Church Planting is always about taking the gospel to people who have not heard it. At the end of the day this is what matters. People need to know the hope we have in Jesus and church planting is one of the most effective tools for seeing people come to Christ. In our conversation with Charles Campbell, Director of Church Planting Training for NAMB, we look at four markers of healthy church planters: Calling/Finding identity as disciples, Good healthy marriage, missionary mindset, and multiplication. All of these markers are essential for healthy, strong and successful church planters and plants regardless of the model or context.
1. Calling/Finding identity as disciples
There must be confidence that Jesus has called the planting couple into this missionary endeavor. This calling is so important especially when life gets difficult and things don’t go as planned. Being able to look back and remember that call of God to plant is essential for survival. When the work gets hard and the enemy begins to lie about who we are and how we’re doing, being able to know whose we are and who sent us is vital. How has God affirmed and confirmed that calling? Were there people who saw this calling even before the planting couple did? God will use this calling to strengthen and sustain the planter and family.
2. Good healthy marriage
Does the husband know how to shepherd his family well? Is there good communication and an ability to handle conflict well? If the couple communicates well and can handle conflict that arises, then they have a great chance for success. Good communication and knowing how to fight fair will go a long way to establishing a good healthy marriage. Charles borrows language from Tim Witmer on shepherding: knowing, leading, feeding and protecting your sheep. If a planter can do these things with his family, then he will be more likely to do them well with the church plant.
3. Missionary mindset
Can the planter think and operate like a missionary? Can he lead people to Jesus and communicate the gospel effectively in a given context? If the planter cannot operate as a missionary in his culture and context, then he has no hope of success in church planting. Operating like a missionary simply means that the planter knows how to evangelize and use the right language for his context to bring the gospel to people who don’t know Jesus. The gospel must be verbally communicated in a way that people can understand it and be called to a decision. If the planter can’t do this, then he might as well pack up and go home.
Does the planter have a way to discover, develop and deploy from within? Can he develop reproducible systems to discover potential planters and leaders from within? Is there an ability to equip those leaders in such a way that when they’re ready they can be sent? The plant needs leaders developed who can stay and leaders who can go. If leaders are raised up and equipped to serve, then they must be given a place to serve or fractures will happen. There will never be a time when a church planters mission is done. There will never be a time when the church plant has enough leaders. Each plant must have a system of identifying, developing and sending new leaders.
There is much more that could be said of successful church planters, but these four things are essential not only for success, but for survival. Church planting is hard work. It is in every sense of the word a “grind.” Knowing that our identities are grounded in Jesus, working to build a healthy marriage and family, engaging our culture and context as a missionary, and having a system for multiply leaders will go a long way to enabling the church planter to lead a healthy and successful church plant.