In this final part of this series on my journey to planting a church, I’d like to talk about self-assessment. I believe every planter should be assessed by other experienced planters before they plant the church. But before that happens, they should ask themselves several questions. Here are a few I wrestled with and worked through in discerning my call to plant Valley Life Church | Arrowhead in Phoenix, Arizona.
Am I supposed to plant a church?
This is about calling. Is God calling you to do this? This was difficult for me to discern. Having been the pastor of an established church for some time and having experienced some fairly painful trials in my leadership there, my vision was clouded. I knew running from a hard situation was no reason to plant a church and I had to ask myself if I was doing so. There were several dark months, a period of counseling, and lots of soul searching. The counseling helped lift the fog of indecision by drawing out my desires. Slowly I began to understand that God had been molding and shaping me for planting this church. The lack of contentment I felt in my leadership was the result of God’s changing of my desires. One day, one of my friends asked me simply, “What do you want to do?”
“I want to plant a church,” I replied.
A few days later I read 2 Corinthians 2:12-13:
When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.
I felt a release from my role as pastor in Oklahoma and knew I was supposed to go plant in Arizona.
I believe calling looks a lot like this: desire + stability + ability + opportunity. I realized I desired to plant a church. Now to figure out if I had the stability, ability, and opportunity.
Can I plant a church?
I remember sitting across from two of my closest friends in a hotel room in Dallas pouring out my soul only to be told, “You cannot plant a church in the condition you are in emotionally.” It angered me and was the best thing for me. I had to start down the path to emotional health. To be transparent, if I had known that the church planting road would be as hard as it was, I might not have started down it. Starting was easy compared to pressing on through the difficult sections we faced.
The path to emotional health is ongoing. You never get to say, “I’m fine.” So I ask you, can you lead yourself? How do you handle conflict and rejection? You’ll have plenty of both in planting a church. Can you crawl out of your self-absorption and make it to appointments on time? Do you read your Bible? Do you pray? Do you have any secret sins? Are you sleeping with your girlfriend? Are you watching porn? Do you like to spend time alone with Jesus? Are you the same at work and at home? Are you emotionally stable? Are you willing to ask others to speak into your life?
The bottom line is this: If you aren’t leading yourself well, you have no business leading others and will be ineffective trying to do so. Church planting will expose your faults and failings unlike anything I have ever experienced. It’s better to honestly self-assess now, than be exposed as a fraud at an assessment you paid $400 to attend. An experienced church planter/assessor will come at you with hard questions because they know what is at stake. You can screw up your life, your family’s life, and the lives of several others. Don’t do it. And don’t waste the assessor’s time. They have taken precious time away from their family to ensure the next crop of planters is capable of doing the job. Get your stuff together, plug into a local church, serve those folks well, and let them serve you well by helping you see your flaws. The church has been God’s instrument for discipleship for a couple of centuries now. You can trust her.
Do I have the skills needed to plant a church?
Now we can discuss competency and capabilities. Specifics will become more clear through a formal church planting assessment like Acts 29 or the North American Mission Board, but you can start asking yourself one single question right now. Are you leading others?
At our church we define a leader as “a adult leading a group of adults to accomplish something.” So, have you done that? Don’t go before a potential financial partner if you haven’t lead other people. They want to feel confident that you can do this, and the best indicator of the future is the past. Lead some people to do something. Lead a project or an ongoing team at your church. Ask your leader or pastor for an opportunity to lead some folks. You’ll be glad you did and so will your future partners.
Who is “pushing” and who is “pulling” you?
I am of the opinion there should be both a push and a pull toward your church plant. The Apostle Paul, after being called by God, was “pushed” by the church at Antioch (Acts 13:3) and then he was “pulled” to Macedonia (Acts 16:9) Much of the pull or push may very well be established in the initial call of God for you to plant, but not always.
I was pulled to Phoenix and pushed by my church and local baptist association. My assessment confirmed the pull to plant and every successive financial partner affirmed and pushed us onward. Are you being sent by a church? An organization? An association of churches? Who is saying, “We believe in you. You should do this”? Slow down if there isn’t anyone. Paul was pulled to Macedonia only after he was called by God and affirmed and pushed by his church.
Who is investing in your church plant? Who is telling you to do this? There is wisdom in a multitude of counselors, and, like I said earlier, trust the church.
I hope this helps you determine if you should or shouldn’t plant a church. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter if you are still wrestling with the call to plant. I am happy to help and pass along what helped me.