Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.

Church Planting by Teams
Identifying Church-Planting
Teams in the Local Church

by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.

Summary:  In our first three articles we have seen the local church as God’s prime instrument for training its people for ministry and for preparing and sending out church-planting teams. We have also discussed vocational counseling concerning the ministry callings on the people in your church, with special emphasis on the prospective pastoral leaders of those church-planting teams. In this Part Four we will offer biblical and practical principles for identifying the full church-planting team — that is, both the new pastor and the team members.

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I.  The Emergence and Preparation of the Pastor/Team Leader

A.  HE MUST BE A GOD-CALLED MAN

From a personnel perspective, the lead pastor of the new team is the main key to a successful planting. He should be called by God to one of the fivefold ministries (usually pastor, but perhaps one of the other fivefold offices) — Ephesians 4:11-12  “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service…”  We don’t enter into these ministries lightly by a mere choice of our human wills. They are callings by the Lord.

The team-leading pastor must be called not just to lead a church, but to plant a church as a pioneer. There are many fine ministers of the Gospel who do an excellent job pastoring a church. But not all ministers have a call and a God-given ability to be a pioneering planter. For example, the apostle Paul understood God’s call on him to plant churches, and he did so almost everywhere he went — “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow” (1 Corinthians 3:6). I have planted two churches in the USA, one in New York and one in Oregon. I can assure you by experience and from my acquaintance with hundreds of other ministers, that there is a special Holy Spirit call and anointing on some to plant churches. By no means do all pastors have that call to plant, and it is important that local church leaders help them determine the answer to this question: Has God called you to pastor? Or has God called you specifically to be a pioneering, church-planting pastor? There is a difference. More God-called pastors are in the first group than in the second group.

Acts 13:1-3  Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 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.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. These verses record the Holy Spirit’s call on Barnabas and Saul/Paul for the apostolic work God had for them. They were directed to go, in obedience to the Spirit’s call and to Jesus’ words in the Great Commission — “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19, NKJV).

• This was not something done hastily. These five named leaders of the Antioch church first fasted and prayed about the Holy Spirit-given call on the two men. Only then did they lay their hands on Barnabas and Saul/Paul and send them out.
 
• Note also that the local church was willing to send out not just new pastors (which is a good thing to do), but they were willing to send out established, mature ministers — in this case Barnabas and Saul, who were among the five named “prophets and teachers” of verse 1. Some church planters will be sent out on their first fulltime ministry. Others who are sent out, as these verses show, may be established ministers.
 
• It is unclear from verses 1-3 if a team was sent out with Barnabas and Saul (soon called “Paul” [vs. 9]). But we do know from verse 5 that young John Mark was with the two of them. And in verse 13 we read that the traveling ministry group was indeed a multiple-member team — “Paul and his company.”

B.  THE TEAM LEADER MUST BE BIBLICALLY QUALIFIED

Prepare your hearts to send from your churches not just willing men to lead church-planting teams, but willing men of the highest quality. Remember, as we saw above, the Antioch church sent Barnabas and Paul!

The pioneering pastor/team leader must be fully qualified according to 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. These are mandatory qualifications: “An overseer, then, must be…” (1 Timothy 3:2, NASB). It is almost a certainty that later you will deeply regret it if you send an unqualified team leader.

C.  THE TEAM LEADER MUST BE QUALIFIED CHARACTER-WISE

The church planter will most likely be the most visible representation of the new church’s ministry to the community in which the church is planted. Therefore, he must be a man of impeccable character.

1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, mentioned above, list many necessary character traits. Our experience in sending teams has shown some other important qualities of a church planter:

• a man of vision
 
• a humble man
 
• not afraid of hard work
 
• not easily discouraged; not a quitter
 
• a man of courage and determination
 
• a personality that “gathers” people
 
• a self-motivated man; a self-starter
 
• a spiritual, not a carnal, man
 
• a man of prayer!

D.  HE IS QUALIFIED AND TRAINED IN THE NECESSARY MINISTRY SKILLS

The sending church should ensure that the church-planting pastor has ministry skills such as:

• good leadership skills
 
• a strong knowledge of the Word of God
 
• a good pulpit ministry. Give him some preaching or teaching opportunities in your church.
 
• familiarity with the gifts of the Spirit and operating in one or more of them

If possible, put him through some intern pastor training time in your church before sending him and the team out. Even a simple, locally-designed program can be very effective. Basically, give him “hands-on” exposure to the varied ministry activities of your local church.

II.  The Emergence of Qualified Team Members

A.  THEY MUST BE GOD-CALLED MEN AND WOMEN

Luke 10:2 tells us that Jesus wants to “send out workers [plural!] into his harvest field.” He said that the “harvest is plentiful.” Therefore He desires to send many laborers forth to do His Great Commission work.

God will specifically call certain individuals and families to be sent forth on church-planting teams. He will touch their hearts to embrace this calling. God is very capable of touching people’s hearts with a desire to follow His plan. For example — [Israel’s new king] “Saul also went home to Gibeah; and the brave men whose hearts God had touched went with him (1 Samuel 10:26, Amplified Bible). A good team doesn’t just need bodies. What the Lord wants is men and women who respond to the call of God and His touch upon their hearts to go forth.

Team members don’t need to be called to an Ephesians 4:11 “fivefold” ministry. But they must sense a call to serve with their whatever abilities God has given them (1 Peter 4:10). And, like the team leader, they should sense a call from the Lord to pioneer, to go and plant. I can say by my own experience of planting two churches, there are many hardships that the team will experience in moving to plant a church — things such as finding housing, finding a new job, etc. So they must know that the Lord has truly called them.

B.  THEY MUST BE BIBLICALLY QUALIFIED AND TRAINED MEN AND WOMEN

Remember, Jesus is sowing His people into the world as “good seed” (Matthew 13:37-38). Team members must be men and women of exceptional character.

Ephesians 4:12 (KJV) charges the church’s fivefold ministry with “the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry.” Good team members, before being sent out, should have submitted themselves faithfully to the equipping and training provided by the ministry staff of the church. And they should have demonstrated a willingness to give themselves to “the work” of the ministry. If someone is lazy in your church, or unfaithful to church services, don’t send them out on a team!

Our experience of sending many dozens of church-planting teams from our local church in Alaska has taught us that good team members will have many, hopefully all, of the following qualities:

• a genuine love and respect for the team pastor (very important)
 
• strong loyalty to the team, the team leader, and the new church
 
servants’ hearts
 
• some, not necessarily all, will be strongly evangelistic (this is very helpful)
 
faithful and submitted
 
• faultless integrity
 
spiritual and prayerful, with a good knowledge of God’s word
 
• willing to work. Church planting is hard work!

In Part Two I spoke of how your church can be both a ministry-training and church-planting center. You can start your own in-church bible school. 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 as of 2015 had over 17,000 schools in more than 75 languages and in 146 nations of the world. For free information on how this video curriculum might be a blessing to your ministry training efforts, please click ISOM. [Full disclosure: I receive no financial benefit from ISOM]

We have now completed Part Four, “Identifying Church-Planting Teams in the Local Church.” Please continue on by clicking our final topic, Part Five below, in our series on Church Planting by Teams.

Part One — An Overview of Church Planting

Part Two — The Local Church As a Ministry Training Center

Part Three — Counseling of Future Ministers in the Local Church

Part Five — Preparing and Sending the Church-Planting Team from the Local Church

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©2016, James H. Feeney.
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Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.