Over the years I’ve noticed something about church plants that might be helpful to you. Somewhere around 125-200 in worship, many semi-successful church planters lose their focus on outreach and bringing more people to Christ, and the church stalls out. I’ve noticed several reasons for this loss of focus on outreach and evangelism. I share them with you in the hope they help you avoid this mistake.
Several reasons cause church planters to lose focus on the main thing.
- For mainline planters, denominational pressure to charter can be enormous. I’ve never understood the passion for chartering. All chartering does is slow down the growth of the plant because of all the paperwork it takes. Chartering before a church reaches at least 300 in worship is a “penny wise, pound foolish” endeavor.
- Too many of the new people come from a churched background and think of the church as a building and organization. This is especially true for mainline churches that send out large direct mail pieces announcing the launch.
- The planter thinks they must be responsible for pastoral care instead of handing that off to someone trained for the job. Although it is normal for pastors to care about people, pastoral care should not be high on a planter’s job description.
- The planter gets bogged down in discipleship classes. I know one planter who is teaching two Bible studies every week. Think of how many hours that takes away from reaching new people. There are just so many hours in a week and planters need to focus 75-80% of their time on reaching new people.
- Churches around 200 usually reach financial viability, and any misdirected passion for outreach is easily replaced by the easier pastoral care model of ministry.
- People are basically sinful which means what’s in it for them is important. What more can I say about this?
So what’s a church planter to do?
- Filter out the clamor for organization and focus on bringing in new people – even if you lose some people in the process.
- Resist denominational supervisors as long as you can. Build a case for not chartering until you reach at least 250 in worship.
- Renew the passion for transforming people and leave the caregiving to someone else you’ve trained.
- Don’t do generic discipleship classes. Instead, focus your training on a handful of potential leaders who will become voices in the community for the mission.
- Focus attention on reaching totally unchurched people who have little to no concept of what a church is. It’s easier to write on a blank slate than to deprogram an institutional churched person.
- Cast a vision so large that no amount of money is enough. If you do so, you will never reach a point of financial comfort.
- Don’t pander to people’s sinful need to be the focus of everything. Instead turn their focus on helping others. Once people feel the joy of leading someone to Christ, they are hooked on evangelism for life.
Being a church planter who grows a church from nothing to thousands takes a great deal of focus. Such growth doesn’t just happen by accident. Losing one’s focus on outreach is one of the worst mistakes a planter can make- even if the church reaches thousands of people. As long as you breathe, outreach and evangelism should be your focus because that is what Jesus’ last will and testament asks us to do.
So in a word – focus. Keep your focus on what matters – bringing people to Christ, not just planting a church.
Question: Church planters, how have you maintained a proper focus on evangelism? Share your experiences in the Comments section below.