Simple Advice to Church Planters

Everywhere I go to minister, even conferences I just go to sit and rest and be fed, I always get asked the same two questions, firstly, how do I get on TV, and secondly, how do I start a church, or sometimes from a pastor who has a church but didn’t start it, how do I start a second church.

The TV question is hard to answer because it was totally supernatural, ai can give advice but not comprehensive advice. But in terms of church planting, on the weekend we open church number 6 in the Tree of Life Family, here are 5 things I would advice any new church planter:

1. Always keep your focus on home base. The invites to travel seem so fun, so easy, and visiting speakers are like the cool Uncle, it can seem much easier than fathering. But if you are church planter, you are called to a father, don’t swap that for cool Uncle. Focus on home. For nearly five years, until Lee and Richard were ready to hold the Fort, I didn’t travel. Even now, you would be amazed how often I fly somewhere Monday, minister and fly home for Saturday to be ready for Dagenham. Especially when a church is young, it needs it’s father around. Even if you have a guest speaker, stay around and listen. Model how to listen to a sermon to your church.

2. Make disciples. That sounds really nebulous, but what it means is to have people copy you and do what you are doing. When you are counting the money, praying in tongues, preparing a sermon, putting chairs out, welcoming new people. Break the task down into steps and teach and model the steps and show people how to do it. The highest level of leadership is to lead people into being leaders, when you show them how to make their own disciples. This is not easy, it takes time. Welcome to church planting.

3. Learn the skill of building culture. Culture is what you celebrate, tolerate and castigate. Of these three, the most important of these is celebration. When someone acts in a 2ay you want the church to be, maybe takes a guest out to lunch after the service, visits one of their house group in hospital, goes and got a job, whatever it is, celebrate it. We always celebrate when someone ministers to the sick so we have a culture of ministering to the sick from everyone in the church. That did not happen by accident.

4. Never ever compare yourself to others. That leads to envy, strife and all evil. Rejoice with those who rejoice. When people are visibly doing better than you, rejoice. When people are visibly doing worse than you, secretly send them money. But you have never been in their shoes, so don’t judge.

5. Don’t copy another ministry. Learn from all of them, of course be humble and tender. But don’t try and operate in another man’s grace! Your value is not in your ability to be a clone, your value is in your uniqueness. People come to Tree of Life because I am not like any other pastor in town!

Your Peers Are Not Good Enough

Rehoboam although related to the wisest man alive at the time decided to reject the advice of his father’s generation and exclusively listened to his peers. The problem was his peers were too rough and hard, and Rehoboam needed to be tempered by the voice of wisdom.

It concerns me to see so many of my generation looking only to their peers, and rejecting the experience and wisdom of my father’s generation. I haven’t done everything right, but I have sought out those who have gone before and asked their counsel.

Recently, one man of God said to me “Ben, I don’t want to influence your decisions”, and I said “I want you to influence my decisions, that makes my decisions better”.

Let me tell you three reasons why you need to listen to your father’s generation.

1. There is nothing new under the sun. Recently, we had to deal with some very strange doctrines in our church, things like universalism and inclusionism. To me they were new doctrines, but to a couple of men in my father’s generation, they had been an issue in the 50s and 80s. They knew how to handle things because life is seasonal. Things repeat. History repeats. Find someone who has loved through more than one generation, and learn from them.

2. The temptation of youth is to be too harsh with people. That’s what attracted Solomon to the counsel of his peers. You don’t realise you win more flies with honey. Just being around seasoned ministers all of them have a gentleness, a humility, a graciousness that you cannot learn. It can only be caught. And I am glad to be infected.

3. Your peers are as foolhardy as you. Get too much of that in the same room and you write every else off as being too old, too jealous, too foolish, too over the hill, not passionate enough. The joy of youth is enthusiasm, the joy of age is wisdom, and both need each other.