By Ron Blankenship, Director of Missions/Church Planting Catalyst for Montgomery Baptist Association
Church planters can find many good books about methods for church planting success; I would certainly recommend they do so. However, in the busyness and hurriedness of deadlines and schedules, the church planter can easily overlook their own inner spiritual life. A growing relationship with God directly affects Kingdom success and the growth of the church plant. I know this to be true, as a result of my 32 years in ministry serving as a senior pastor, a church planter and a Director of Missions/Church Planting Catalyst (last 12 years).
What are some myths about the planter’s spiritual walk with God?
One myth is that spiritual warfare and Satan are not real. On the contrary, Satan will throw all the weapons in his arsenal at church planters, in order to put obstacles in the way of their personal life, family and new church, attempting to claim “squatter’s rights” on their ministry.
Another myth is that if God calls someone to plant a church, He will automatically make that person spiritually mature. Unfortunately, such is not the case, for spiritual formation is a discipline that never ends in this life.
There is also the myth that one doesn’t need a growing relationship with God if he or she will work hard enough. Allow me to illustrate this. One of my best friends was diagnosed with diabetes. He had always worked harder when his church plant was in a downturn. However, he ignored his relationship with God and soon had to resign for health reasons.
There are many myths related to the planter’s spiritual life, but in this article I’ll mention only one more: since God led the planter to start this church, He will make it successful, whether the planter has a disciplined spiritual life or not. This is “the lazy man’s approach” to church planting, that believes the planter has no responsibility of obedience in the partnership with God to grow His church.
What are some lessons that can aid the planter to sustain a healthy spiritual walk with God while starting a strong, vital church?
The first and most important lesson is that God is always at work, even when the immediate results are not visible. Church planters are usually great with vision, but short on patience. God even designs “down times” in ministry to give planters time to focus more on their relationship with Him and, spiritually, to prepare them for the next stage of growth.
Another lesson is that only God opens Kingdom doors. Sometimes planters can spend unnecessary amounts of time, energy and resources trying to walk through “closed doors.” They may see these closed doors as Satan’s obstacles to their future success. Planters need to develop a spiritual communication with God, in order to discern the doors that are open and the ones that are closed. Like a farmer, they are called to till the soil, plant the seeds and water the crop. However, only God can grow the church. As the poet Joyce Kilmer so vividly states: “Poems were made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.”
A third lesson is that one grows spiritually by being active and partnering with God in the process of church planting. God chooses to make this a cooperative effort in His Kingdom work; for without Him, it would be genuinely impossible to plant a church. He grows His child in the process, not simply as a result of it.
Next, lead a balanced life spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, physically and socially. We are holistic human beings. God cares about all parts of human life. Many pastors and planters lose their family, job, physical and mental health by attempting to go beyond their personal limitations and what God has called them to do. All planters need to live out fully who God made them to be…and let God alone be God in their lives.
Again, though there are many lessons, the last one I will share is this: make time to develop your spiritual life. Work on the inner spiritual disciplines of Bible study, prayer, solitude and fasting. Choose also to work on the active outer disciplines of worship, evangelism, service, simplicity, sacrifice and stewardship.
Without a doubt, spiritually healthy planters make for healthier church plants. So, above everything else make sure that the primary focus of your life and church is to glorify God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ron Blankenship is the Director of Missions/Church Planting Catalyst for Montgomery Baptist Association in Maryland. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (301) 529-0310.