Planting churches is not about opening a building, or running a meeting. It’s way more complex and demanding! That realisation needs to inform how we go about the task from the very beginning, even before we start gathering a core team. Ben Connelly helps remind us, not only of this foundational truth, but also some important implications.
“I was really good at managing Christians and really bad at making disciples.”
That was the ton of bricks that hit me as I was working through the New Testament in a seminary class, while being paid by a church to do something completely different than what the Bible described. No matter how good (or bad) I preached; no matter how large (or small) my church got; no matter how polished (or sloppy) our programs looked; and no matter how affirming (or, um, not!) our people were, there would always be more people ‘out there’ than there would be ‘in here.’ Things had to change:
- I had to remember that before I was a pastor, I was a missionary: While pastoring is a role I play and loved, it isn’t my identity. We are first and foremost redeemed sons and daughters of God. He alone is our hope and power. And by His power, we share that hope. Part of our gospel identity is “ministers of reconciliation” and “ambassadors.”1
- I had to pursue mission in my personal time: If I’m an “example to my flock,” 2 I had to carve time into my schedule to love neighbors, serve my city, and make disciples outside my church family. Like most of my church, that had to be “after hours.” That meant rearranging free time, priorities, and even relationships, considering the not-yet-believers God had me live among.
- I had to humble myself: To do both ministry and mission, I had to admit that God cared more for his church than I could. I had to give leadership to people who wouldn’t do something exactly like me. Maybe you’re not a control freak, but that was a truly sanctifying experience. But God raised up leaders, and our church is now better-led.
One elder qualification is to be “well-thought-of by outsider.”3 Are there ‘outsiders’—those who don’t yet know Jesus—close enough to you, to even know whether they think well or poorly of you? Who are the people God has sent you to, to demonstrate the gospel? Because before we were church leaders, we were called God’s missionaries.
Ben Connelly started and now co-pastors The City Church in Fort Worth, part of the Acts 29 network and Soma family of churches. Ben also teaches at Texas Christian University, writes and trains in various venues, and blogs in spurts at benconnelly.net. Connect with Ben on Twitter @connellyben. Check out his first book – A Field Guide for Everyday Mission.
1 1 Corinthians 5
2 1 Peter 5
3 1 Timothy 3