4 Priorities of a Church-Planting Church

It was over eighteen years ago that my wife and I joined with a few other couples to plant a church to see lives changed for the glory of God. We had no idea in this process that the Lord would allow us to see several church plants be launched from our congregation into thriving works in their own right. As I look back on the critical ingredients to be a church-planting church here is what stands out most to me as to the biblical priorities and convictions to see this desire fulfilled.

You cannot overemphasize the role and importance of prayer.

It is prayer that most aligns us with the will of God. It is prayer that then invites the Holy Spirit to take the lead of His Church. A church that builds a culture of prayer will necessarily lead to a culture of listening and following the lead of the LORD.

A church that builds a culture of prayer will necessarily lead to a culture of listening and following the lead of the LORD.

It is prayer that brings us to the place where we gladly and expectantly to our Father, “Your will be done.”

The common temptation of wanting to be used by the LORD and possessing strong ambition for the Lord is to actually move ahead of the Lord. The intentions and motives are healthy, but the timing must be God’s. Desiring to plant a church is wonderful, critically important and part of our Great Commission and yet we must make sure the Holy Spirit is leading and speaking in this. One of the great pieces of wisdom in this process is do not get ahead of God Himself.

A powerful example of this comes from Acts 13:2-3 where it says, “While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Notice in this example that the Church did not move until the Holy Spirit spoke. It is also tremendously encouraging to survey the role of prayer throughout the entire book of Acts. The early Church was used to change the world through the reliance on the Holy Spirit through dependence in prayer. This truth has not changed.

Please hear me—I’m not saying that prayer guarantees you to have a culture of church planting. But I am saying you will not have a genuine, Spirit led church planting culture apart from prayer.

We must cultivate a spirit of generosity to foster a culture of church planting.

Any brief survey of the New Testament churches will see an explicit and inherent generosity displayed throughout. The greatest example of this would be typified by the Macedonian churches described in 2 Corinthians 8-9. As Paul stated, “for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part” (2 Cor. 8:2). This one verse speaks of faith in affliction, sacrifice within poverty and abundant joy that overflowed into extreme generosity.

Evidently there was such an understanding of mission, gospel and the love of Christ that this seemed to automatically, but also supernaturally lead Paul to explain that they were “begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints” (2 Cor. 8:4). Wow!

This also speaks to the wonderful spiritual law of the harvest which says, “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Cor. 9:6). Our personal conviction as a church is that we would give away to the gospel at minimum 20% of our income each year. Most years we have been around 25% of our budget for the gospel and church planting around the world. We seek to believe and then to live as a church that “you cannot outgive God.” This culture of generosity has been used of the Lord to bear much fruit for Him and has created an expectation without our church for more of the same. We believe that a spirit of generosity leads the Lord to entrust us with a special stewardship as He decides.

There must be an obvious mission mindset.

I believe it is true that the greatest method of evangelism is through the planting of local churches. It was this way in the book of Acts and remains true today. It is simply the design of God and the method of God to move through the local church.

This mission mindset must begin with the leadership of the church, the elders. We all understand that our churches will not carry this conviction if we ourselves do not hold it. This mindset of mission will show up in the preaching, it will come across in the story telling throughout the church. It will be defined as an attribute as people enter the church. It will be part of the fragrance of the prayer in the church. It will be taught on and discipled within the groups of the church. The mindset of mission will be modeled and celebrated often within the church.

To be clear, we have experienced seasons of this mission conviction which has been supernaturally thrilling and exciting. But the Lord has also granted us seasons of waiting and refining as well. Both are needed, both are part of God’s design for His church to be ready for what lies ahead.

It is essential we carry a kingdom conviction.

It is one thing to carry a strong and obvious kingdom conviction in the early years of the ministry, but what about as the years go by? We must fight for this continually in prayer. As GCC's President Dave Harvey has said, “How often church planters carry a mindset of mission and a conviction for the kingdom as they are planting…but then after they have planted, they often retreat into self-preservation and a holy huddle of sorts?”

It was Jesus who said in Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” This is a massive principle for Christians and for the Church. The principle is: you focus on seeking the kingdom and God says that He will worry about everything else.  The temptation for the Church in our day is to be so focused on the details that they forget about the actual kingdom. May it not be so.

Consider the parable of the hidden treasure in Matthew 13. Briefly, the man finds the treasure, experiences the unparalleled joy in the worth of the treasure, and then sacrifices everything to obtain the treasure. Jesus begins this parable by saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like” (Matt. 13:44). Our greatest conviction must be the kingdom of God; this will drive us to see His treasure, to know His joy and then be willing to sacrifice everything for that cause. A genuine church planting culture is the overflow of a passion for God’s Kingdom.

A genuine church planting culture is the overflow of a passion for God's Kingdom.

It is deeply encouraging to think that when our churches are filled with prayer, a heart of generosity, a mindset of mission, and a growing kingdom conviction, that suddenly so many other concerns seem to fade away. We are so focused on His priorities that we don’t have time to be distracted by our own. May it always be so.

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