In the Book of Acts, planting churches in unreached areas was the natural application of the Great Commission.
In fact, the logical implication of the Great Commission is that it would be done in the context of the local church wherever it exists and that it would lead to establishing local churches where they don’t exist. Baptism isn’t something that is done isolated from Body life. It is the initiatory rite of a new disciple into the church. Naturally, if a church doesn’t exist and we are pursuing the disciple-making mission, a church needs to be established or we aren’t being faithful to Jesus’ commands. The New Testament knows nothing of a lone ranger evangelist who saves souls and moves on. The church is where disciples are baptized and taught.
This was the approach the apostles took when they were empowered by the Spirit. They established a church in Jerusalem. Then, when the persecution arose against them and many were forced out of Jerusalem, they began making disciples and establishing churches everywhere they went in Judea and in Samaria. Soon, churches were established as far out as Antioch which was a Gentile city. They were fulfilling Jesus’ mandate to be witnesses and to make disciples.
Over the past six months, my family has been seeking to start a church in Queens, NY. It’s amazing how there are so many details in church planting today that require my attention that don’t seem to have much to do with making disciples: applying for a tax ID, setting up bank accounts and PO Boxes, creating flyers, researching church management software, hiring an accountant, and purchasing stamps, checks, and an office printer.
However, I believe we can maintain disciple-making focus even as we answer phones and draft bylaws and purchase supplies. Here are 3 keys to maintaining your disciple-making focus while planting a church:
1. Be more people-oriented than task-oriented
I’m a huge failure at this. It’s easier for me to stick my nose in my computer and draft/create/organize than it is to talk patiently with someone for 30 minutes about their problems. It’s a discipline I’m learning and growing in but I recognize that it’s important. Church planting and disciple making are primarily relational and organic but there’s a tension because we also need to foster a structured environment where disciples can grow. Church planters have to be people-oriented AND task-oriented with the emphasis placed on people.
Church planter, who have you had lunch or coffee with this week? Who have you called just to say hello? Who is going through a difficult time and needs to hear from you? Take a minute and x out of all the tabs on your web browser and connect with somebody. (Okay, maybe just minimize your web browser, you’re going to need to jump right back in as soon as you can.)
2. Outsource everything
Church planters are entrepreneurs. We have no money and no time and we’re asking God to bless our 2 hunks of bread and 5 sardines and do something only He can do with it. Even though we have no money, at the end of the day our time is more important than our money. We need it to focus on people. If you can hire an accountant or a lawyer to help set up your bookkeeping and taxes, do it! Have the office supply store copy, cut, and fold your worship guides. Set up email auto responders to let new visitors know about opportunities to connect.
If you have some cheap or free, practical tips on outsourcing your tasks, let us know in the comments. But before you do, there’s one more key to maintaining your focus on making disciples.
3. Do everything as unto the Lord
Whatever tasks there are that remain after you’ve put people first and outsourced as much as possible are still vitally important.
Why are you spending time learning a new church management software? Because you want to shepherd your people well! Which means knowing their contact info, birthdays, and whether or not they are attending regularly.
Why are you spending all that time on that flyer or postcard? Because you want to clearly convey the message about your church to people who haven’t heard.
Why are you spending all that time drafting content for your website? Because you want it to be a window for the unchurched to look in to see who you are and what you are all about. And you want it to be a way of connecting your members to vital information as well.
In short, you are serving new disciples when you handle those administrative details. So serve them well.
We weren’t commissioned to plant churches. We were commissioned to make disciples. Let’s keep our focus on disciple-making and let the Lord do His work in establishing churches for His glory.
But as for you, be serious about everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. – 2 Timothy 4:5
How do you maintain your disciple-making focus? If you are a pastor or non-profit leader, do you have the same struggles?