Wednesday, March 31, 2010

How I Know I'm Not a Church Planter

In my recent post on Why I Moved to New England, I wrote this:
Despite having planted a church and being passionate about church planting movements, I know I am not a church planter. I'm a pastor. I don't have the wiring to plant. But I love planters and want to encourage and edify them however I can and I want to attract them and raise them up in my church and support them because church planting is vital and necessary and becoming more so every day.

In the comments, reader Chris wrote:
A blog post discussing the process whereby you realized you are not a church planter would be extremely helpful to many of us.

I am not sure how helpful it could be, actually, and it wasn't much of a process, but I can share how I know I'm not a planter.

To preface, I should say that I did not learn I wasn't a church planter by experiencing a failed church plant. I did plant a church, although to say "I" did it is not true, and never is it true for any church planter. We planted a church because we had to. The story of this is somewhat complicated, but I was pastoring a young adult ministry within a larger church, and all parties realized after about a year that we basically had a church within a church. So quite by "accident" -- read, "by God's providential wisdom" -- we didn't set out to cultivate an independent church, but we ended up with one anyway. What we did at our church was in a few ways radically different than what our host church was doing. We had entirely different philosophies of ministry. Eventually, we all knew that what we had was not sustainable for our ministry nor desirable for the host church, and parting amicably and with mutual blessings, our thing departed to become officially an independent church. And if I had not been called by God elsewhere, I assume we would still be there. In that sense, I don't consider Element a failed church plant. I think a church plant is only a failure if you fail to do what God has called you to do.

But my point is, that experience did not teach me I wasn't a church planter. I knew before we planted that I wasn't a church planter. I was a pastor. And I had a community I was pastoring. So the planting kind of happened by itself. :-)

The first reason I know I'm not a church planter is that I don't have the desire to plant. This is not a disobedient thing, I don't believe. Meaning, I don't believe God is calling me to plant a church despite my commitment not to. I think "calling" is somewhat overrated, and my experience is that God often plants seeds of desire in us that coincide with calling. I know I must leave room for disobedience, grieving of the Spirit, and just outright Jonah-like running from God's commands, but I think normatively speaking, guys who plant churches really want to plant churches. It fires them up. They are generally energized by the process, even though it is grueling and tiresome and nerve-racking oftentimes. The urge for me isn't there, and neither is the inkling. And my experience of how God works in me to go places and do things entails his stirring in me an interest and desire that wasn't there before. Your mileage may vary, but that's how his leading grace has historically been applied to me.

Secondly, I don't have (what I think is) the wiring to be an effective and fruitful church planter. This is what I mean by that: I borrow from the tri-perspectival framework for pastoral makeups. (For background on this, see my short post from the archives called What Kind of Pastor Are You?) I think all pastors have a mix of prophet, priest, and king in them.

In the prophetic framework, pastors are preachers, teachers, accountability holders, vision-casters, leader-developers, scholarly, writerly, etc. In the priestly framework, pastors are relational, counselors, visitors, servants, evangelists, compassion-givers, communal shepherds, etc. In the kingly framework, pastors are administrators, builders, visionaries, accountants, pioneers, entrepreneurs, organizers, initiative-takers, sociologists, historicists, economists, strategists, etc.

Again, I think every pastor has (or should have, anyway) all three frameworks in play to have the right makeup to be an effective pastor. But pastors aren't made from cookie cutters. We all have different personalities, experiences, temperaments, interests, educations, degrees of giftedness, etc. And from my viewpoint, I think church planters have a high concentration of the kingly framework. It doesn't mean they aren't solid as prophets and priests. But they are just stronger as kings than pastors who aren't wired for church planting.

As I survey my own makeup, I know I do not have a high concentration of "king" in my makeup. I would guesstimate I am only about 15% kingly. This does not cause many problems in my ministry because I am able to delegate to and rely on other leaders and laypeople with strong administrative and organizational gifts. In fact, I often stun the pastors in the weekly pastors' fellowship group when I do not know all the details of my church calendar or when I say I am not the person to contact about scheduling women's breakfasts and the like. In their organizations, kingly or not, they are expected to pretty much keep all plates spinning. I am grateful for a church that frees me to pastor according to the degrees of my giftedness, and in return they are pastored better than if I weren't.

But I digress. Church planting isn't about administrating women's breakfasts. It's about pioneering, gathering a core, establishing something new in untested places, raising money (oh man, is it ever about raising money!), and some other things that just aren't "me." I know this. I don't worry about it. I don't sweat it. I love church planters. A lot. And not being a church planter doesn't mean I'm not passionate about church planting. I want to pastor a church planting church. I want to raise up and send out church planters. I encourage and network with church planters. I learn from them. I support them spiritually and financially and materially. And I really believe, although knowing God can do whatever he wants however he wants, that revival will not happen in American evangelicalism and awakening will not happen in lost America apart from vital movements of gospel-centered missional church planting. I want in on that.

I don't know if this is helpful. I don't know if you have the wiring to be a church planter or not. I'm not an assessor, so if you are unsure, if I were you I would submit to those who are.
I would only say that if you are honest with yourself, you know if you've got the wiring or not. If you are low on the kingly side, there's nothing wrong with you. You may be a phenomenal pastor. And heck, God uses asses all the time. :-) But you may not be a church planter.

That said, if you have the desire, and God is opening doors for you, I know from Scripture and experience that God equips the called at least as much as he calls the equipped. My advice is to seek godly counsel and get into an assessment program of some kind. If you have, and you're still unsure: You're probably not a church planter. (And that's okay.)


Chris said...

Thanks for sharing that, Jared. I'm the Chris who left the original comment. I'm a prospective church planter, and feel very called to it by God and live in a city (Ann Arbor, MI) that is in desperate need of gospel-centered churches. I've also been assessed as a church planter and the tests (DISC, entrepeneurial) would seem to indicate that I'm not a planter. It's informative to hear the stories of guys who at some point realized they weren't a planter because it gives me areas to personally reflect on and investigate. I'm struggling through and praying through what God is exactly calling me to. It may be re-planting, which may be a better "fit". Course, there'd need to be some churches in town to even replant them...

barry said...

Jared, Welcome to New England. Thanks for the insight. Looking forward to The Calling.

Anonymous said...

i wonder if, in looking at "callings" or areas of giftedness as far as church planting vs. pastoring goes, we shouldn't distinguish more between church planting and church transplanting.

i'd suggest a transplanter takes a core group of Christians (likely from a particular congregation) and begins a new church in different location, possibly with a different theological slant, etc. a planter begins by making disciples, out of unchurched people.

a transplant generally starts with lots of money, a plant with little. a transplant starts with some roots already developed, and a plant without. think of moving a tree vs. beginning with a seed. i'm not suggesting one is better than the other, but they seem to be very different things. i think we call a lot of things church planting that in actuality are not.

i would suggest, then, that a pastor-type might be called and quite good at transplanting. and a church-planter generally, if continuing in his giftedness, would not stay to pastor a church after the initial planting (think paul?).

or maybe i'm way off...

Bumble said...

I am in the same situation with the transplanting option (the "we plant a church" thing). Is there such "a call" for it, or mostly it's just circumstantial? And then, how's that different than the call for you to pastor another church?

Jared said...

I suppose "transplant" could be a good and unique way to look at planting out of an existing church but many (most?) plants have sending churches.

Element's host church didn't send us so much as say "Yeah, it's cool if you guys wanna leave." (I don't mean that in a snarky sense; they weren't a sending church for us; we received no financial support from them and we did not maintain ecclesial ties at all.) We also didn't have "a lot of money, so if that's the criteria for "transplant," we didn't meet it there either.

I think there are all kinds of variations, hybrids, and phases of plants, replants, transplants, satellite campusing, etc. I don't know if labeling them all is helpful, but I suppose it could be.

For these purposes, I think if a pastor is starting something "new," basically from scratch by gathering his own core, raising his own funds, etc., he ought to have a pretty high concentration of "king" in him.

Jared said...

Bumble, as I intimated in the post, I think the notion of "calling," to the extent that it creates analysis paralysis or confusion, is overrated.

The call to leave our host church and plant an independent church came in the form of realizing what we had wasn't sustainable under the host church and that the host church's desires for a young adult ministry didn't match what we were doing in ours. So the "call" looked like all parties saying, "This isn't working. What do we do?" We were called, as it were, to preach the gospel and serve the community. So that was our calling.

The call to go pastor an existing church came in the form of, basically, that's what I wanted to do. I had a growing disillusionment about the Christian culture in the south and my sense of "suitedness" for pastoring a missional church in it. I knew my heart was no longer where my body was. I sent out a couple of resumes to places that seemed like mission fields. When one called and we clicked, the sense of "calling" grew.

And there are "God things" along the way, with the timing of specific events, open doors, confirmations, etc. But in neither instance did I hear, for instance, God's voice say "Go do this" or "Go do that."

Unless there is clear Godly direction, I tend to operate under the Augustinian dictum: "Love God and do what you want." But I gotta keep that order right or it doesn't work. :-)

JamesBrett said...

i'm not sure i would agree that many church plants have sending churches. i feel like if a sending church is involved, it's almost always a transplant, meaning there was some kind of core group and DNA already present. i think that's how i would define a transplant -- is there already in existence a core group, a personality, or even a set of beliefs?

what i would call church planting involves basically a seed of the gospel and little else. that seed begins in a family, or a few families (non-Christians), and grows into a community of faith. the intention wasn't necessarily to plant a church, but rather to share the gospel and make disciples. a church was the natural outcome. the church planter will likely not be a part of the church that is formed, but will be a mentor to those who emerge in that church as leaders.

i know this isn't how most people are defining or describing a church planting process. but i do see some importance in distinguishing between the two. just a couple of reasons:

- planting churches provides a greater likelihood of multiplication. a church planter can plant, care for, and mentor numerous young and developing churches. and planting the gospel seed is easy to reproduce; starting a church with a core group takes more time, and is more complicated (usually where money comes in).

- planting churches (in my opinion) will better suit producing indigenous churches that are culturally appropriate. generally (not always), transplanted churches look like that core group, and reach out to people like themselves.

- looking at it this way distances even more the roles of pastor and church planter (much like you've described). a pastor or transplanter (might be one and the same) might look like john, while a planter would look more like paul. i agree there is likely present more "king" in this individual.

i'm not suggesting planting is better than transplanting, rather i'm suggested they are suited to very different things -- as are pastors and church planters.

Jared said...

i'm not sure i would agree that many church plants have sending churches

James, using your terminology and definitions of what is a plant and what is a transplant, of course you're right.

JamesBrett said...

yeah, sorry. i think i misread your sentence to which i was replying. anyway, i've enjoyed the post, and i pray God's blessings on your new ministry.

Byron Harvey said...

Thanks, Jared, stellar thoughts as usual, and applicable to me.

Anonymous said...

I just read this post for the first time, but good grief I needed this. I have been confused by the 'calling' aspect of planting for some time, and almost felt like if I didn't plant I wasn't doing what young pastors should do. I'm just not kingly...10-15%perhaps.
Thanks for this Jared