12 Lies Church Planters Tell Themselves

1. “If God blesses this plant, we’ll be up and running in no time flat.

It takes a while to figure out if any church plant will succeed. Sometimes it takes a long time to figure it out. It’s a lot like growing asparagus which takes as long as seven years to sprout up. Just when you think it is completely dead it springs to life. But then when it comes up it is amazingly fruitful – an inch a day – faster than any other crop in the garden. Pay more attention to what the Spirit is saying to you than your critics. Hang in there. There is great reward for faithfulness.

2. “Since great preaching is vital from the beginning, I’ll spend quite a bit of time in message prep from the beginning of the plant.”

Your greatest need in planting a church is to be out in the community mixing it up, meeting people, doing outreach in as many creative ways possible. The last thing you need to be doing is hiding behind a desk. At the same time you need to have a great message come Sunday morning for those who are checking out what you are doing. Therein lies a conundrum.

This is controversial, but I suggest you borrow message content heavily from someone you like for the time being. Rick Warren says, “If my bullet fits your gun then shoot it.” You may fancy yourself an amazing communicator, and maybe you really are so it may be a humbling thing to do this, but if you are spending your time assembling a killer message you are going to sacrifice outreach and your church is going to lock in at a small size.

I shared my feelings on this in a front-page interview with the Wall Street Journal a while back. Not surprisingly that stirred up a lot of response from various corners of the church world. Church planters and some pastors loved what I said, but seminary profs flipped out, and some even sent me hate mail! Big insight – seminary profs have never planted a church.

3. “We have lots of intercessors.”

No you don’t, at least you don’t have enough. Church planting is a spiritual business. Keep in contact with them on a very regular basis. Have a couple of layers of them – some you can share very personal matters with more than the others.

4. “We’ll figure out how to take care of our money accounting details as soon as we have real money coming in.”

On day one begin to take your finances seriously. This will ward off any accusations of mishandling. You’d be surprised at how quickly those sorts of accusations will come at you.

5. “I want to make sure that we don’t talk about money since many coming are turned off to that.”

That’s bogus. People need to give in a disciplined way in life for their own financial wellbeing and for the sake of the Gospel.

6. “We don’t want to put much pressure on people to come to Christ. All of that will just sort of spontaneously happen. Our motto is, ‘Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.’”

It is unlikely that St. Francis actually said those words. He was a strong preacher in words and deeds to the upper crust of Italy. Like Francis, we need to use words to explain the Gospel. Give lots of chances for people to come to Christ. I suggest you give some sort of altar call nearly every week – at least a “look up” sort of opportunity for those who feel him calling them to follow him.

7. “We’ve got to be careful what we preach about as we start out because new people can be easily driven away if we present hard truth. After all, the folks we are gathering are fragile and need healing.”

Another version of that concern goes like this: These folks are “Seekers” so we need to treat them with kid’s gloves. I believe those coming are seeking breakthroughs in life. Sometimes it takes a strong presentation of the truth to bring freedom. Just keep it loving and as fun as possible.

8. “I sometimes wonder if we are under the attack of negative spiritual forces as we plant this church.”

You think?! When you start a church that does the ministry of Jesus and replicates what the early Church did it is a guarantee that a tremendous amount of spiritual kickback will occur. The forces of darkness are dead set against all you’re out to do in launching that sort of church. For every step of progress there will come spiritual resistance. That resistance usually comes in the form of oppositional people. Those people are often Believers. That was the case with Paul in the Book of Acts. Don’t be surprised if that happens with you as well.

9. “One day, when we’re ready, we plan to plant a daughter church.”

If you haven’t already started talking about your plans to start a daughter church(es) begin that now. You might want to talk that up a little with your leadership if you feel they need to be brought in on those discussions, but I advise you to not allow that to be a voting matter. You will always have some who want to do a feasibility study, some work on the demographics, some checking with the denominational offices – the list goes on. Those people’s motto is “One of these days we will plant a church.” What’s really going on is the reality of…

“One of these days is usually none of these days.”

You don’t need to have your plan entirely nailed down before you announce that you are going to go for it. Just announce your plan as a goal without every jot and tittle explained.

In 1961 John Kennedy announced that the US would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. He said this without conferring with NASA or any of the scientists who could tell him if that was even possible. Guess what. When he said that, the scientists went into overdrive, then in July of 1969, long after JFK was dead and gone, that goal was accomplished with Apollo 11. There is great power in simply proclaiming something.

10. “We’ll eventually get around to caring for the poor.”

Start your outreach with the needy. Start today if you haven’t already begun. Don’t plan any further. Planning is an excuse for action. Don’t read any more books. Don’t talk to any further agencies in town in the hopes you will do it “right.” Don’t worry about double dipping or people taking advantage of your help. Jesus was taken advantage of on a daily basis. Just start. Buy some groceries. Give them away. You’ll figure out the details along the way.

11. “We are going to pray that God will send us some who are called to evangelism.”

Yes, go ahead and pray. You do need someone to help with that role, but the greater truth is you as the leader are the primary one called to take the lead on that. You people will only do what they see you doing. There will be no anointing, no power in what you only talk about but don’t do.

12. “I’m just not an evangelistic sort of pastor. What I really need is someone to take the lead in evangelism.”

You need someone to assist you in launching, but you are qualified and called to be a Pastor-Evangelist just like Timothy, the one to whom Paul called to “do the work of an Evangelist.” All pastors are called to do the work of an Evangelist. Could it be that one of the leading causes of churches lack of forward progress and lack of growth is pastors not allowing their role to include some measure of the Evangelist?

All pastors have a hyphenated role, specifically as “Pastor-Evangelist” according to Paul. You might well say, “But that’s just not who I am. That’s not how I am wired.” That’s okay. That’s probably not how Timothy was wired either. If he was an extrovert Paul wouldn’t have given him that word. Here’s the news – you can will yourself to take on that role and can change your basic make up. If Timothy was like most of us he was an introvert who was drained being around people too much. I’m not a natural evangelistic pastor in the least, but I have willed my way into being a Pastor-Evangelist. You can too. Start by going out to serve others on a weekly, two-hour, Saturday morning routine. Begin with a few bags of groceries. Going door to door in hurting neighborhoods. Knock. Say, “Know anyone who could use some groceries?” They’ll direct you. Then pray for them for ten seconds. You’re on your way. Boom, bada-bing!

  • Great post Steve–really practical and helpful.

    B

  • Maggie

    I have 12 others, I think.

  • Oops. Sorry for the typos! Guess I needed an editor here.

  • Thanks for sharing this information. These are lies that I heard from others and in my head as we prepared to launch almost two years ago. They are lies.

  • Bob Nebuda

    Three comments on your second point (using other’s material for your sermon material):

    First, as a matter of integrity, the speaker should share the source of the material (whether required or not). Otherwise, there is a danger of creating a false impression of who the speaker is and what their abilities are.

    Second, if a speaker adopts a copy / paste approach to developing the talks, isn’t their a risk of missing what the Holy Spirit has to say about the specific application for the local church?

    Third, when does the church planter start to do their own talks or does the process continue on until you can hire someone to write just for you?

  • I don’t think Steve is saying not to prepare a lesson I think he is suggesting that you take the bones of a great lesson from a trusted teacher and build off of that. I don’t know any good preacher that doesn’t do that! It is crazy to say every week I’m going to pretend that God did not provide a way for me to look at literally tens of thousands of other pastors lessons. Yet instead i will reinvent the wheel week in and week out. Take the lessons others are doing thank the people who’s idea it was let the spirit move on what your teaching and spend three hours on you lesson instead of 20!

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