Church planting is a lot like free-soloing a mountain. As the climber stands in front of the rock, she can make out all of the potential handholds—the path is clearly visible. But once she begins the ascent, her perspective changes and the path is obscured. For the solo climber, the plan transitions into an exercise in moment-by-moment self-reliance.
For the church planter, all the planning in the world will not perfectly prepare you for everything that starting a new church entails. Once you jump in, you’re advancing by faith. And (hopefully) you’re operating on diving guidance, intuition, experience, and whatever training you’ve been able to internalize.
The actual act of planting a church can be exhilarating for some. The challenging pace and the constant demands make them feel alive. Others might find it to be a terrifying experience. Most people, however, will find themselves vacillating wildly between extremes of euphoria and panic.
I’ve compiled a list of twelve biblical passages to help inspire and energize church-planting staff—no matter how they’re feeling about church planting!
1. Church planters transform communities
He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”—Matthew 13:33
If we think that church planting is about saving individuals, we’re thinking too small. As people encounter Jesus, their lives are changed. Those changed lives come into contact with other lives. The effect on our communities is profound. Paul was right, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” (Gal. 5:9)
Church plants are God’s kingdom infiltrating the world. And while it’s not an immediate transformation, with proper care and attention, it can bring light to the darkest corners of our cities.
2. Church planters are fulfilling Christ’s request
And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.—Luke 14:23
One of the great things about church plants is that they typically don’t have the luxury of relying on a church building to draw in visitors. There’s a strong sense that the church has to be brought into the community or else it will die.
This is Christ’s ultimate design for the church. He doesn’t want to make church the destination, but wants us to go into the world and bring the church to people.
3. Church planters bring people into community
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”—Luke 15:1–10
When these two parables are expounded upon, the focus is typically on God’s concern for us as lost individuals, and how emotionally consumed he is with bringing us home. . . and this is absolutely true.
But it’s important for the church planter to recognize another important factor in these two parables. In both cases, these lost elements are being returned to community. The lost sheep is returned to its brethren, and the lost coin will, once again, find itself back in the coin purse.
We’re not just saving individuals, but helping them experience the belonging they’re looking for within the body of Christ.
4. Church planting fulfills the early church model
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.—Acts 42–47
This passage is the most alluring picture of the early church. It’s simple yet powerful. These believers:
- Listened to teaching
- Enjoyed fellowship
- Shared meals
- Had corporate prayers
- Were awestruck at miraculous experiences
- Shared their belongings
- Worshiped together regularly
- Practiced generosity
- Found favor in their communities’ eyes
Even though they lived in a wicked and decadent time, the church wasn’t in a culture war. They existed to experience God and to make him known. And the most powerful aspect of this whole passage is the last line, the outcome of all this was that “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
5. Church planters encourage the body of Christ
And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia, and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled. And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.—Acts 14:25–27
As church plants throw themselves into their work, it’s important that they’re intentional about chronicling their story. After all, they’re going to need to report to the churches and individuals that are supporting them about all that their doing.
But more than that, their story is a tool that God wants to use to inspire and empower the rest of his church. A church plant’s testimony is the story of God’s work in the world, and it can be a way that he re-energizes church that need a good jolt.
6. Church planters partner with God
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.—1 Corinthians 3:5–7
The church in Corinth was going through some growing pains. A lot of it revolved around people over-identifying with certain members of the early church. Paul wants the church to remember that we’re all partners with the work that God’s doing, but in the end, it’s his work!
7. Church planters are endowed with gifts
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.—Ephesians 4:11–14
Christ’s desire is for the church to be built up in unity and increasing in knowledge. Instead of being at the mercy of a constantly shifting cultural identity, the church would be maturing into Christlike fullness.
The great news is that you’re uniquely equipped with gifts to help get that job done. Sadly, we tend to get focused on the gifts we don’t have rather than developing the ones we do. But once you learn how to surround yourself with people whose gifts compliment yours, there’s no end to what can be accomplished.
If you’re feeling burned out, maybe it’s time to take a close look at the make up of your team.
8. How can they believe if they have never heard?
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”—Romans 10:14-15
Every church has a life cycle, and their evangelistic vitality is dependent upon where they are in that cycle. Many churches can exist for a long time in a state of decline, and during this stage evangelism is one of the first things to suffer. Church plants are important because they infuse the body with evangelistic energy.
9. The power of a godly example
For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.—1 Thessalonians 1:4–7
Paul is thankful for the positive effect that the church at Thessalonica has had in Macedonia and Achaia. But he didn’t teach them how to be good representatives of the gospel, he showed them.
It’s so important that we don’t present the gospel as a series of facts that others need to agree with. The gospel is a life-changing reality which is demonstrated by our behavior. As people experience the gospel at work in the lives of believers, it becomes contagious and spills out in their own lives.
10. Church planting is hard work
For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.—1 Thessalonians 2:9
This verse tells us two things:
- Because Paul was in the game to set people free, he wasn’t going to allow himself to be a burden on anyone.
- He wanted his hard work to be an example that the church followed.
Church planting is hard work, and it’s important that we don’t shirk it. Not only will we give an account for the work that we do, the people we minister to are watching us. Let’s give them the example we want them to follow.
11. We’ll receive our reward at Christ’s return
For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?—1 Thessalonians 2:9
Jesus tells us in Revelation 22:12, “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.”
We don’t toil in vain. Every person we’ve helped to discover the kingdom and every life we’ve ministered into wholeness will be a jewel in our crown when Christ arrives. In our darkest moments, we can’t forget that we’re working for a crown that will last forever (1 Cor. 9:25).
12. We’re priests in Christ’s plan of redemption
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.—1 Peter 2:9–10
Every one of was in darkness until we were called into the light. As believers, we become a priesthood tasked with calling others into the light. This is the cyclical nature of kingdom living.
Church planting becomes a wonderful expression of this reality. We plant a church with the desire of leading people to Christ, and hopefully we’re releasing new churches into the world where the cycle can continue.
Church planting is tough—but rewarding—work
Church planting is difficult work that can challenge the most devoted believers. But if it was easy, everyone would be doing it. The key is to find inspiration where you can find it, and remind yourself often why your committed to this work.
So bookmark this post, or share it with other church-planting friends. Then leave us a comment and share some of your most inspirational passages about planting churches!