I spent the last week at a mainline’s church planter and church transformation training event. I wish I could say I was surprised at how great the training was. I wish. But the fact is, the training was long on the right theology and light on practicalities like the importance of evangelism in starting and growing churches in our growing pre-Christian culture. I wasn’t surprised to find that the church planting success stories and “heroes” of the conference hadn’t broken 100 in worship… one was several years in and hadn’t even broken seventy. Indeed, the message from one of the denominational key planners and leaders was that the planters really didn’t need to worry about growing their churches, that small (and unsustainable) was just fine. It’s a good thing this particular denomination appears to have scads of money in the bank to support so many boutique and micro churches that are being led by seminary-trained church planters.

So it was with a sense of loss that I found myself on the way home. Laid over in Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta, I sat down in a TGI Friday’s for lunch. It was busy and a couple about my age was sitting at the table about eighteen inches away from mine. The server asked the couple for their order and they told her… and then before she could walk away the fellow said, “You know, we’re going to pray in just a few moments. Is there any way we could pray for you?”

That’s not the first time I’ve heard this opening for faithful conversation. After the couple finished praying for her I commended them for their practice. It turned out that I’d sat down next to a church pastor from Memphis and after a few minutes of conversation I learned that he led a church with several satellite locations. He was a church planter at heart and a Christ-follower at soul.

I’m not sure how many church planters and transformational pastors were at the event I’d just left, but in all the training they received none of the trainers mentioned anything as simple – and as effective – as this. In fact, I repeatedly heard participants reflect that they really wished they’d gotten something concrete from the conference.

So, church planters and transformational pastor trainers, especially in the mainline: take note. Evangelism, not more reflections on how so-and-so does church, will grow the kingdom. It’s what these planters are hungry for… and those that aren’t hungry for that, I gotta wonder how they made it through the assessment process to be a church planter. Let’s reconsider the basics of church planting and revitalization, because if we don’t we’ll keep getting what we’ve been getting.

Question: What are some other key practical tips that this event would have done well to include? Share yours in the Comments section below.