Summary: Those called to be church planters have very unique qualities. There are 12 in particular that stand out. They can be a guide to identifying if someone is fit to take on the role and will be successful with this necessary function in the church.
In the last post, one of the things we talked about being needed for a healthy church to get started is a “church planter.” But not just anyone has the qualities needed to plant healthy, decentralized churches. In fact, a lot of the issues that young organic-type churches face today are because they were planted by people that weren’t prepared to do the job the way it needs to be done to end up with a healthy church. The creature set apart to perform such a function is very unique.
So how do you spot one of them? There are certain qualities you can observe that will clue you in. Now of course this isn’t an exhaustive list. It also shouldn’t be treated like a checklist either. While there are some qualities that are must-have’s, people aren’t necessarily disqualified from performing the function just because they don’t carry every single quality listed here.
This is just a guide. But, it gives you a good idea of what to look for.
They’re good at making connections and gathering people together
In order to plant churches, a person has to connect with people emotionally. Because a church planter operates through permission and trust rather than control, they must develop solid relationships with those they’re working with or their efforts to help are much more likely to be met with resistance. The people a church planter works with must grant them freedom to help in the ways the church planter deems necessary. Without this foundation, it’s fairly unlikely the planting will succeed.
You must also have a natural tendency to gather people together, connecting other people and forming a group around a common mission. After all, you can’t plant a church without a group of people.
They facilitate instead of dominate
To “facilitate” is to guide people by giving them environments, structure, and techniques that allow them to work together to accomplish the mission. They are successfully able to keep everything about what’s happening about the circle and not about them. They refuse to be elevated above others in status. In fact, they purposefully do the opposite and take on the character of a servant.
They empower people and get out of the way
They explain what’s possible, how things should be, and what the mission is. But they resist the temptation to take control of the execution.
They have a deep desire to help, but not force. They’ll recognize where the Holy Spirit is working and focus on offering their help there.
They don’t make decisions
Because they know the power of the church is in the circle, they teach Truth and make recommendations; many times firm ones if that’s what a situation calls for. But ultimately, they trust the church to govern itself and hold its own power. If churches they’ve planted make bad decisions, they have the ability to resist the temptation to implement more control.
They exude boldness
It takes boldness to organize people, especially if you walk into a new town to do it. When working with a new group of people, it requires being able to address tough situations and absorb the consequences of those situations; including fleshly reactions that are sure to come as you train a group of people to find the cross with each other and challenge them to grow. This role is not for people-pleasers or the faint of heart.
Their passion is contagious
Of course, they have a passion for the Kingdom and its mission. But when they talk about it, their passion spreads to those they are in contact with and it motivates action.
Because decentralized organizations don’t operate by command-and-control to motivate participants, passion has to be consistently injected to keep the group going. These people are the main way this happens.
They’re passionate, but not pushy
In their book The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, Brafman and Beckstrom noted how psychologist Carl Rogers warned about expert advice-giving…
Although it’s intended to help, it actually has the opposite effect. When confronted with an aggressive push, most people shut down and become even less likely to change.
When people feel heard, when they feel understood and supported, they are more likely to change. A (church planter) doesn’t prescribe a solution, nor does he hit you over the head with one. Instead, he assumes a peer relationship and listens intently. You don’t follow a church planter because you have to – you follow them because they understand you.
When we give advice to someone, we automatically create a power hierarchy. The advice-giver is superior to the recipient. As we’ve seen, this kind of hierarchy is detrimental to a decentralized organization. In meeting people where they are, church planters can inspire change without being coercive.
The center and circumference of their life is the Kingdom mission
If you take an inventory of how their time, money and energy is spent; you would find that it’s all directed toward this end goal. Every decision they make comes in light of accomplishing the mission of the church.
They’re always thinking strategically
Because they’re all about the mission, they’re always strategizing how to further and better accomplish it. They’re always thinking about how to establish and expand the Kingdom of God on the earth. They’re locked in on this goal and they don’t waver from it.
They get things done
It’s one thing to have a mission. It’s an entirely different thing to further it. These people have a mysterious way about them of accomplishing a lot in a short amount of time.
Paul went into a city, planted a church, and trained it to function on its own by itself many times in less than a year.
They reject the opportunity to become rock stars
Because of their passion, boldness and other qualities, their followers will be tempted to elevate their importance with relation to others. Church planters reject this opportunity, doing everything in their power to make sure the church doesn’t become about them.
They let go of the community
This may be the most difficult thing that an authentic church planter is able to execute. If they don’t let go and give the church autonomy, the members will become unmotivated and the church will become stagnant. Ownership of the mission and execution must be transferred at the appropriate time to the members of the church for it to be healthy.
After they gather people, impart the mission and train on how to execute, they must leave. If they don’t, the group will just become centralized around the church planter.
The rest of the posts in the A Decentralized Network series are here.