Four C’s of a Church Planter (Part 5: Competency)

Written by Pastor Andy Coyle

Four C’s of a Church Planter (Part 4: Competency)

In this final blog, we are diving into the hardwiring and gifting of a planter. As I wrote last week, every person is unique, and every situation is unique. An obvious aspect of life is that there are unique giftings for certain vocations. Some people start. Some develop. Others maintain. All are important for the health and development of any organization. Congregations really aren’t that different. God uses different giftings at different times in each congregation’s life cycle. In these blog articles, we are specifically talking about church planting. Therefore, it is very natural to speak about the giftings that God gives people to start new congregations. 

The Apostle Paul is a great example of this in the Scriptures. Not only was he an Apostle in its narrow definition, but also possessed apostolic gifts. In his book “Church Plantology,” Peyton Jones references the functions of an apostolic planter as seen in Paul’s life. These functions can be outlined in five subcategories as seen in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. 1) Planter (I Cor. 3:6-8); 2) Architect (1 Cor. 3:10-15); 3) Foundation-Layer (I Cor. 3:10-15); 4) Father (1 Cor. 4:14-15); 5) Ambassador (2 Cor. 5:20). Jones offers a simple description for each of these functions: 

  • A planter spreads new life where there was none by planting seeds.
  • An architect understands the overall plan of what something is. 
  • A foundation-layer makes it possible for all the other bits of work to go on.
  • A father loves the family deeply because, indirectly, it came from his actions.
  • An ambassador mediates the gospel between God and the people to make peace. 

Planting a congregation contains all of these aspects simultaneously. Planting a congregation has often been likened to building an airplane in midair. In this way, planters usually are built with gifts and wiring to live and excel in this tension and chaos.


What are Church Planter Competencies?

In today’s church planting world, there has been extensive research and dozens of observational studies over the years that focus on the specific competencies that God has gifted successful planters. In this way, there is a certain science to this. It isn’t hard to find many planter competency lists on the internet. Sometimes you will see longer lists or various components depending on how they are approaching their study. For example, we have already dealt with Calling, Character, and Chemistry aspects and so any of those areas (i.e. Spiritual life, Conviction) won’t be included below. Obviously, if a potential planter hasn’t “checked the box” in those areas, his Competencies are irrelevant. The below list is a compilation from Dr. Ed Stetzer (leading church plant thinker) and Acts 29 (leading church plant network). It is not a complete list or a fully described list. However, these are the types of competencies that church plant leaders and networks have observed in their successful church planters as a barometer for gifting and wiring. 


  1. Visionary Leadership Skills: The ability to see the future and persuade others to enter into that dream to make it a reality. 
  2. Intrinsically Motivated: A self-starter who commits to excellence through hard work and determination. 
  3. Communication Skills: A compelling preacher and teacher who is able to teach deep truth to a very eclectic audience without compromising integrity of doctrine. 
  4. Missionary Lifestyle: A couple that sees everyone and every group as opportunities to build gospel relationships.
  5. Team Builder: The ability to unite and disciple various people together to serve one another in joy.
  6. Stubborn Resilience: A perseverance to not give up. The conviction to grind.
  7. Flexible and Adaptable: The ability and attitude to handle and pivot in an instant when necessary.
  8. Relationship Skills: One who loves to build relationships with new people. 
  9. Spousal Cooperation: A wife who is equally called and passionate about mission. 
  10. Emotional Intelligence: The ability to read and navigate a room, a person, and a situation with wisdom, grace, and sensitivity. 

Sober Awareness

Church planting is a unique and demanding ministry. See again the apostolic functions that we see in Paul. These aren’t chronological, but simultaneous which creates an environment that requires men that the Lord has built for the unique powder keg of church planting. It’s important to acknowledge that calling, character, and chemistry are highly important. Yet, if a planter hasn’t shown evidence of the types of competencies listed above, then wisdom requires us to question if the planting ministry is designed for them. Some start, some develop, and some maintain. We do nobody a favor if we simply assume someone is a planter without testing them and seeing their gifting. Unfortunately, a large percentage of the church plants that never got off the ground have often been attributed to a very great pastor with tremendous shepherding skills simply put in a place that required different gifting and wiring. 


A Key Qualification

As was shared last week, every church plant context is different, some church starts are far less risky because they have a strong team. Others start like a parachute drop into a new mission field and are highly risky. Imagine if the above 10 competencies had gradings from 1-10 with 10 being the highest skill level. Certain plant contexts might only require a planter that averages 5 with these skill sets. Others might require averages of 8-9. This is why we must consider the planter’s competencies within the specific context they are considering. This is a key point. Sometimes people assume that since they aren’t 10’s across the board, that maybe they aren’t supposed to be planters. Unfortunately, that idea has come from this discussion about competencies. In an effort for us to see God’s giftings in people, perhaps planting networks and agencies haven’t been as clear in the contextual aspect of planter competencies. 


Final Reminder

It is so important to recognize that these four C’s really are designed to work together. We can’t disregard any of them to rush the process. That is hard. It slows us down. Yet, the goal is to plant healthy and doctrinally sound congregations that stand the test of time. The foundations can’t be rushed. We believe that God specifically builds men with the necessary Calling, Character, Chemistry, and Competency to be used by Him to plant new Gospel saturated congregations that reach and form new believers for Him. Praise God for his infinite wisdom and grace. 

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