The advance of the gospel results in the planting of new churches in places and among peoples who have none. The church planter is called by God to evangelize, disciple by teaching new believers to obey all that Christ commands. We long to see healthy reproducing churches planted among the nations. No one wants to make mistakes, least of all when gospel advance is at stake! Though we seek to avoid them?mistakes are valuable if we learn from them.
Here are five church planting mistakes that we should seek to avoid at all costs!
Failure to build trust.
Failure to build trust in the people you are ministering to will result in failure to produce a healthy, reproducing church. The gospel by its very nature is based on trust. We are calling men and women to put faith in God. When we do not develop healthy relationships with the people we minister with and the people we minister to our ministry is headed for failure, it is only a matter of time.
A church planting missionary has the goal of moving new believers through the stages of spiritual growth both individually and corporately. Church planting missionaries are working toward the goal of transitioning out of the church plant or he may be called by the congregation to shepherd the flock and transitions into the role of pastor. unless you intentionally build deep personal relationships with people, you cannot work yourself out of a job as a church planter. Paul developed deep relationships with his disciples! He entrusted to Timothy the gospel and then trusted Timothy to continue the ministry when he was gone by faithfully entrusting the truth to other trustworthy men who would do likewise! (2 Ti.2:2)
One problem missionary church planters face is that most missionary training focuses on competency development (evangelism, church planting, discipleship, literacy, medicine, etc.) to the virtual exclusion of initiating and sustaining cross-culture interpersonal competency. There are not short-cuts to building trust – you have to invest your life and that means a huge investment of time!
Taking back what you gave away.
The missionary church planter may be tempted to take back responsibilities that have been entrusted to faithful men. This is often during a period when the church planter is near enough to see the struggles that are being faced. This will always hinder the forward progress of the work. The adolescent church must learn to stand on its own and trust God’s grace to navigate difficult situations.
After the church has been established and local leadership has been entrusted with the ministry, never, under any circumstance does the missionary have the right or authority to force his will in a matter. When called upon he may offer advice and counsel but is limited to that. (See the spirit of I Cor. 5; II Cor. 2; II Cor. 6:11-13) Ownership of facilities and equipment are the responsibility and privilege of the self-governed church. (I Cor. 16:3; Acts 2:44)
Developing ministries or programs beyond the ability of the mature congregation.
This mistake is not unique to western missionaries living in far flung corners of the globe. Local churches engaged in missions face the temptation to bring resources and programs to a church plant that may be beyond the ability to the mature congregation to maintain. Once a financial responsibility has been taken by the church plant it must not be taken back by the mother church. In this way the body learns to trust God and sees the importance of obedience and personal involvement.
The missionary church planter must not do for the new assembly of believers what they can do for themselves. (I Tim. 5:8: II Thes. 3:8-10)
Develop the church plant only to the degree that the local assembly will be able to handle financially and capably (I Cor. 14:4). Programs and equipment that are beyond the means of the mature assembly are in the end counter-productive to the goal of a self-supporting church. We dare not establish local churches that will require continued outside?involvement.
Assuming that local Christians cannot do it.
There is a tendency to evaluate the capacity of a people group in relation to the context of the sending culture. When a local church in town seeks to plant a church in the rural area the preconceived idea is often that the believers in the new church plant cannot carry the work of ministry forward. If they really can’t do something its most likely because they shouldn’t. Not every possible ministry is one that should be attempted. If it is not something that the mature assembly can handle, then it shouldn’t be done.
Underestimating the power of God.
We often underestimate God’s power in the lives of those we minister to and with. Paul made an astounding statement to the new church in Rome when he wrote in Romans 15:4, “Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.” Paul was confident that God’s power was active in the lives of these new believers and that through the working of the Holy Spirit within they would competently carry out ministry to one another! Christ is still building His church around the globe. No people group or location is outside the power of God to establish a thriving, reproducing local church.