In baseball, the term “five-tool player” is used to describe a prospect who can do it all on the field: hit for contact, hit for power, run, field and throw. A five-tool player does everything with a high degree of excellence.
In the game of church planting, however, there’s no such thing as a flawless, “five-tool” church planter. No one individual has all the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Church planting truly is a team sport. Even if you parachute into a new community as a solo church planter (something I wouldn’t recommend, if you can avoid it), at some point you are going to need people on your team who are gifted in ways you are not.
In 1 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul likens a local church to a body made up of many members or body parts. Each individual in the church plays an important role in the health and effectiveness of the body, just as a hand or an eye each plays an integral role in a human body.
Paul writes in verse 21, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’”
The bottom line is that healthy churches are established by teams of people who are gifted in diverse ways.
If you believe God is leading you to plant a church, you need to begin expecting that God is going to call others to join you in that work.
Where God Calls, God Provides
When my wife and I moved to Canada to plant our first church, we didn’t know a single person in Oshawa, Ontario, the city where God led us to plant a church. I quickly discovered I was going to need help – and a lot of it.
While God had gifted me to teach and to lead, I was not an effective administrator, I was impatient and impulsive, and I wasn’t the most gifted shepherd. I was in my 20s, had relatively little pastoral experience and was trying to find my footing in a brand-new culture.
Although we didn’t head into Oshawa with a team already formed, God was very gracious to us in those early days and He quickly surrounded us with godly and gifted men and women from the community who heard about the church plant, got on board and got involved.
I think about my friends Mike and Chris, two godly men who found out about our church through a flyer Chris received at his house while we were early on in developing our core team.
Mike and Chris were godly men who had been faithfully serving their respective churches for quite some time. Unbeknownst to me, Mike and Chris had been feeling led for months to move their families on to a new work where they could be better equipped to make disciples and proclaim the gospel in the community.
As Mike and Chris were praying, God was at work preparing their hearts to respond to the call to be part of this church plant.
When Chris received the flyer in the mail, he called me, my wife and I had dinner with their two families later that week and the rest, as they say, is history. Today, Mike and Chris are elders at Fellowship Oshawa and my family is getting ready to move to San Antonio to plant our third church.
But Fellowship Oshawa never would have survived if God had not called people like Mike and Chris to come use their gifts to help us plant that church in Oshawa. That’s because that church needed the gifts people like Mike and Chris brought to the table.
Pride Robs Ourselves and Others
One of my favorite quotes is from pastor John Piper: “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.”
The reality is that God is up to something far bigger than just your church plant when He calls you to plant a church. He will use your church plant not only to reach the lost in your community but also to work in the lives of the other Christians He calls to help start the church.
When church planters try to do everything on their own, they not only rob themselves of the blessing of being served by other members of the body, they also rob other Christians of the opportunity to use their gifts and grow as a result.
Most church planters have a well-intentioned desire to make sure everything is done well, but that desire also can be subtly cloaked in pride. And by trying to be in control of everything, you will unwittingly tie your own hands by preventing other members of the body from using their gifts to help the body grow.
So how can you find the others that God is calling to ensure you aren’t going it alone?
- Start by asking! If God is in fact calling others, then you can be confident that when you ask Him to show you who those people are, He will. Matt Hess, one of my mentors, taught me to pray this regarding core team formation: “God, bring the right people and keep the wrong people away.”
- Make sure you are aware of your own strengths and weaknesses. Look and pray for people who are gifted in ways you are not. If you know you are a mess administratively, pray for someone who excels in this area! One of the best ways to discover your strengths and weaknesses is within the context of your Sending Church. As you use your spiritual gifts within the context of a local church, you will learn more about yourself. And there will be others who can speak into your life, affirming your strengths and confirming your weaknesses.
- Don’t be afraid to invite people to join you in your efforts to plant a church (with the permission of their pastor, of course). If you see someone who could be an incredible asset to your church planting team, ask them to consider coming to help! Your invitation may just be the catalyst God will use to call that person to be part of the work.
Church planter, you need to be surrounded by other gifted team members. The good news is that if God is calling you, He is certainly calling others.
Published July 18, 2022