Lessons Learned in a Church Plant

Written by Pastor Elden Nelson

Lessons Learned in a Church Plant

“Pastor Elden Nelson served as a previous AFLC Home Missions Director for many years. That time was a unique time of growth in the AFLC as Lutheranism was shifting dramatically across the United States. In this time of opportunity, Pastor Nelson was uniquely gifted to nurture and guide many believers looking for a home to organize new congregations. Many of these congregations continue to faithfully nurture souls today.”

Where did the idea of Church Planting originate?  A lot of answers could be offered up to that question, but there is only one correct answer.

The answer is givens in Luke 8:5-8,  “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up.  6 Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture.  7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants.  8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown. When he said this, he called out, ‘Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.’”

Our Lord is the originator of Church Planting/Growth.

I share an example of this passage as it was applied in a small rural town of the Dakotas in the late ‘80s.

Lesson #1

There were believers that saw a need.  As we sometimes say “they put their heads together” and spoke with others in their community about the possibility of a church plant.


Lesson # 2

Prayer: They prayed for God’s guidance, blessing and protection.  That small group of concerned folks made contact with AFLC Home Missions, and together they arranged for an informational meeting to introduce the AFLC to people of a new area.   More than a hundred interested/curious people attended.  As a result, the AFLC Home Mission Committee together with a group of committed folks recognized the possibility of developing a new congregation.


Lesson # 3

There was good soil in that there was a genuine hungering and thirsting for God’s Word.  In a few short weeks a meeting place was secured (basement of a grocery store), an AFLC pastor agreed to serve them on the weekends, and willing workers provided what was needed in order to hold a first service in early August of that year.  People stepped up to teach Sunday School, midweek Bible Studies and Prayer meetings began, folks opened their homes to provide housing for the senior seminarians that filled their pulpit week by week, and on Sunday morning as the grocery carts rumbled overhead the group of interested and committed families worshipped together in the grocery store basement.


Lesson # 4 

The Seed was faithfully sown in the preaching and teaching.  Later that fall it was my privilege, after an evening meeting in a town nearby, to pass through that town, of the “grocery store basement congregation,” on my way back to Minneapolis.  It was a Wednesday night and I knew it was their midweek Bible Study and Prayer time, but being after 10:00 p.m. I assumed their meeting was over and people would have gone home.  To my surprise the street in front of their meeting place was lined with cars.  I opened the door and proceeded down the stairway; it was rather quiet, and as I looked in I saw a number of small groups of people sitting together enjoying refreshments following their bible study time.   But, that wasn’t all they were enjoying.  As I stood there and observed, what I saw was such a blessing and encouragement.  Some sat with open bibles as they were discussing what they had studied that evening, others were, with heads bowed, praying together.  It was obvious to me that our Lord was birthing a new congregation.    Yes, there were challenges.  They had no meeting place of their own, nor did they have a full time pastor.  As they faithfully and prayerfully carried on withthe congregation and its ministries continued to grow, the Lord provided them with a Pastor from the next graduating class of AFLTS and in less than two years the congregation, with volunteer help, built a new church building.      AFLC Home Missions in partnership with the congregation agreed to provide a subsidy in the calling of a pastor.  But, when a pastor was called and the first subsidy check sent out, the check was returned with a letter informing the Committee that it wouldn’t be needed.


Lesson # 5

When our Lord calls His people to plant a church He also promises to provide.

Today, this congregation continues to see new families and individuals drawn into their fellowship.  Many, as they have been fed from the Word and challenged by it, have come to a personal faith in Jesus.  And so it is Jesus that is building His Church, the Kingdom of God, the body of believers.


A word of thanks to the people of the AFLC for sharing in this work with prayerful support and giving to the work of Home Missions over the years.  As our Lord is faithful, so also may we be faithful to His Word and to His command to “Go make disciples of all nations.”   I Thessalonians 5:24, ”The One who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.”


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