3 Advantages of a Church Planting ResidencyBy Stephen Love
May 11, 2021
“Church planter.” A title which comes with Pauline, KJV power, and weightiness. A title that I have, admittedly, never gotten used to. A title that causes me to tremble. Not because I have failed to realize that I am a man who has planted a church. No. But because I don’t see myself as a “church planter” at large. I’m not innately a church planter. I am a church planter within the “right system.” Akin to the student who learns better at one school as opposed to another, or an athlete who performs at a higher level with one team as opposed to another; they are products of the “right system.”
So, naturally, whenever someone calls me a church planter, or intimates that I could have planted a church anywhere, anytime, under any circumstances, I always have the same response: the only reason I planted this church is because the system in which I planted was conducive to me planting.
Church Planting Residency
The system to which I am referring is a Church Planting Residency. That is, coming under the care, guidance, support, and encouragement of a local body for the sole purpose of being sent out to plant. Don’t get me wrong—there are other good ways to plant a church. However, in all my experiences (both lived and vicarious), I have seen church planting residency as a “more accurate way.” (“My experiences” being the key phrase; this isn’t a polemic against other methods, just one brotha’s humble opinion.)
The book of Acts characterizes Apollos as a man “eloquent in the use of scriptures.” As a matter of fact, the text says, “he was speaking and teaching accurately about Jesus.” Accurate is good. Then Apollos meets the power couple, Priscilla and Aquila, and they, “explained the way of God more accurately to him”.
Church planting, both which I have seen and played a role within, was, indeed accurate. However, church planting residency proved to me to be more accurate by these three benefits: the planter is fed experientially, the planter is fed spiritually, and the planter is fed physically.
Church planting is immense. From the moment I stepped foot into Gospel City Church (where I was a resident), I knew this would be good for me. Growing up under a gifted preacher and pastor (my father) and being allowed multiple opportunities to “sharpen my gift” of preaching over the previous fifteen years, I was fairly confident in my ability to preach (at least not to say something overtly heretical from the pulpit). However my capabilities fell short in back office procedures for the church, creating a church budget, leading multiple elders meetings, and balancing preaching with daily staff responsibilities. You know, all the stuff they don’t teach you in seminary.
Being a resident at Gospel City gave me this experience. It allowed me to “live beyond my years of understanding” when it came time for me to plant.
I could have jumped in with minimal experience and by the extreme grace of God pressed ahead. But, to me, the residency was a more accurate way.
Church planting is hard (news flash). It was hard for my wife. It was hard for my kids. The mental energy exerted alone was enough to bring a brotha to his knees (praise God). I couldn’t imagine doing that without the blessing of the local church. Feeding others while simultaneously being fed during the first leg of church planting was a grace of God. The mutual ministry of God’s people in the beginning stages of church planting was the omniscient grace of God that I needed to press ahead.
I could have, like some of my brothas in the ministry, jumped in without the support of a local church body. But, to me, the residency was a more accurate way.
Church planting is expensive. Again, growing up with a church planter as a father, I was existentially aware of the “living by faith when checking the bank account” life that came along with planting a church. If I am brutally honest, this was the biggest hesitation for me. Do I want to subject my family to a church planting budget when the Lord has gifted me with a skill-set to earn a “good” living for them?
Enter stage left, church planter residency! What if a potential planter can be freed up to do the work of planting without having to worry about what his family would eat? What if established churches would think less in terms of “return on investment” and more in terms of “investing in kingdom building through church planting prior to Christ’s return”?
Sure, I could have jumped into church planting with a George Mueller type of faith and a George Jefferson type of bank account before he “moved on up.” And I am sure that my God who owns a cattle on a thousand hills would have provided. But, to me, the Lord providing through a paid residency during the first leg of church planting was a more accurate way.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the church planting residency wasn’t all unicorns and jujubes. Both myself and my church of residency had to overcome challenges. I wanted my plant to look exactly like a 10-year established church within the first year, while my church of residency had to remember what it was like to be a church plant 10 years prior. In other words, having patience was my battle and, to quote Will Smith “parents just don’t understand” was their battle. However, when you take all the benefits and place them over against all the challenges, the former (experientially, spiritually, and physically) outweigh the latter. And as I am entering my first full year since the church launched, I am now more fully convinced church planting residency was and is a more accurate way.
If you are an aspiring church planter looking for a network partner, find out if GCC is your right network partner.