Four C’s of a Church Planter (Part 2: Calling)
In the first article, I introduced the Four C’s as a conceptual framework to help individuals and congregations assess potential planters. This framework is also very important to consider for those interested in planting a congregation. In this article, we will look at the first of those C’s – Calling.
A Divine calling is foundational for planting a congregation. It has always been and will always be. God calls people into ministry. This is HIS work. No other factor will determine the likelihood of a plant pastor persevering through hardship more than the call of God. I remember in my mission training years ago, Pastor Dick Gunderson hitting this point over and over. The calling of God will ground you. Another pastor leader mentioned to me not long ago that he believes that this is the major reason why so many are leaving the ministry today. They went in with the wrong reasons. They were not called by God.
Unfortunately, because the Church planting world is trendy today, pastors enter into the planting ministry with improper motivations. Some of the big ones are, 1) Unemployment. They need a job and this is a way to support their family. 2) Bitterness. They burned out in their last call and can’t find a new congregation. 3) Pride. They feel they know better and can correct all the mistakes of others. They are God’s gift to the church. 4) Popularity. Planting has grown exponentially. It is a quick way to gain a following. 5) Power hungry. Planting congregations requires strong leadership. This attracts those that might want to control people. 6) Idealism. They see the need and think planting is easy and simple. They don’t want to learn from others.
Ephesians 6 says that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens.” Without a clear call from God to enter into this battle, a planter is setting themselves up for great failure. Pastors that enter into ministry without a DIvine Call either burn out quickly, or become very unhealthy and do great spiritual damage to precious souls.
So how do you know if God is calling you?
1) The Inner Call.
This call only comes from the Lord. His Spirit will work this calling in your life often through holy discontent. There might be many factors that He uses in this process of calling. Here are some of the common ways planters have spoken about when discerning their call.
- Burden: Overwhelming awareness of the spiritually dead.
- Responsibility: Certainty that they must share the Gospel.
- Restlessness: A profound sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo.
- Invitation: People speaking into their lives about ministry.
- Place or people group: A specific draw and passion for a people or place.
- Scripture: A clear scripture that impresses direction.
- Giftings: A growing understanding of how God has built them.
- Contextual connection. An awareness that God has specifically built them for a specific area.
God uses various ways to get our attention in calling us to serve Him. As this calling grows more clear, it will outweigh every other vocational option. An earnest prayer life is key in discerning this inner call. But this inner call alone isn’t enough.
2) Outer Calling
God uses means. It’s how he works. In this case, he uses people and congregations. The general idea is that if the Holy Spirit is calling you, the Spirit will use fellow believers to confirm that calling. An inner calling needs to be verified by Godly and wise people in your lives. These people observe your character and giftings. They observe your spiritual vitality. Ideally, they would also press your motivations. If godly and wise leadership around you expresses doubt and concern about you planting, one would be wise to heed that call. This step is so significant in this process. We see it in the Bible with Paul doing this repeatedly. Perhaps your inner call is simply a general gospel commission call that all believers should have. Perhaps He is inviting you to have more of a mission heart in your vocation. Perhaps he is calling you to participate in a planting context as a team member. An inner call confirmed with an outer call is very foundational for ministry.
When does all of this happen?
This is a very contextual question. Perhaps you are a student or an active layman who is sensing God opening your eyes to mission. Perhaps God is starting to call you. Pray for greater clarity. Seek the Lord in dependence. The general time-tested approach throughout history is that an inner call usually should be followed by preparation. Ministry is so hard. So much spiritual damage can be done without real preparation. This time of preparation helps you to learn more about what God is calling you to potentially do. It’s a time to learn and understand theological truth. It’s a time to learn the skills necessary for this work. Finally, it’s a time to humbly learn your strengths and weaknesses.
Perhaps you are already serving in ministry and sense that God is redirecting you. I would encourage you to pray, learn, and seek. Church planting is not the same as regular pastoral ministry. Learn as much as possible. God will use your study about planting to help you grow. Also, equally significant is the counsel of Godly people in your lives. Invite people into this discussion with you. Find trusted people that have observed you in ministry. Seek them out. There are many church planting conferences that are designed to help you process through this call. Of course, AFLC Home Missions would love to assist you.
The calling of God can’t be overstated enough. I invite you to earnestly pray to the Lord to see if He would be calling you into the exciting and challenging adventure of starting a new Free, Living, and Lutheran Congregation. A helpful tool for learning more is our podcast Thelutheranchurchplanter.
Part 3 will dive into the 2nd C – Character.
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