Nobody is ever one hundred percent ready to plant a church.
Planting a church is always a risk and always involves unknown factors. However, I’ve seen church planters who push too hard to make things happen. This is a problem because if you must push too hard, you may be working outside of God’s will and you may end up damaging some relationships along the way—important relationships you’re going to need when you’re planting a church.
Here are three questions you can ask to determine if you’re ready to plant a new church.
1. What encouragement have we received from people we trust that planting a church is a good decision?
2. What doors have opened to lead us to think God is moving for us to plant?
3. Are there any red flags which might suggest we aren’t ready to plant a church?
Let’s talk more about number one.
- What encouragement have we received from people we trust?
It’s critical in church planting that you listen to people around you. Sure, there may be people who think church planting is some kind of rogue adventure where you don’t need anybody else’s support. Often times disgruntled pastors decide they want to be free from church politics and conflict so they’re going to start something new (even though there will always be church politics and conflict). I think it’s possible for God to use these kind of conditions for planting, but I’m certain way more of the time God uses positive conditions to birth new churches.
It’s important to have a significant number of people in your life telling you you’re ready. Listen to mentors and other pastors and church planters. Find networks to be a part of and allow them to speak into your church planting journey. You should draw upon a large body of advice before you go out and plant. If one source is discouraging you from planting that may not be enough to suggest you’re not ready. However, if several sources have told you you’re not ready, then it’s your responsibility to find out why, set goals to learn and grow, and be patient because God can still use you to plant in the future.
Let’s look at question two.
2. What doors have opened to make us think God wants us to plant a church?
I don’t like to test God expecting signs and wonders to show me the way. However, we serve a powerful and mysterious God who can reveal his plan any way he sees fit.
I remember a time when John and I were convinced we were supposed to return to our home state of Washington and stop church planting altogether. We had actually started packing and making phone calls to arrange for a place to live. John kept getting calls from a man named Rick, who was director of church planting for a large denomination, and who wanted John to plant a church within a dying church.
“No,” John kept saying. He even hung up on Rick because he was convinced we were done with church planting because we’d come out of a brutal time of illness and loss. Finally, Rick said he’d buy John lunch. Since we were broke and the thought of eating something from home was less than desirable, John agreed to meet with Rick (I understand this kind of attitude shows how burned out we really were at this time). During that meeting God flung open some doors. Rick showed John plans he’d been dreaming of for a long time for planting churches in the United States. These plans were nearly identical to the plans of which John had been dreaming. We did end up staying in California and planting another church which we eventually passed off. Through staying, God has used us in many ways in the world of church planting.
God hasn’t always opened the doors so wide for our church planting adventures, but this example shows us he can. If there are no doors opening for you to plant, you may want to slow down, take on a different role within an existing church, and use this in between time to learn and grow so you’re ready when the doors do begin to open.
These are the kind of open-doors which might indicate you’re ready to plant a church:
- Your husband has started, grown, and handed off ministries to new leaders.
- Your husband is able to develop and communicate a clear vision for ministry and pass the vision along to leaders.
- People follow you.
- You’re willing to make the sacrifices needed to plant a church.
Finally, let’s take a look at question number three.
Are there any red flags which might suggest we aren’t ready to plant a church?
This is where you have a responsibility as the wife to be honest. If you know about any red flags which suggest you’re not ready to plant, then you need to bring them out into the open. What might some of these flags be? Here are a few…
- Unconfessed sin, which if continued would effect your husband’s ability to pastor a church.
- An out-of-control household. Do you and your husband fight and bicker? This isn’t a good sign. Go to counseling. Talk to another couple who has more productive ways of dealing with conflict. If the problem in your household isn’t between you and your husband, but with the kids, it’s important to take time to figure out what’s going on. The last thing you want is to take time for everybody else and allow your children’s spiritual wellbeing to slip through the cracks.
- Does your husband fit the qualifications from 1 Timothy chapter three, verses one to seven? Here is the scripture which outlines the qualifications for elders within the church.
“The saying is trustworthy; If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”
So if you’re wondering if you and your husband are ready to go out and plant a church, give these three questions an honest look and then I think you’ll know what to do. Pray about the desire to plant and seek God’s will in your life. God will move when the time is ready. Trust him in this.
If after considering these three questions you’ve decided you don’t think you’re ready to plant, here are a few steps to take:
- Talk with your husband about what you’re thinking. Go over the three questions with him and see if he agrees. Listen to his perspective because there could be something you’re missing or don’t understand.
- Make a plan to prepare to plant. Allow others to show you what areas in your life need work, or what areas in your ministry need to grow. This may involve a kind of internship with a church plant.
- Consider the truth your husband may not be destined to be the lead planter of a church. Churches need lots of leaders and lots of people. Maybe you’re meant to do church planting part time rather than full time right now. God will love you and your husband if this church planting thing doesn’t work out. He can use you in so many other ways.
- Keep on growing, learning, and praying.
I hope these three questions have helped you. It’s important to be honest with ourselves and not take church planting lightly. This is Christ’s bride we’re talking about, and we must be careful and thoughtful about our roles within church planting.
Please be with these couples who are considering whether or not they’re ready to plant a church. Show them the truth. Reveal areas where they have strengths and areas where they need to grow. Surround them with other pastors and networks who can speak truth into their lives. Prepare them, help them to have patience, and give them an abundant joy as they seek to do your will.