by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.
It begins with a strong, stable local church, such as the Jerusalem church, or the Antioch church in Acts 13. The size of the church is not as significant as the importance of the church being solidly bible-based, Christ-centered, led by leaders of character and charisma, and motivated to win the lost and train the saved.
The leaders of the church must instill a vision for outreach. Otherwise, the church will become ingrown, developing what has been called “acute koinonitis,” and will lose sight of Christ’s Great Commission — “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15).
Train the people of your church in the things of God. Fill them with God’s word. The great, outreaching Antioch church of the Book of Acts (ch. 13ff) had prophets and teachers in the church (Acts 13:1). A good, biblical church will ensure that its people are well taught in the life-giving Scriptures.
Develop “good seed” (Matthew 13:38) in your church. Raise up holy, faithful Christians dedicated to fulfilling their part in the Great Commission.
Prayerfully help your people perceive the grace of God in their lives (Galatians 2:9). Help them discern their callings from God.
Church leaders should counsel extensively with potential team-leading pastors and team members — “Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counselors they are established” (Proverbs 15:22, KJV). Spend sufficient time with the team leader and team members to ensure that they have their lives “together” in both the natural and spiritual areas.
Be certain that there is harmony and unity within the team — “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought” (1 Corinthians 1:10). Churches thrive on unity, and they can be severely damaged by disunity.
After all these preparations are completed and the church leaders are satisfied that the mind and will of God have been discerned, the local church’s elders and fivefold ministers will ordain the team pastor with the laying on of hands and will send the whole team out to plant a new church where the Lord is leading them.
It is important that the team pastor and his potential team meet together often before being sent out. I recommend that they begin to gather in one of their homes and have times of worship as well as times of preaching by the team pastor, and make room for the operation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in those team meetings. By having their own actual church services in the home, team members learn to pray, worship, and minister together, as they will soon be doing after being sent out.
These team meetings give the team-leading pastor time to get to know his team well and to see how they function in a church and ministry context.
Team meetings before the sending out also enable potential team members to discover if they are solidly in agreement with the team pastor’s vision as he has received it from the Lord. If they are not, it’s good to discover that before the team is sent out. This can help avoid unnecessary division when the new church plant actually begins its ministry. The Scriptures warn: “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3, KJV).
Potential problems with marriages or unruly children can be discovered in the frequent assembling of the team while they are still in the sending church. These things can become a much bigger problem in a new church plant, where the pressures on the team are often greater than they were back in their established lives in the sending church.
Before the team is sent out, it is good if the team pastor can make a scouting trip to the location where the new church will be planted. He can gather valuable information during this trip, such as:
Finally the great day arrives! The church’s elders have diligently sought the will of God and have had the witness in their hearts that this church plant is the Lord’s direction. I recommend that a main church service be the time for the team pastor’s ordination and the team’s sending out. This will help the saints of that local church to keep the outreach vision fresh and alive, as they see their own friends, their fellow church members, being sent out into the Lord’s harvest field.
The elders lay hands on the team pastor and ordain him. Most local churches have legal ordaining authority written into their church’s Articles of Incorporation and/or Bylaws. In all cases the local churches, as in the Bible, have the spiritual authority under God’s direction to ordain called, qualified saints into the ministry. Along with ordaining the pastor, the elders should lay hands on the entire team, in view of the whole congregation, and send them forth with the blessing of God. It is a good thing if the sending church takes a generous offering to send with the team to help with their initial needs on the field — for example, finding a meeting place, doing advertising, buying audio-visual equipment, etc.
It is important for mature ministers from the sending church to follow up on the new team on the field. In the high-tech age we live in, there are ways to do this that were unknown in earlier generations. As one example of modern communication capabilities, my wife and I regularly talk via FaceTime video with a couple ministering on the opposite side of the world from us. This type of technology — along with things like phone calls, email, and texts — can be a great blessing to those in a new church plant. They will often be going through their “first” experiences of many kinds and will value highly the advice and counsel from mature ministers who have themselves gone through these things many times.
If possible, it is a great blessing to the church-planting pastor and team if they receive an in-person visit from the pastor or other leaders of the sending church. Mature ministers visiting new churches can often identify problems and help the pastor to correct them. For example (Acts 15:36), “Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.”
• In Acts 11, Christians scattered by persecution from Jerusalem planted a church in Antioch. The reaction of the established leaders in the Jerusalem church was to follow up with a mature minister. They sent Barnabas, who greatly helped and strengthened the new church (vss. 22-24).
In the Book of Acts there is an interesting pattern of teams of mature ministers visiting new church plantings:
There are billions of unsaved people on this earth. Millions of new churches will be needed to reach them. In whatever nation you are reading this, your nation needs thousands of new churches to reach the fields that are ripe for harvest.
Pastors and other church leaders, this is your job, your calling, and your holy privilege. Don’t leave it to “the other guy.” You can do this! You can raise up well-trained Christians in your church and send them forth to plant new churches.
Remember the words of Professor Peter Wagner that we quoted in Part One: “Planting new churches is the most effective evangelistic methodology known under the heaven.” Church growth expert Donald McGavran’s exhortation was similar: “Today’s supreme task is effective multiplication of churches.” This is true in every culture, in every language, on every continent. The need is great, and the task is large. But with God’s help, the Lord’s beloved local churches can do it!
With His help, grace, and guidance, let’s be about His business of training our people for ministry and planting new churches. May God bless you as you dedicate yourself to your part in fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission.
Pastors, elders, church leaders — I trust that you are now assured of the fact that your church can be both a ministry-training and church-planting center. You can easily start a bible training school in your church, as I have written here. If you feel that you need additional help in training and sending teams to plant churches, I recommend to you the outstanding ministry-training curriculum of the International School of Ministry (ISOM). This excellent, Spirit-filled, biblically-based video teaching in 2015 had over 17,000 ISOM training schools in over 75 languages and in 146 nations of the world. For free information on how this video might be a blessing to your ministry training and church planting efforts, please click ISOM. [Full disclosure: I receive no financial benefit from ISOM]
I consider it a great privilege to have had the opportunity to share these things with you. Thank you sincerely for taking the time to finish this series. May it bear much fruit in your ministry. If you wish to review any portions of our five-part teaching on Church Planting by Teams, please see below:
Part One — An Overview of Church Planting
Part Three — Counseling of Future Ministers in the Local Church
©2016, James H. Feeney.
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