By Robert Earl Houston
I’ve had the opportunity to serve in established churches and planted churches. I believe that there is a purpose in planting or starting a church and just with anything else, there is a right reason and a wrong reason.
I need to state my conviction that I don’t believe that God’s anointing is upon all of our plans. Sometimes we do things that are contrary to the will of God and then try to defend it by saying The Lord is leading me to do so. However, The Lord is not behind every church plant.
When living in San Diego, after leaving a church, I was approached by several people to start a church. Matter of fact, there were those who expected me to plant one and some reached out and offered to assist me to do so. There was something missing.
The voice of the Holy Spirit. I did not hear from him and did not proceed in my plans. Instead, I trusted God – preached across the country for a year and then accepted an invite to serve in Nashville and then eventually Frankfort.
Three questions to ask yourself when planting a Church . . .
#1 – is this a birth of joy or pain?
Are you starting a church because of genuine inspiration or is it because, according to your timetable, you’re ready to be a pastor? Starting a church because you want your name on a marquee is not a reason to plant a church. Nor should you plant one because you got mad with your pastor or a handful of members “ran you off.” I believe that some transitions prepare for your next assignment, that you nor the public can see. Also, patience will help you prepare for what God has for you. If you received your calling to preach one week that does not mean you’re ready to pastor next month. Also, don’t let people call you to pastor – make sure it’s God and not people. It will activate the insurance policy – “and lo, I’m with you . . .”
#2 – Is there a real need?
Planting a church a few feet away from 10 other churches doesn’t make any sense – planting should be done where there is fresh soil. For example, if I were going to plant a church, I would consider a new community or location that has not been evangelized. If the north is covered, consider the south. If Green Acres is covered it’s churches, consider Shady Acres. If you find a community with hundreds of homes and no churches, there is a prime spot for planting
#3 – Am I building with recycled goods?
This is a biggie. Are you building with a group of people who are leaving with you with the Pastor’s permission (or were they your loyal supporters in your previous church) or are you soliciting members without the Pastor’s permission? That’s one of the lowest versions of snick-thievery when a minister starts a church with the purpose of doing harm to his or her pastor. I’ve had two ministers start churches under my watch – Rev. Edmond Perkins in San Diego and Rev. Carole Jacobs in Frankfort. Both of them came to me, shared their vision and left with my support and blessing. Matter of fact, I actually moderated the meeting and installed Pastor Perkins and Pastor Jacobs and I have a wonderful relationship. They left right.
I do know this – there are unsaved sinners in every city that need to hear a word from The Lord.
The difference is motive.
– If someone says to an associate minister, “if you join my church, I’ll ordain you . . .” Don’t fall for that cheapening of your ministry. Make ordination a commencement of your ministry and not a benediction.
– Consider the costs involved. Starting a church is more than a notion. Never start a church that digs a hole for you financially that will cripple the work. A church that is stuck financially creates discontent among the members.
– Find a pastor to talk to who has planted a church. It’s not easy. It may mean that you’re going to have to throw away the delusion of armour bearers, anniversaries and air flights – and wind up being the pastor, the bulletin maker, the secretary and the janitor.
– Seek the voice of the Spirit. Don’t consider the voice of supporters alone. And remember, some the people who say, “I’m going with you” should not be counted until they actually sign on the dotted line and commit financially.
– Consider the relationship with your home church. If you splinter it or split it, you may reap a whirlwind personally or denominationally or socially.
I welcome your comments below.