God never intended for us to start churches in isolation.
While God prepares us and uses us as individuals, the church doesn’t begin to take root until we are working with a team.
Individuals do God’s work today, and have done His work in history. In Acts chapter 8, Phillip teaches the eunuch about Jesus and then baptizes him in the river, but a church is not an immediate result of this particular work. In Acts chapter 10, God speaks to Cornelius and Peter separately, and then together they process all God taught them to develop a new understanding about the church – God shows no partiality and the church is to go out and reach the Gentiles.
Look at the early church in Antioch. As the church began to spread, the apostles were sent out in pairs. “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.” (Acts 13:2-3 ESV)
I think we understand and agree the church is not built in isolation, but in recent church history, there has been an awful lot of emphasis placed upon the strengths of the individual lead planter.
Why has this been the case?
I think there are several reasons sending agencies have focused on individuals and not required planters to go out in pairs or teams.
Analyzing this trend may cause us to feel defensive, but let’s try not to protect past decisions. Let’s focus on how God is moving right now, at this time, and in this phase of His church. Some of the reasons we have tended to focus on individual planters have been…
- It is less expensive to fund a single church planter.
- It’s not always possible to find multiple planters who want to travel to the same location.
- We expect conflict when two planters with big ideas or big personalities take on the same project.
If we go out and plant churches in teams, this means several things…
- Leaders will probably need to work multiple jobs.
- Leaders will need to share the vision for the church, bending in some areas where they wouldn’t normally have had to be flexible.
- Leaders may need to travel to locations, which weren’t their first choice.
There are repercussions of planting as a team. Can we handle what this means if the success of the church depends on this? What are we willing to give up for the sake of the Great Commission? We are asked to give up everything. Making some tweaks to individual plans shouldn’t make or break our willingness to go out for the gospel.
What does this mean for wives?
As wives, we can only take so much, so why would God ask us to give up even more in this crazy world of church planting? The simple answer: Because it’s not about us and our own happiness.
I am not saying we have been acting selfishly. I am saying I think God is moving in a new way so the gospel can reach the ends of the earth. This will require a brain shift on our parts.
I suggest we begin to prepare ourselves for planting churches with a team. In order to prepare for working closely with other planter’s wives, let’s prepare our hearts and minds for the work to come.
First, get ready to work with people you won’t fully understand.
We all come from different backgrounds, have diverging strengths and challenges, and dream unique dreams for our futures. Some of us have visions that take our church far into the future, while others of us focus on the tangible details of Sunday mornings or evening events. You won’t always understand where other leaders and other wives are coming from. When you don’t understand, for the sake of ministry, consider approaching these situations in two ways…
- Give other wives the benefit of the doubt. When conflicts arise, try to begin with the positive. Assume their intentions were for God’s glory, and work from there.
- Ask questions. Nothing frustrates my husband more than when people make assumptions about him or his intentions, and don’t take the time to ask questions. When we ask questions, it shows we value each other. It shows we care. When you do ask questions, form the questions
Second, get ready to share ideas with people who will hurt your feelings.
Any time you work in a group, you must come to some kind of agreement when decisions need to be made. What time will the service be? This needs a definitive answer. How many chairs will we set up? You have to pick a number. When you work with a team who doesn’t choose your opinion or idea, I suggest a couple of ways to deal with this.
- Focus on the big picture, rather than the small ideas. You are all working toward the same goal. What difference does it make if someone other than you gets to sing this Sunday? Remember we are here to worship an all-powerful God of the universe. It doesn’t matter who gets up on stage this week.
- Rely on the Holy Spirit. When Jesus gives the disciples the Great Commission, he asks them not to go out yet. He tells them to wait for the Holy Spirit. We must also rely on the Holy Spirit for all of the work we do. As a team, pray that the Holy Spirit will move and work through you.
Third, prepare to have some of your workload removed from your plate.
This is where working with a team provides awesome benefits to you, planter’s wife. With a team comes an opportunity to share the load. Sometimes events will be at your home, and sometimes they will be at other homes. This means half of the cleaning and food preparation for you. This means your husband may not need to plan a sermon every week.
Celebrate the benefits of working with a team, so it’s easier to handle the difficulties this may present.
- Starting with a team means instant friends. Even if you are unlike one another and wouldn’t be BFFs in school, I am sure you can find some things you and other wives have in common. For example, you gave up everything to go plant this church, so there’s something!
- Staring with a team means less work. Be intentional about sharing the load. Check in with each other from time to time to see how everyone is feeling about the shared work. Solve problems that arise with a glad heart (no this doesn’t mean the one people-pleaser in the group takes on all of the difficult tasks to please others). Think outside of the box. If nobody wants to cook dinner for an event, maybe order take-out.
Is God moving in your life to plant a church with a team? If so, we’d love to hear about it. Feel free to comment or submit your own story or thoughts through the submission guidelines listed on this website.
Let’s end with a prayer.
Lord, you are King of the Universe, and You can move in the church in any way you please. We ask that you would help us to be your willing servants, to go where You send us, to bend where you bend us, and to serve where you want us to implement the talents You gave us. Lord, send Your Holy Spirit to do the work, to change hearts and lives so the whole world would understand that Jesus died so we may be forgiven of our sins. We love You and trust Your Great Plan.