Statistically speaking 70% of church planters fail. Those statistics turn around dramatically if the church planter has been assessed, trained, and coached competently and consistently.
Church planting organizations, networks, churches, and denominations have all worked out their own systems about how church planters should be assessed, trained and coached.
I wrote in my first book Church Zero about how Paul trained planters, but how did he assess them?
I believe that Paul had three separate stages of assessment, and this has always worked well for me on the field.
The first stage is the calling and character of the church planter.
In one sense, I began to feel that all believers were called to plant churches. Like the Mormons who devoted two years of their youth to become bicycle pedaling missionaries, I believe that every Christian should spend a few years involved in the early stages of a church plant. The amount of good it will do them, and any Christian to engage on the front lines of mission cannot be overemphasized. While theologians and professors argue about the right way to do it, I prefer to take Moody’s tact and say, “I prefer my way to doing it, to your way of not doing anything”.
Although I believe that everyone is called to be on a church planting team, I don’t believe that everyone is called to lead one.
This is where the first assessment comes in, and almost every team believes that this is crucial. The first assessment centers in on the calling and character of a planter. The call to plant a church is an apostolic call, and not all Christians have this calling. Therefore whenever Paul addresses a former church plant, he reminds them of his calling; “Paul, and apostle by the will of God” or similar language. Paul is letting his readers know that he didn’t take this calling upon himself, but was commissioned by God to do it. Not only that, in Acts 13, the propK.hetic word came to the believers as they prayed, “Set apart Paul and Barnabas to the work that I’ve called them.
Nobody should ever take it upon themselves to plant a church.
Nor does everyone have the character to do so. I believe that Paul emphasizes character for eldership for this very reason. Like a well-seasoned General, he’d been around all different kinds of men. Leaders vary in caliber, and Paul had served with the most encouraging, and discouraging varieties. He’d learned with Wesley that the only thing you should ever expect from people is to be disappointed. And this lesson landed hard when his second church planting partner, John-Mark turned back on the field of battle, abandoning them while the bullets were still flying.
He exhorted Timothy to endure hardship like a good soldier, and not to flinch in the face of opposition. Church planting isn’t for the weak of heart, or lilied of the liver. I believe that besides the moral character of the planter, Paul was assessing the moral fiber and fortitude of a planter because it played an equally important role.
When asked what the number one quality of a church planter should be, my usual response is “endurance”.
Once Paul assessed the calling and character of a young planter, and was ready to take them along on his missionary journeys, they’d passed the first assessment. They’d made it into the the training phase…the on the job training phase.
And that’s where the real assessment began…