No church planter wants to fail. And no faithful church planter wants to just attract a large crowd, provide spiritual goods and services, receive a tithe instead of a tip, tear down the show and set it all back up again in seven days. Church planters want droves of people to meet Jesus. They also want Christians to find a healthy church home where they can flourish and walk in the gifts and good works Christ has prepared for them.
And there’s only one way to succeed as a church planter. You need the secret sauce.
The Not-So-Secret “Secret Sauce”
Doctor Luke tells us in the book of Acts how the church flourished. He pulls back the curtain of the early church’s vibrant ministry and shows us the effect of power from on high. But in Acts 11, Luke doesn’t give us insight into how Paul’s or Peter’s ministries are powered. He points us to the ministry of a core group of non-apostles—regular guys—preaching the risen Christ and seeing tons of conversions. So what is the secret to church growth, ministry, and fruit?
“And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:21).
The Lord’s power is why the ministry of these non-apostles “worked.” And it’s the only way our ministries will flourish, too. God’s hand upon a church is how we experience godly growth, faith-fueled fruit, supernatural community, spiritual renewal, and that city-on-a-hill status Jesus told us about. Let’s not misplace our confidence in how our churches will survive, thrive, and multiply.
Church-planting confidence can only come from one place: Jesus of Nazareth. A bloody hill and a vacant tomb are our confidence.
Church-planting confidence can only come from one place: Jesus of Nazareth. Vision, plans, missions, core values, core teams, preaching calendars, charisma, cultural relevance, smooth systems, and the latest gizmo gadgets cannot replace or replicate the power of the Lord’s sovereign hand. None of those things are bad things; they just aren’t the power of the resurrected Christ.
The secret sauce to any thriving ministry is no secret. It’s blood. It’s the blood that spilled out from the hands, feet, brow, and side of our Lord, and it’s the blood that pumps through his body this very moment. A bloody hill and a vacant tomb are our confidence. There are countless “As Seen on Stage” strategies, but we’re committed to “As Seen in the Savior.” The risen Christ will never get outdated. His philosophy of ministry never needs to be workshopped.
Tangibly Trusting the Lord
We desperately need the Lord’s hand to be with us. He’s always with us personally but we need his power upon us corporately as the church body. It’s possible for Jesus to be with us in salvation, but not in ministry. He might be right outside of the worship gathering, staff meeting, or your sermon prep saying, “Would you like me to be a part?” (Rev 3:20). Maybe we have a compelling mission statement, “Transforming lives for the glory of Jesus” on our website, but we’re overlooking the living Christ. We can reduce him to a prop for our purposes. Our motivations can easily turn inward, becoming twisted and calloused. Lord, help us. We need to tangibly and experientially trust the Lord with his work. He can renew us and our ministries from the ground up.
What about when ministry isn’t going as well as you planned? Trust God. He is the only one whose plans always come to pass. God will get his ministry done.
People repent of their sins and confess that Jesus is Lord because a nail-pierced hand turned them around. Fruit happens in a local church because the Lord’s hand is in the dirt—planting, pruning, cultivating. No pastor can cause this. No plan can produce this. No one can take credit except our triune God. So when we plan, pray, plant, and preach, we recognize our hard work is God’s grace at work in us (1 Cor. 15:10). Remember, when baptism numbers grow, this is the Lord’s hand. When a first-time visitor eventually becomes a member, don’t trick yourself into thinking it was your welcoming spirit and solid preaching. Remember the Lord’s hand.
What about when ministry isn’t going as well as you planned? Trust God. He is the only one whose plans always come to pass. God will get his ministry done. “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand” (Prov. 19:21). God has prepared good works for you to walk in throughout your life (Eph. 2:10). You will not miss out. “The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands” (Ps. 138:8).
If you aren’t seeing results like you dreamed and vision-casted, it doesn’t necessarily mean the Lord’s hand isn’t on your ministry. Maybe you need to adjust your eyesight because every faithful church is booming with the Spirit’s fruit. Is there love for God and one another? Joy in the Lord? Peace amid cultural turmoil? Patience toward church leadership? Kindness toward unbelievers? Goodness toward the surrounding community? Faithfulness in doctrine, sacrificial giving, and serving one another? That’s God’s hand, too.
Pray for the hand of Christ to be among our churches. Not just on paper, but in undeniable power. May revival swell over us again. Pray for your plant to be explained in three words: It was God. We really are in need of the Lord’s hand.