An Enemy of God Who Had the Skill Set to Plant Churches

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.

  • Sam

    I appreciate most of the take-home points of this post, but I disagree with the emphasis on Saul’s skill set. In Philippians 3:1-5, Paul talks about his own skill-set and background and then calls them rubbish. 2 Corinthians 4:7 has Paul speaking of God’s glorious treasure being kept in jars of clay, indicating that Paul was unworthy of it on his own. In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Paul says that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. Although God can and does certainly redeem all of our skills and experiences to be put to use in His kingdom, the emphasis in Scripture is never upon human ability or skills but instead upon the power of God that can work through His weakest vessels. Even in those places where Paul mentions the need for a specific skill for church leadership (such as in his requirements for elders to Timothy), the skills are either spiritual gifts or fruit of the Spirit, meaning that they were produced by God. Surely God can produce His fruits and gifts in anyone He calls to church planting.
    Thank you for your words.

  • Rice Broocks

    Great insight into both the spiritual and natural gifts that God invests in people.