Starting, Staying, and Surviving Church Planting

By Adam Bailie

So you want to be a church planter. Here are 4 takeaways for discerning your calling as gleaned from one of the greatest church planters in history, the Apostle Paul.

Words of Wisdom

“Brother, maybe you shouldn’t plant a church.” These are not the words that any prospective church planter wants to hear, but they may in fact be the words that he—or you—needs to hear.

I love church planters. Having planted two churches, I thoroughly enjoy interacting with prospective church planters, and I regularly ask them why they are planting. It is startling at times to hear the replies.

Which Planter are You?

Brothers, there are plenty of wrong reasons and faulty starting points for church planting that all result in skewed strategies, failed framework, and corrupted culture within the church, if it is ever actually planted in the first place.

There is the frustrated pastor planter, who believes that if he can just start fresh somewhere, everything will be better. There is the aimless life planter, who without any clear calling or direction takes up church planting as a try-it-and-see endeavor. There is the multi-level-marketing planter, who sees the church as something only a little different than a brand to be built for a meaningful life. And then there is the impatient young pastor, who pursues church planting as a way to climb the ranks to lead pastor without all the effort of time and teamwork.

Set Apart for Service

If you see yourself in any of these descriptions, brother, maybe you shouldn’t plant a church. However, if like the prototype church planter Paul, your life has been set apart by the gospel and for the gospel, Spirit gifted for spiritual leadership, deeply moved for the needs of souls in your target community, and confirmed by seasoned pastoral leadership in your life, then by all means please plant a church!

Remember, that it will be those foundational realities that will hold you in the planting when the process is testing your patience. It will be your passion for Christ and serving His kingdom purposes that will hold you in the planting when  opposition comes and suffering arises. It will be the Spirit-birthed longing to see new disciples made, matured, and mobilized that will hold you in the planting when the disciples betray you, abandon you, and seek greener pastures.

The Four V’s

In Acts 20:24, church planter Paul says, “But I consider my life of no value to myself; my purpose is to finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.”

Notice the specifics of this church planter worldview from Paul…

1. The value of his life on earth is directly linked to gospel work

In fact, there is no other value that holds any water for Paul. His friendships were for this, his travel was for this, and his everyday life was oriented to this singular value of gospel ministry. The most precious thing about Paul, to Paul, was this gospel work that had been set before him.

Make no mistake, brother: this is the consuming passion of all church planters who should plant churches.

2. The view of his life on earth is a race course

Paul sees every year that goes by as another leg of the race for gospel impact and church planting. He did not view his life as a story about himself or a legacy to be left behind. His life was a radical race for the mission of Jesus, and in the end, he was confident that he had finished the race (2 Timothy 4:7).

Brother, you must see life through church planter eyes. The race is on, and the goal is endurance to the end.

3. The vantage point of his life on earth is a ministry to all

Paul is a minister of Christ, an ambassador for Christ, and a servant to all for Christ’s sake. Ministry was a death to self on a daily basis (Galatians 2:20), and it was the passion of Paul’s new life in Christ because he was utterly convinced that Christ had allocated this ministry to him.

Brother, you must consider church planting to be a stewardship, not an ownership. This is a work that has been entrusted for a season, not an end in itself. We are mere stewards of the ministry of Christ until He returns.

4. The vision for his life on earth is to be a witness

Paul was consumed with the testimony of the gospel of grace. He was never content without taking his place on the proverbial witness stand and testifying to all of the glorious gospel that saves and transforms those who believe it. When persecution arose, Paul testified. When given significant platforms, Paul testified. And when in the marketplace of common life, Paul testified.

Brother, you must be consumed with the privilege of the witness stand in order to plant a church that will advance the kingdom purposes of Christ.

Tethered to Kingdom Expansion

So, if it is Christ who is at the very center of your life, the mission race and servant leadership that consume your passions, and the power of the gospel of grace for people from every tribe, tongue, nation, and culture that must be testified, then please plant a church.

There is no shortage of opportunities, no lack of provisions, and no opposition that can defeat the church planter whose entire value of life is tethered to the expansion of Christ’s kingdom.

For an Eternal Reward

Finally, church planter, do not allow distance between church planting and the day of reward to grow in your work for Christ. As our fellow elder Peter commends us, “And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:4). There is a day coming, closer today than ever before, when we will meet the Shepherd of the flock entrusted to our under-shepherding care. He will reward the work for His namesake and the passionate pursuit of kingdom advancement.

Look to that day. Think of it often, delight in its reality, and stay the course until we meet Him face to face! As the old gospel chorus reminds us:

It will be worth it all
when we see Jesus!
Life’s trials will seem so small
when we see Christ.
One glimpse of His dear face
all sorrow will erase.
So, bravely run the race
till we see Christ.

Published May 1, 2024

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Adam Bailie

Adam Bailie is the senior lead pastor of Christ Church, which he planted in December 2012 and which has now grown into a multi-congregational, church planting church in Phoenix, Arizona. He is a member of the national lead team of planters for Send Network. He also serves as the president of Vintage Mission, a strategic partnership of churches for church planting within the Send Network. Prior to arriving in Phoenix, Adam planted and pastored Grace Church of the Valley in Kingsburg, California. He and his wife, Renee, live in Gilbert, Arizona, with their two daughters and one son.