By Toby Dehay
My friend and mentor, Dr. Charles Brock, went to be with the Lord in November 2018. Although I only knew him as an older man, we spent enough time together for me to live vicariously in his past through his accounts of planting a church as an 18-year-old in rural Missouri and his adventures of starting indigenous churches in the Philippines with his wife Dottie and their children.
Brock taught me many things regarding evangelism and church planting. Here are a few of his funnier sayings that demonstrate the tenacity he brought to evangelism:
- “‘No Trespassing’ signs don’t really mean that. They’re there to scare away the crazies, not evangelists.”
- “I’m going to hurt in this chair at home, or I’m going to hurt while fishing. I chose fishing.” (Brock was 79 years old and had multiple sclerosis. His wife would encourage him to stay home to take care of himself, but he HAD to get to his local Wal-Mart or go door-to-door to share the gospel—what he called ‘fishing.’)
- “When someone says ‘no’ to the gospel, they don’t really mean it until the third time. When I hear ‘no’ three times, I know they mean it.”
Humor aside, in his book “Indigenous Church Planting,” Brock provides four essentials to church planting that we tend to overlook. He anchors the following four church-planting essentials to Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 1:5:
“Because our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, in the Holy Spirit, and with full assurance. You know how we lived among you for your benefit.”
1. The first essential in church planting is the Holy Spirit.
Brock wrote, “From beginning to end, our source of strength and wisdom comes from the indwelling Holy Spirit.” Without the Holy Spirit, we’re not planting a church; we’re hosting a social gathering.
Brock added, “Extensive surveys are a part of my life as a church planter, and the study of maps and population trends are a normal part of my approach to church planting. But I must emphasize that if all of my fruit is the result of such human efforts, I have missed the mark and the corresponding walk with God that Paul knew.”
2. The second essential is the Word of God, the Bible.
Charles famously said, “We must remember that what God’s Word says is more important and more powerful than anything we can say about it.” We tend to get caught up in our presentation of the gospel over the message itself.
Ask yourself these questions:
- “Am I confident God’s Word is sufficient to save the lost and disciple the believer? If so, am I using and applying it?”
- “Am I spending more time reading church-planting books which reference the Bible, or am I studying the Bible to learn about church planting?”
I have a ton of church-planting books, but nothing compares to what God’s Word says about His church.
3. The third essential in church planting is the sower.
While the “y’all come” attitude is practically dead, it’s still alive and strong when we put more effort into creating a Sunday morning atmosphere—complete with the catchiest sermon series titles and on-stage clothing choices—than we do the gospel.
Now, please don’t send me hate mail. Put effort into your Sunday morning atmosphere, but not at the expense of sowing the gospel seed into your community.
Brock reminded planters the Christian life, “is not a way of life to be entered into lightly or for any reason other than the clear, inescapable call of God.” He also wrote, “The harvest is dying on the vine due to a lack of church planters.”
4. The fourth essential in planting churches is the soil, the people.
In chapter 4 of his Gospel, Mark provides a great example of the various types of soil the sower will encounter. Some hearts are hard; other hearts allow the things of the world to crowd out the gospel. Then, there are those Brock would call the “hungry fish.”
Planters should not only study in public places to build relationships but should engage the community purposefully through local schools, civic clubs, and festivals. These relationships are important.
The harder relationships are the every-day, everywhere-you-go types, such as the clerk at the store, the person waiting beside you at the doctor’s office, and your neighbor three doors down. People are everywhere.
A lady once asked me, “How do you know if someone is lost?” I responded, “Just assume they are and share the gospel!”
Have you been fishing?
When Brock would call me, he’d first ask about my family and then get right to evangelism, asking, “Have you been fishing?”
Pastors, planters, leaders, and church members, I ask you, “Have you been fishing lately?” The four principles listed above are not only true for church planters, but also apply to every-day, as-you-go opportunities for evangelism.
“The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few” (Luke 10:2b). Let’s go fishing!
TOBY DEHAY (@tobydehay) serves the Kentucky Baptist Convention as a Church Planting and Development Associate and is currently working to finish his dissertation at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife have two children and are currently well on their way to visiting all Major League baseball parks.