On these pages you will find a list of the competencies that Acts 29 considers essential when assessing church planters. Each competency has a list of micro skills that are associated with it, including bible references. As you interact with this resource, you will be equipped to examine whether or not you are a church planter and whether or not Acts 29 is the right family for your church.
In the following list of competencies & micro skills, three provisions should be kept in mind:
- Whilst cultural variation is to be expected, the following are a generic set which allow for appropriate cultural texture.
- Even when trying to assess someone relatively young & inexperienced, these competencies & skills should be present, at the very least, embryonically. There should certainly be nothing in the life of the aspiring planter that undermines or contradicts the following.
- The biblical references should not be cited as proof texts, but are illustrative & for general guidance.
1. Spiritual Vitality
Spiritual vitality is the gift, given to us by the Holy Spirit who unites us to Christ, specifically in his death and resurrection: ‘For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.’ Romans 6:5. Spiritual vitality is the life of those raised with Christ. It is a free gift to us, although costly to God. When God raised Christ on the third day, we were raised with him. Church planters must display this fruit and plant churches that proclaim this to all.
- Serious about holiness (Leviticus 11:44-45; John 14:15; Ephesians 1:3-4; 1 Peter 1:13-16; 1 John 5:3) and humility (Phil 2:1-11; 1 Peter 5:5)
- Gives evidence of a personal relationship with Jesus (Matthew 7:16-20; 22:35-40; Romans 8:15-16; 2 Corinthians 13:5; 1 John 2:3-6; 4:13)
- Displays a deep commitment to the authority of the Bible in both personal life & public ministry (Psalm 119; John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21)
- Knows the importance of prayer, not only as a means to the end of gospel ministry but also as an expression of an intimate & dependent relationship (Colossians 1:3-5; Philippians 1:3-8)
- Displays the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24; Colossians 3:12-17) and a clear sense of reliance upon the Holy Spirit for all godliness and every aspect of ministry (Matthew 3:13-17; Acts 1:8; 1 Corinthians 12-14)
- Reflects the requirements of an elder (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9)
- Are you born again? Do not simply shrug and remember that you have a testimony or dismiss this question as obvious. Not every church planter is saved, and to attempt this work without Christ is ruin and misery.
- How is your prayer life? This is the first key indicator of your spiritual vitality. If you love and trust God, you will be prayerful. If you are not prayerful, the solution is not to work on your prayer life, but look to Christ. Meditate on him, and you will find yourself praying.
- How is your Bible study? This is the second key indicator of your spiritual vitality. If you love and trust God, you will want to hear his word. If you are not reading the Bible often and with desire, again, do not work on your Bible reading, but look to Christ. Meditate on him, and you will find yourself reading scripture.
- How important to your church planting plans is love? A spiritually alive church will love the Lord and love her neighbour. Everything else will spring from this source. Would an outsider say that love is the heart-beat of your church family, core team or plans?
- Ask your wife, parents, children, church elders and friends if you live for Christ. Maybe ask them to read this and then speak into your life. This could be hard; it will be humbling, but it is a useful way to assess who you are.
2. Theological Clarity
Church planting is a theological enterprise. At the great commission the disciples are told to make theologically formed disciples (Matthew 28:18–20). A church planter must be able to rightfully handle the scriptures with clarity and insight, so that they may equip the saints for every good work. Theological clarity enables planters to engage with their culture, to protect the church from false doctrine and to bring the gospel message to all.
- Committed to the centrality of the gospel in doctrine, life, and ministry (1 Corinthians 15:1-8; Galatians 1:6-10; Philippians 3:7-14)
- Possesses a clear understanding of sound doctrine (Acts 20:28-31; 1 Timothy 6:3-5; Titus 1:5-9; 2:1, 15; Jude 3)
- Embraces the sovereignty of God’s grace in saving sinners (John 1:12-13; 6:44; Acts 16:14; Romans 9:14-18; Ephesians 2:4-10; Philippians 1:6; 2:12-13; Titus 3:3-7)
- Celebrates a missionary understanding of the local church & her role as God’s primary mission strategy in the world and for the world (Matthew 16:18; 28:18-20; Romans 1:8; Ephesians 3:10; 1 Peter 2:9-12)
- Knows the power of the gospel to reconcile and works this out according to the available opportunities and presenting needs, resulting in ethnically, socially and economically diverse churches which display the power of the gospel to bring people together (Ephesians 2:11-22; Galatians 3:28-29; Revelation 7:9-12)
- Displays grace toward those who differ from him in both doctrine & practice (Matthew 7:1-5; Romans 14:1, 10-13; 2 Timothy 1:13-14; 1 Peter 3:15; James 1:19)
- Deeply committed to the spiritual & moral equality of male & female, alongside the principle of male headship in the church & home (Genesis 1:26-27; 2:18; Acts 18:24-26; 1 Corinthians 11:2-16; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18-19; 1 Timothy 2:11-15; 3:1-7; Titus 2:3-5; 1 Peter 3:1-7)
- Calls believers to active participation in & humble submission to the local church (Matthew 18:15-20; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Timothy 3:15; Titus 2:15)
- Demonstrates an ability to understand & communicate theological truths in a manner consistent with the gospel (Acts 20:20, 27; 1 Timothy 4:13; 5:17; 2 Timothy 1:13-14; 4:2; 1 Peter 3:15)
- Shows grace & flexibility in teaching & discipling others (Acts 20:28; 2 Timothy 2:2)
- Are you confident in articulating your position on the following doctrines: God, Church, Salvation, Word, Man and Creation?
- Are you drawn to the study of, and have a natural appetite for thinking deeply about theology?
- Can you see clearly which doctrines are under attack in your society and within the church?
- Does theological study lead you to worship, discipleship and mission?
- In evangelism, are you able to engage in other world views with a Christian apologetic?
3. Conviction & Commendation
Ministry is not for the faint of heart. Paul said, ‘I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.’ 2 Corinthians 11:27-28. Conviction and Commendation bring together both the work of God in the life of the planter and the recognition from the wider church that this planter should be set apart for the task of starting a new church.
- Communicates a compelling personal conviction to plant churches (Acts 16:6-10)
- If married, his wife commends him for the task & shares his conviction to plant (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6)
- Willingness to sacrifice in order to discharge the conviction to plant a church (John 10:11; 15:13)
- Compelling vision for the church plant that motivates others (Romans 12:8)
- Clear strategy for planting a church-planting church (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:41-47; 16:9, 12; Titus 1:5)
- Commended for ministry by other churches & church leaders (1 Timothy 3:7)
- From the Conviction & Commendation eBook, which of the three aspects of conviction do you need to grow most in? What can you do to improve in this area?
- Have you asked family, friends, and respected leaders to evaluate you in these areas? How will you steward their responses?
- What thing or things do you tend to bow down to most?
- What can you do to cultivate a “habitual vision of greatness”?
- What one or two things is the Spirit asking you to do in response to this paper?
4. Healthy Marriage
Church planting is a task that all are called to regardless of being married or single. Paul speaks very highly of marriage, ‘This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.’ Ephesians 5:32. Marriage begins in creation with God and is ultimately fulfilled in the new creation when the bride of Christ is united with her husband. Church planters who are married must have a gospel understanding of marriage, so that their marriage, and that of others, may thrive in the context of a church plant.
- Exhibits a healthy marriage (loving service, kind, communicative, mutual honoring, cherishing) (Genesis 2:24; 1 Corinthians 13:4-7; Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18-21; Hebrews 13:4)
- Demonstrates integrity and wisdom in managing finances (1 Timothy 3:3-5; 6:7-9; Hebrews 13:5)
- Family does not undermine his leadership, nor behave so as to discredit his witness (Ephesians 5:22-28; Colossians 3:18-19; 1 Timothy 3:4-5)
- Leads his family in a lifestyle that commends Christ (Matthew 7:12; 20:25-28; 1 Timothy 3:2-7; 4:12; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:2-3)
- Committed to providing for the family in an exemplary way (1 Timothy 5:8)
- Does not neglect his family in the pursuit of ministry (1 Timothy 3:4-5; Titus 1:7-9)
- Acknowledges a healthy sexual relationship & purity in his marriage (Exodus 20:14; Proverbs 6:32; Matthew 5:27-28; Ephesians 5:25-27; Hebrews 13:4)
- How do you specifically practice a Christ-like mutual submission toward one another?
- Are you equipping, listening and working with your spouse on gospel projects?
- If single or married, how are you finding your identity in Christ and not in the idea of marriage or in the marriage itself?
- As it relates to the conviction to plant a church, is your spouse in full agreement and do you both share the burden to see a church planted?
- Given the importance the Bible places on marriage, how are you nurturing and strengthening it?
5. Healthy Relationships
‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’ John 13:34-35. Godly character is at the heart of an Acts 29 church planter assessment, and this is most clearly reflected in healthy relationships. If believers cannot live in unity, humility and love, then the truth and power of Christ will be undermined and questioned.
- Establishes & maintains, as far as is possible, healthy relationships with Christians & non-Christians (Romans 12:18; Colossians 4:5-6; 1 Timothy 3:7; 2 Timothy 2:24-25; 1 Peter 2:12)
- Takes initiative to meet new people (Romans 15:2; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8)
- Willing to initiate conversation with & listen to others (Proverbs 18:13; 19:20; James 1:19)
- Shows empathy & compassion (Psalm 86:15; Matthew 9:35-36; 14:14; 22:39; Mark 1:40-41; John 11:33-35; Romans 12:15; 1 Peter 3:8; 4:8; 1 John 3:17)
- Displays patience & sincerity (Psalms 37:7; Romans 2:7; Galatians 5:22; Colossians 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; James 1:3-4; 5:7-8)
- Would people describe you as a hospitable and warm person or would they say you are distant and detached? You might want to ask some people.
- During conflict, do you engage with the people and issues involved, or do you draw back and avoid getting drawn in?
- Are you a man pleaser? If so, are you being discipled in this area?
- Do others around you come to you for advice and respect your counsel?
- Are you praying for specific people and are aware of the various ways you can encourage, challenge and serve them?
6. Godly Leadership
Church planting can be one of the greatest tests of a person’s leadership qualities. Planters will be tried in multiple ways during a church’s infancy and will need to show proficiency in a range of different areas. However, their character is of greater importance. Their nature should reflect their Lord and their example should be worthy of imitation. ‘Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account’ (Hebrews 13:17). Christian leaders must be careful to allow leadership theory and practice to emerge from good theology.
- Excels in crafting & communicating vision (Romans 12:8)
- Has a clear & reproducible system for leadership development (2 Timothy 2:1-2)
- Able to accomplish tasks with limited resources (Deuteronomy 8:18)
- Ability to raise up others to become leaders in church, home, business, community (2 Timothy 2:1-2)
- Portrays resilience under opposition & setbacks (Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 16:13)
- Adaptable to meet needs, identify barriers & articulate vision (Acts 20:20-21)
- Releases & resources others to accomplish goals (Acts 13:1-3)
- Courageously leads others who do not follow easily (1 Corinthians 16:13; Galatians 6:9)
- Proven track record of developing & implementing strategy (Proverbs 15:22; 16:3; 19:20; 20:18; 21:5; James 1:5; 4:13-15)
- Can you say there is a definite pattern in your life of having natural influence over other people that can be attested by others?
- Are you known for naturally using your initiative to start something or solve a problem while others willingly follow your lead?
- Have your thoughts on how you exercise your leadership focused mainly on preaching and teaching to the neglect of oversight responsibilities?
- Be honest, who do you find more attractive: naturally gifted leaders with character blemishes or moderately gifted leaders with impeccable character?
- In speaking about leadership development, Geiger and Peck write about conviction (passion that fuels the leader), culture (shared beliefs that drives the group) and constructs (processes and systems that develop leaders). Would you say you pay little or no attention to any of these three because you lack proficiency in them?
7. Spiritual Maturity
Maturity is increasingly finding your identity in Christ and being grounded in the gospel so that our behavior is Christlike and our ministry has gospel priorities whatever is going on around you. Ephesians 4:13 says ‘become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ’, and verse 15 goes on to say ‘speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.’ Nurturing Christlikeness within the heart of a church planter leads to church plants that are built on the right foundation.
- Ability to identify own strengths & weaknesses (Proverbs 16:18; Romans 12:3)
- Displays confidence without arrogance (Acts 20:17-24; 2 Corinthians 10:18; Hebrews 13:7)
- Ability to accept constructive criticism & input from others (Proverbs 11:14; 12:15, 22; 24:6; Luke 17:3; Hebrews 12:11)
- Firm, resilient & not prone to discouragement (Joshua 1:9; Psalm 31:24; John 16:33; Romans 8:26; 1 Corinthians 15:58; 2 Corinthians 12:9; 2 Timothy 1:7)
- Willingness to be accountable to others in community (Proverbs 27:17; Luke 17:3; Galatians 6:1-5; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; James 5:16)
- Exhibits flexibility & adaptability to changes & needs (1 Corinthians 9:19)
- Problem-solver even if that means knowing where to go to solve problems
- Recognizes the appropriate value of bodily exercise (Romans 12:1; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 9:27; 1 Timothy 4:8)
- Humbly invests in on-going personal & pastoral growth (Ephesians 5:16)
- Christian maturity is seen not in arrival, but in progress (1 Timothy 4:15). So the mature remain soft to the gospel and open to growth. Reflect on how God has been changing you over the past twelve months.
- List the ways in which you serve Christ unseen. A short list may indicate your primary concern is your glory rather than Christ’s glory.
- Think about the last time you were criticized. How did you react? Does your reaction suggest you find your identity in your performance?
- Who speaks the truth in love to you? This will show whether you are creating a truth-speaking community which is committed to everyone’s maturity, including yours.
- Think about the people you look for when you recruit a team, identify potential leaders or hire staff. Which matters more – skills or character?
8. Missional Lifestyle
Christians are given a wonderful identity. In 1 Peter 2:9, Peter says: ‘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 marvellous light’. The church, in Christ, has become God’s priestly people, whose life together commends the goodness of his kingdom. Church planters must model this and be able to cultivate a missional mindset within the church.
- Demonstrates a passion to reach others through relationships & evangelism (Matthew 9:37-38; 28:18-20; Romans 1:16; 10:10-17; 2 Timothy 4:5)
- Consistently & effectively shares faith in a manner understood by non- Christians (Acts 17:16-34)
- Meaningful relationships & rapport with non-Christians (1 Timothy 3:7)
- Sees lives impacted & changed through relational engagement (2 Corinthians 5:11-21; 1 Thessalonians 2:8)
- Leads others in a missional lifestyle (1 Corinthians 4:16; 11:1)
- Understands cultural context of proposed church plant (Acts 17:16-32)
- Cultural fit (naturally or adaptively) with the planting context (Acts 10:9-23; 16:1-5; 18:1-4; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23)
- Review Tim Keller’s six characteristics of a missional church (See Missional Lifestyle eBook). For each one, how would you score yourself out of ten?
- Calculate the ‘footfall’ of unbelievers through your home. How often are they in your home? Hardly ever, once a month, once a week or more than once a week?
- How often do you spend time with unbelievers in places where they feel comfortable? Hardly ever, once a month, once a week or more than once a week?
- How often do you speak of Christ with unbelievers or offer to pray for them or with them? Hardly ever, once a month, once a week or more than once a week?
- How many people in your missional community or church planting team do your most significant unbelieving friends know by name? None of them, one or two, about half of them or most of them?
9. Faithful Disciple Making
Jesus said: ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.’ Matthew 28:18-20. This is our mandate – to make disciples. A planter’s ability to set a culture of discipleship in everyday life will have a significant impact on the long-term health of a church plant.
- Effective plan for discipleship, emphasizing both maturity & multiplication (Acts 16:1-5)
- Skilled in establishing & multiplying small groups (Acts 14:21-23)
- Track record of making disciples that make disciples (1 Thessalonians 3:2; Philippians 2:22)
- Evidence of multiplying leaders that multiply leaders (1 Corinthians 4:16-17; 2 Timothy 1:6)
- Inspires & encourages others toward spiritual maturity (1 Thessalonians 1)
- Is the gospel central in your efforts to both make, and mature disciples?
- Is your discipleship of others holistic, i.e. are you making disciples by helping others to listen to Jesus, and love others?
- Would Dietrich Bonhoeffer have accused you of being a dispenser of “cheap grace”? (See Disciple Making eBook)
- What place does ‘the Church’ (local and global) hold in your efforts to obey the Great Commission?
- Where would you plot your ‘cultural engagement’ on the spectrum between ’total separation’ and ’total assimilation’?
10. Ability to Teach
In 1 Timothy 3:2-7, Paul gives a list of qualities that ought to describe those in church leadership. Most of the qualifications pertain to the man leading himself in holiness and leading his home with honor, but there is one key qualification that extends his leadership to the outside world: the ability to teach. Church planting is supernatural work. There is only one message that saves. Church planters, therefore, must be ‘able’ teachers, and must protect the ministry of the word above all other ministries.
- Demonstrates exegetical & expositional competency (2 Tim 2:15; 4:2-4; Titus 1:9; 2:1)
- Able to teach the Bible into specific contexts & audiences (Acts 20:20-21; Rom 1:14-15; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23)
- Displays a commitment to Christ-centered preaching/teaching (1 Corinthians 1:17-18, 23; Galatians 1:6-10; 1 Jn 1:1-10)
- Teaches & applies the Bible in a manner, style & tone consistent with the gospel (1 Corinthians 11:1; Philippians 4:8-9)
- Understands the role of the Holy Spirit in the task of preaching & teaching (1 Corinthians 3:6-7)
- Preaches with effectiveness as evidenced by changed lives (Nehemiah 8:8; Lk 24:27, 44; Acts 2:1-47; Colossians 1:3-6; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10)
- When you have opportunity to teach, do you seek out constructive feedback from others and do they see growth in your teaching over time?
- Is your desire to teach based more in your perception of your ability or in your theological conviction of the need for teaching and preaching? In which area do you need to grow more?
- When you teach or preach do you sense the Holy Spirit carrying you along? Is the task life-giving to you or fraught with stress and tension?
- Has there been fruit from your teaching in the past that shows your audience is understanding and applying what you bring to them from scripture?
- Had you previously considered the link between the conviction to plant and the need to be able to teach? Does that excite or intimidate you?
11. Entrepreneurial Aptitude
In 1 Corinthians 9:22, Paul says ‘I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.’ At the very heart of a planter’s entrepreneurial aptitude, is the desire and ability to engage new cultures in a way that is theologically driven, with missional innovation and cultural engagement. It is pioneering something new for the sake of communicating the unchanging truths of the gospel.
- Demonstrated some successes in starting new ventures (Matthew 25:14-30; 1 Corinthians 3:10)
- Innovative & strategic visionary (Proverbs 22:29; Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23)
- Energetic & enthusiastic about starting a new work (Romans 12:11; 2 Timothy 1:7)
- Ability to recruit others into a new venture (1 Corinthians 3:10)
- Evidences of being a self-starter (Ecclesiastes 11:4; 1 Corinthians 3:10)
- Willingness to work intensely for an extended period of time (1 Corinthians 9:24)
- Do you have a track record of establishing new creative ventures?
- Do you have a burning affinity to see a Gospel impact in an area that is currently unreached?
- Are you able to critique cultures through the lense of the Gospel?
- Are you able to gather/enlist others around a common vision for a new venture?
- Are you able to innovate and improvise when facing new challenges, difficulties and adversities?