How to know you’re not a church planter

You have never experienced anything as rewarding and heartbreaking as church planting. During an interview in my undergrad a pastor told me, “Joshua, if you’re called into ministry and don’t go, it’ll ruin your life.” I’d heard that. No big news there. He went on to say something I was not expecting, “And Joshua, if you’re not called into ministry and you go, it’ll ruin your life.” That statement kept me out of ministry work for nearly a decade after he said it. I felt the weight of what he was saying. It was now much more than “everyone thinks you should be a pastor”. This calling now had deep consequences.

Fast forward some years and I now find myself in that pastor’s seat, saying similar things to “would-be” church planters. I once spent most of my time trying to talk guys into church planting, and now I spend most of my energy trying to talk them out of it. I take them past the glamour and glitz to reveal the tragic, gut wrenching, weary side of church planting because I need young families to say no to church planting until they’ve heard the good and bad of it. I need, they need, the kingdom needs young men to know what exactly it is they are getting themselves into. So what are some cautions I would give families thinking about going into the world of starting a church?

  • Do you know Theology, Philosophy, & Doctrine – Church planting isn’t the time for a pastor to try and figure out where he stands on an issue. You need to be the best theologian in the room.
  • Can you simplify – Not only do you need to be the most confident Theologian in the room, you need to come across as an average person. That means no jerks in church planting. Can you take the most complex philosophical and theological issue and explain it to a 5 year old, and they be excited about it?
  • Can you lose it all – Can you lose everything and still cry out in praise to God. You think Job had it bad, at least he got everything back. I’ve been around church planters that have given everything and lost it all, for good. Are you willing to risk everything? Is your relationship with Jesus strong enough to have him rip your hopes and dreams right from your hand, and still come to him in worship and loving adoration?
  • Can you be yourself – We should all have mentors, even digital ones, but can you be comfortable being an average pastor of a small broken congregation? Do you know who you are? Are you confident in being just you?
  • Can you control yourself – Prayer and obedience to the Lord aren’t options or plugins for the church planter. Your family’s life will literally depend on it, and I mean literally. You will see God do things you never dreamed possible, and you’ll experience things you never thought you could handle. Have you mastered sin in your life? I mean like a Jedi! Are you saturated in God’s word and then pouring your heart out in prayer always?

Maybe these don’t describe you, but I promise if you become a church planter and it doesn’t destroy you, they will…

BY JOSHUA WHETSTINE – NORTH AMERICAN MISSION BOARD CITY MISSIONARY FOR MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL.

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