom?

Five Ways Bin Laden Has Influenced Missional Church Planting

Here are some questions for every church planter to ask of himself and herself:

  • How did you pick the location of your church plant?
  • Why is that location strategic?
  • What has God done noticeably in history and sociologically in that neighborhood, suburb, town, city, state or nation that influences how you plant the church?
  • Is your location ripe for harvest?  How do you know?
  • How many churches have failed in your location and for what reasons?  How many have succeeded?
  • What does the government say – what do the people think – about Jesus, about church and about you (your ethnicity, citizenship and background) in that location?
  • Have there been ANY attempts in planting a church in that community?  In the last ten years? Fifty years?  Five hundred years?

Is God using you to do something new (fresh foundation) with his age-old gospel or are you planting a church that will die in fifteen years (stale bread)?

Introducing the Sending Church

Few of your churches will be around in 50 years, even fewer after 100 years.  What are the elements that make a church last a century or more?  Is the nature of the soil one of those elements?

Slate magazine suggests that North Americans “want others to believe they are more religious than they really are.”  How does that influence our church-planting in the United States and Canada?

Should we ignore the fact that thousands of churches close their doors in the US every year while millions of people around the globe don’t even know who Jesus Christ is?  Maybe a lot of Americans never heard the name of Jesus in those dying churches either.

None of the Apostle Paul’s churches remain.  But his passion that built churches that planted the gospel that built additional churches that planted the gospel that one day reached you and I is alive.

Will your church plant, your movement make that kind of impact?  Maybe selecting a field that is ripe for harvest would help.  Or being invited into the area by government and political leaders.  Or taking a risk (or 10) that could break the ground in an area where Christ has not been named.

Ed Stetzer encourages us to “live a holy and pure life among those who do not know God.”  If three out of ten of our neighbors know God while in a neighborhood in Libya zero of ten knows God, shouldn’t we go to Libya to plant a church rather than our own neighborhood?

As it is written, “those who have never been told of him shall see, and those who have never heard of him shall understand” (NRSV, Romans 15:21).  Or will they?

Only if we go.  Only if we send.  Only if we plant the church where it is not.

Mercy Turns Uncertainty Into Opportunity
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2 Comments on “The 1 Step Guide to Church Planting”

  1. GRC Says:

    shouldn’t we go to Libya to plant a church rather than our own neighborhood? YES & NO

    In 386 a Lybian named Augustine came to Christ a changed the world. Maybe if the Church would have continued to plant chuches in Lybia there wouldn’t be a Zero out of Ten ratio now!

    I hope that the needed work of planting churches were there are none does not mean the exclution of keeping the Church vibrant were it is now.


  2. Brian Stankich Says:

    GRC, it seems to me that with as many people who claim to be true believers, choose whatever metric we want, there would be plenty of resources available to keep all current churches vibrant such that their overflow would be new churches all over the country and all over the world. So they aren’t mutually exclusive ideas.

    Thanks for pointing that out.

    If any of us could approach the faithfulness of Augustine, that would be incredible. North Africa was Christian. What happened? Egypt, where I used to live, was a center for Christianity (Alexandria). Did God break it up? Did Satan have his way? Did the people lose the vision? Are Muslims more powerful?



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