I was asked recently what I would do differently if I were to start another church. Now that I’ve invested more than a decade in helping other people start new churches, the answer came quickly.
I would plant the church from my knees.
Why Prayer is Lacking in New Starts
We look for church planters who are intrinsically motivated leaders, highly independent and self-sufficient. They must have a passion for God’s mission and a willingness to take risks.
We don’t want Christians with contemplative natures or reflective personalities starting churches. We want church planters who will take hills, not meditate on mountains.
Established churches can spend years, even decades, hold their own or slowly declining. An internal timer starts running the moment you commit to starting a church. You have roughly three years to become self-sustaining. Go!
For too many church planters, fear of failure fuels the internal clock. Most of us can handle the personal sense of failure. We struggle with feeling we failed the launch team, failed supporters who poured resources into the new start. Some us, in the recesses of our minds, fear failing the Heavenly Father.
I justified hitting the ground running because discerning whether I was called to start a church took a good deal of prayer. Looking back, it makes no sense. Before I committed to planting, I prayed. Once I actually engaged in God’s mission, I stopped scheduling time for God.
Starting New Churches on Our Knees
I shared the above as an explanation, not rationalization. The reality is churches should be launched from our knees.
The Mission of God is God’s mission.
We are participating in the Mission of God when starting churches. It’s God’s mission. Not your mission. Not our mission. Not my mission. This makes church planters dependent on God. Independence and self-sufficiency in church planting is a myth. When we know we’re dependent, we pray. Intercessory prayer teams become just as important as the launch teams.
Pride still comes before the fall.
In this day and age, confidence is a required trait for church planters. You must be confident in yourself, your track record and God’s providence. Confidence is a breeding ground for pride. God uses prayer to prevent pride. Leaders who are on their knees are not as susceptible to the sin of pride.
New churches lack the “spiritual armor” of established churches.
It doesn’t matter whether a church is 200 years old or two months old, it’s engaged in spiritual warfare. The difference is well established churches have greater resources to face spiritual opposition. Established churches have networks of relationships between longtime members for prayer support. They have stronger ties to sister churches. Meanwhile, it is not unusual for a mission church to take 18 months to start worship services.
Prayer is vital to discipleship.
God fulfills His mission by making disciples of Jesus. So the primary calling of a church planter is to disciple the people God brings to the new church. We disciple by what we do as well as by what we say. Modeling a life of prayer – personal, intercessory and corporate – is discipleship.
We’re going to get knocked down while church planting.
I’m having flashbacks to times when I was knocked off my feet in the midst of a church plant. The first time leaders from the launch team left the church. The day we were informed that our first facility, due to forces outside our control, had $400,000 in cost overruns. Sooner or later, church planters end up lying prone on the floor. The fall isn’t as far if we’re starting from our knees.
Share your thoughts about starting churches from our knee in the comments or shoot me an email. For additional content on church planting, consider the following: