The passion to plant churches continues to gain intense momentum around the world. We should praise God for this. I believe that the core mission of the church is missions, while the core mission of missions is to establish healthy churches.
In other words, we should long to see missionaries sent out by churches to proclaim the gospel and when people are receptive to the message, they are then baptized and join local congregations. If no churches exist where a missionary is sent, then their aim should be to establish a healthy church. This is essential given that through such means we take heed of Christ’s command to go and make disciples, teaching them to obey all that He commanded (Matt. 28:18–20). We do this in the context of healthy churches.
That word healthy is crucial. You see, as the trend of church planting has grown exponentially in recent years, I fear that something more sinister has grown alongside it—namely, a kind of pragmatism that actually enables the planting of unhealthy churches.
Here’s my point: planting churches must be done with due diligence. Yes, church planting is important. Yes, people need to hear the gospel. But we also want to ensure, don’t we, that people hear and respond to the right gospel in a meaningful way. We don’t want to falsely assure people of a salvation that was never really theirs. And we certainly don’t want to get people into churches that will actually damage their faith—rather than help it grow and flourish—in the long-run.
For these reasons (and more) church planting ought to be done with due diligence. Here are a couple of ways to do this.
1. Pray for faithful laborers
In Luke 10:2, Jesus says “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the harvest.” This should be the first work that any mission-oriented church should make its priority: to pray for laborers! We have this modeled for us by the church at Antioch (Acts 13:1–3).
The church is God’s ordained means for effective discipleship. Hence for any church to undertake this work, such a church must seek the will of God. When we pray, we express our dependence upon God to start, sustain, and accomplish the work by the very means He has ordained. We trust Him to lead us to the harvest itself, raise up the right men for the work, give us boldness and resources for the work, and ultimately to bring forth fruit.
Churches with a concern for getting the gospel out will engage seriously in the matter of praying for laborers.
2. Train men for the reciprocation of faithful service
Paul encourages Timothy, saying: “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). When God raises men up, the church will identify them. These will be men who may currently be serving the church in different ways. When these men are identified, the church must train them. In doing so, the churches should:
- Evaluate their Character
This is crucial. The importance of Christ-like character is highlighted in various passages in the Bible (1 Tim. 3; Titus 1; Gal. 5:22–23). What this communicates to us is that, even as we ponder church planting, we must hold in high regard the character of the individual(s) we seek to send. Such men must possess the qualities given in these passages.
After all, these leaders will be responsible for watching over the spiritual wellbeing of the people of God. When this aspect is factored in, then we will have churches that are growing all the more in Christ-likeness, seeking to replicate these churches all over the world.
- Evaluate Doctrine
We’d be foolish not to emphasize the importance of doctrine when it comes to church planting. Far too many have disregarded doctrine and ended up making a mess not only of themselves, but also the churches they once led. Ephesians 4:14 describes individuals who find themselves in these kinds of churches as those who are “. . . tossed to and fro by the waves and carried around by every wind of doctrine. . . .”
The Bible is filled with doctrine which defines all that is good, right, and true. Hence, individuals whom we do send out to plant churches have to be well equipped to teach God’s Word faithfully. Therefore, we ought to guard God’s Word, and the importance of doctrine cements this particular truth.
- Practice patience
I know of churches that have made decisions to plant and went ahead to do it in a fortnight. This calls into question whether such churches take this particular task seriously. Questions we may ask would be: Did they identify men capable of this work and seek to invest in them for it? Patience needs to be exhibited if we are to plant churches that bring about much fruit to God’s glory. Hastiness will lead us to do things which are man-centered, which will yield church plants that follow the same path.
Moreover, aspects such as the church planter’s expectations while working among the poor need to be well communicated. Many tend to be unrealistic, with the planters and their teams thinking they will accomplish far more than is actually possible. It is therefore necessary to think through matters such as finances and resources, and how they can trust the Lord in this process of planting healthy churches.
- Resource the individuals
There should appropriate measures of making sure that the individuals are financed. When it comes to planting healthy churches among the poor, this is especially pertinent. Church planters ought to be able to feed their families and meet other basic needs.
But the finances should not be sought for individuals alone, but also for things like hiring a meeting space, paying electricity bills, funding training resources, and more. All these things come with church planting. If finances are not addressed appropriately, this could harm the work.
Let’s fervently add unto our zeal of church planting the due diligence that is needed as we fulfil Christ’s great command of making disciples all over the world.