Church Planter Basics 3: Win Souls

By Catherine Renfro

Church planting is a journey like no other. It’s exciting. It’s fun. It’s hard work. But it’s worth it when you see Jesus do what only He can do.

Church planting. It’s a calling. It’s a journey. And it’s fueled by a mission.

The first time someone asked my husband and me to consider church planting, we immediately said, “No, thank you.” Months later, God began breaking our heart in a new way for the city we live in and the people we love. A city of 90,000 people, 50% of whom are spiritually lost and new evangelistic churches needed to reach them.

The second time we were asked to consider church planting, we said, “We’re all in!” Why? It all comes down to one reason: winning souls. We have limited time on this earth, and we want to reach as many people as possible with the hope of the gospel while equipping and sending out others to do the same.

What about you? When did Jesus call you to church planting, and why did you say yes? My guess is you didn’t say yes because it will be easy. Church planting is everything but easy. There may be multiple reasons you’ve said yes to church planting but at the heart of it all is a passion to reach your community with the hope of the gospel.

Church planting is about the mission we’ve been given by Jesus in Matthew 28 to go and make disciples. It’s a journey in which we pray, prepare and plan how best to fulfill this mission in our context – and watch Jesus do what only He can do!

Somewhere along the way, however, it’s easy to get lost in the logistics and lose sight of the mission. One of the most helpful things for church planters and church planting teams is going back often and reminding ourselves of the calling we’ve said yes to and the mission behind that calling.

Here’s three ways to do that:

1. Remember the motive

I’ll never forget standing in the back of the room early in the morning on our launch day and watching as my husband spent time praying for the service and the worship team rehearsed. An overwhelming sense of awe filled my heart as I scanned the room and thought about two things. First, I thought about the fact that Jesus cares so deeply about the people of our community and longs for them to know Him. 2 Peter 3:9 says He is, “not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.” Second, I thought about the fact that He saved us and is allowing us to be part of what He’s going to do to save others as we step out in faith and embark on this journey of planting a church in a community that is so desperate for Him.

The motive of church planting isn’t to grow a church or build a platform in the community. The motive of church planting is to win souls by reaching people with the hope of the gospel. Whether you’re approaching launch day, 52 weeks in, or five years into the church planting journey, it’s important to go back and remember your calling. Why? Because the enemy is out to discourage us, and if he can’t discourage us, he will distract us. There are easy days in church planting and hard days. There are exciting days and confusing days. Through it all we must go back to the basics and remember why we embarked on this journey in the first place: to share the gospel and see God change lives.

2. Focus on the mission

Jesus says in Matthew 28, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  In church planting, the vision may change, the strategy may change and the location of the church may change, but one thing remains the same: the mission to go and make disciples of Jesus Christ.

There are so many things to be done when it comes to church planting, but nothing is more important than telling people about Jesus. If you’re reading this and it seems simple, you’re right. It is simple – but it is not easy. The farther along we get in our church planting journey, the more focused our team must be on the mission. A church plant can do dozens of good things, but they may not be the best things when it comes to being evangelistic and reaching people with the gospel. You accomplish the goal when you stay focused on the mission to win souls and make sure everything the church plant does aligns with the mission.

3. Mobilize the Church

Equally as exciting as seeing someone saved is seeing someone realize that not only can God use them to save others, but He will use them if they are simply willing and available. Three weeks after our church plant launched, a guy who visited the church gave his life to Christ. He went home and shared his story with his 10-year-old son. This led to a conversation about the gospel, and his son also gave His life to Christ. In the weeks to follow, this guy also shared the gospel with his coworkers, friends and anyone who would listen.

I’ll never forget him saying, “It’s amazing how God has changed my life, and I can’t believe He’s using me in the lives of so many others. It’s awesome.”  When people get a taste of what it’s like to share the gospel and lead others to faith in Jesus, they want to keep being part of that. It’s what we were created to do: to know Jesus and to make Him known.

Mobilize your church members, and a passion will be ignited to reach the community by taking opportunities to share the gospel. Teach them to:

  1. Pray for opportunities.
  2. See the people around them.
  3. Start gospel conversations.
  4. Share the gospel and provide the opportunity for response.

As you are teaching them these four things, remind them that success is not seeing someone saved but simply sharing the gospel. This will give them courage and confidence to begin conversations, regardless of the outcome.

Church planting is a journey like no other. It’s exciting. It’s fun. It’s hard work. But it’s worth it when you see Jesus do what only He can do. In the days ahead, remember your motive for planting a church, stay focused on the mission and mobilize your church. Then watch Jesus use you and the team to win souls!

Published August 29, 2022

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Catherine Renfro

Catherine Renfro is a pastor’s wife, a mom and serves as director of evangelism at the North American Mission Board. She and her husband, Chris, began the journey of church planting in August 2021 and launched Hope Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, where Chris is the lead pastor. Catherine graduated from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2010 with a master's degree in Christian Education and Biblical Counseling. She was called to ministry at age 22 and has been serving in full-time ministry ever since. She has a passion for seeing lost people come to know Jesus and for saved people to live out their purpose of making Jesus known.