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Some people wonder if they are called to be a church planter or be part of a church planting team. The list below is meant to help those wondering about this realize what God may already be telling them While the list is developed with a senior leader in mind, others may find that these things apply to them as well, only they want to be a key team member in this kind of work, not the team leader:
1) The idea of church planting just keeps coming to mind: While this may seem obvious to the church planter, it is an essential. A church planter needs this desire in his or her heart through all emotional swings and seasons of life. Though this is often the first recognized indicator of being called to church plant; it, however, is not necessarily confirmation in itself. One may haveĒ borrowed visionĒ of church planting from another person; therefore, other confirmations should be present. Church planting at its heart is about making disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). Therefore, the future church planter thinks and even fantasizes about seeing people come into the Kingdom through new churches being started.
2) Oneís history speaks of a future in church planting: Often when people are heading out to church plant they can look back to see that God had been directing them this way over many years. They realize that their parents, relatives, mentors, or friends had similar aspirations and entrepreneurial spirits. Further, God has been secretly developing a genetic code of a witnessing community in the heart of this individual. They make conscious and unconscious lists of how they would lead a church if they were the point leader.
3) Oneís character has been tested and approved for this kind of leadership: Church planting is not for the faint of heart; however, not all strong leaders are church planters. The church planter should have the strength of character described in I Timothy 3 or Titus 1 as well as the desire to forego certain privileges for the sake of starting new works for the kingdom (as seen by Paul in I Corinthians 9). Often these types of people are already making these kinds of sacrifices.
4) Past experience is predicting this kind of ministry: Church planters love to start new things. They can look back and remember times that they started a club, organized groups for new purposes, filled in the gap when a church was lacking a ministry, or started a small group of some sort. The best predictor of future behavior is recent past behavior. The church planter is someone who is taking what he or she would do normally and doing it in a new context.
5) Supernatural confirmations have affirmed this kind of calling: Now this kind of prophetic confirmation varies from person to person, but it is rare that one will not find someone who planted a church that doesnít have some amazing stories that confirmed their direction for ministry. Church planting has certain inherent costs that make it vital to have these kinds of supernatural stories to stand on. The apostle Paul was told that he would have to suffer much for the sake of the gospel (Acts 9). The level of future impact is often pre-confirmed by prophetic words. This way God gets the glory!
6) A witness from others has built upon what is already in the church planterís heart: Steve Nicholson, AVCís Church Planting National Director, recently spoke at a conference on discovering church planters in the rough. One of the golden nuggets that he shared at one of the sessions was that he waits to tell a church planter that they are one until he knows that they already know that themselves. Two aspects of this are vitally important. Anyone going out to church plant really needs to know that from God first and foremost; second, the role of the leaders in the community is to recognize this call upon that persons life (Acts 13:1-3). This should encourage all pastors to create a culture (vocally, financially, and prayerfully) where people can be recognized as church planters.
7) Things keep coming together in the direction of church planting: One of the hardest things in ministry is to watch someone try to force a vision they have come together. At times they may be stepping outside their gifting or running ahead of Godís timing. While the former should be encouraged to try something different, the latter may just have to wait a few years. A church planter has a set of spiritual gifts and developed skills that God has developed in his or her life. In addition, that person usually sees that many of the desired conditions of a church plant have providentially come together for them (a sending church, a great opportunity, divine timing for lives and families). I think that it would be good to note here that often there are some people who know that they are called to church plant, have all of the above characteristics, and have extensive training, but they just need a little push from their senior pastor.
8) Some of our best church planters are the people who have done it before: The Vineyard is blessed to have many people who have planted churches. Some of these pastors should be seen as founding pastors that should mainly focus on the development of that church. Others, however, may have a call to plant many more churches. God may lead a founding pastor to leave an established church and start a new one (we are blessed to have a National Director who has modeled that). Alternatively, there may be other ways that God would creatively call a pastor to be intimately and sacrificially involved with new church plants. Some of Godís best candidates for church planting are going to be the ones who have done it before and are willing to follow his Spirit and risk this way again.
-- Rand Tucker