On the road to Damascus, Paul had an encounter with Jesus and experienced a radical transformation in his life (Acts 9: 1-28). His view of God changed, precipitating a change in his view of himself. His mission in life changed from persecuting the church to building up the church. It is of interest that Jesus asked Paul in that encounter a profound question: “Why are you persecuting me?” First and foremost, Paul was an enemy of God, not primarily or exclusively an enemy of Christians. But that nemesis relationship with Jesus changed.
With this radical transformation, however, one area of Paul’s life did not change: his skill set. Paul had the skills, gifts, and graces necessary to lead a movement—a skill set acquired before he encountered Jesus. We can only surmise how effective Paul would have been in his crusade against the church. His record of planting churches and disciplining new Christians gives us some indication.
How many executives today of our denominations, networks, and tribes could conceive of giving someone like Saul of Tarsus serious consideration as a church planter? After all, his experience was inappropriate. After I developed the Church Planter Profile, someone pointed out to me that the Apostle Paul matched up against the profile. I had not previously made that connection. So Paul changed in his purpose and mission but remained unchanged in his skills.
What are some take-home points?
1. God can do amazing things. The sovereign God who transformed Paul is still in the business of transforming lives.
2. Some of our most promising church planters are in the harvest, not currently in the church. Therefore, we should redefine our pipeline for potential church planters.
3. The principle of behavioral consistency is relevant to selecting church planters. Patterns of behaviors tend to prevail over time, predicting how people will behave in the future. The key is to determine the appropriate skill sets needed for making selection decisions.
4. The principle of transferability is relevant to selecting church planters. Individuals may change vocations, but their skill sets transfer with them to new behavior settings. The key is focusing on the skills and not the experiences or settings.
5. Effective church planters are critical to fulfilling the Great Commission. In the first century, the gospel spread and Christians were born through the planting of churches. In the twenty-first century, the gospel continues to spread and Christians born as churches are planted.