By David Jackson
For many years now, my wife Joye has looked forward to the opportunity to plant, cultivate and harvest a vegetable garden for our family. To a varying degree each year, it has been successful. We have enjoyed the homegrown tomatoes, peppers and squash she has produced. Somehow, it just tastes better to us! And we have taken pride in the fruit of her labors, as a special “success” in our own family life.
In the world of church planting we feel strongly that homegrown leaders are better, too. There are many reasons for this:
They already are connected to the roots and development of the community. They understand the culture of its people, what gives it a unique personality, and the rhythms of life there. This is invaluable information for a planter! Without it, years could pass before an outsider comes to understand and appreciate these things. With it, planters are able to build upon the values of the people who live in the community, create bridges to the opportunities the city wants addressed, and participate in community celebrations in an appropriate and appreciated way.
They already have relationships in the community. Homegrown planters know the people who branch out across the city. They have met them in school, work or places of business over the years; they converse, recreate and socialize with them weekly. These relationships spread out all over the community, enabling the homegrown planter to be known and to build upon these “already” relationships for outreach to others in the town where they will start a church. Since relationships are the heart of church planting, this is a huge advantage. Such relationships develop over time, and they produce trust and credibility for the planter, something sorely needed by most new church starters today.
They live or work in the community. Because of this, homegrown planters are seen as “insiders,” not “outsiders” by others in the community. In fact, these jobs or neighborhoods help the planter “bear fruit,” for they understand the culture of the community and are able to build the relationships, mentioned above. Their job or life among the people causes people to believe, “this person understands my life: he lives it, too.” In addition, it enables many of these planters to start their work bi-vocationally, which can add to the stability and the patient perseverance necessary to plant a new church in a healthy manner.
Finally, they are perennially in the community. Since their life is woven into the fabric of the community and since it is truly “home” to them, these homegrown planters are not looking to move or relocate to another place or church. They seek to stay and minister, right here in their own community. This adds to the longevity of their ministry, something researchers have noted helps any plant have a greater chance at success, long-term.
We like to say these homegrown planters are “indigenous” to their community. What indigenous planters may lack in education can be learned over time; on the other hand, what indigenous planters offer can’t be bought or made. It’s invaluable and can’t be replaced.
So, where do you find indigenous, “homegrown” new church starters? They are planted in your church or your college ministry right now. They are waiting to be cultivated and developed, in order to grow to their full potential in service for our Lord.
And what’s true of homegrown church planters is true of other leaders, too. They are right there in your congregation, waiting for you to discover them and help them grown. As in my wife’s garden, it takes energy and investment; it takes a heart that longs to see it happen. But if you are committed and willing, “homegrown” leadership will begin to happen. And in due season, it will bear fruit that many will enjoy for years—maybe, generations—to come.
David Jackson serves as the Strategist for Church Multiplication with the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. He can be reached by phone or text at (410) 977-9867 or by email at email@example.com