“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”
Jesus said that multitudes of people are ripe for entering the kingdom of God. They are everywhere, all around us, every day. The urgent need in every generation is for laborers to go and gather the harvest Jesus has secured through his life, death, and resurrection. This is why we plant churches.
Why More Church Planters?
Church planting is the New Testament strategy for accomplishing Jesus’ mission of making disciples from among the harvest fields of the nations. Church planting isn’t the mission—making disciples is the mission. Jesus made that clear in Matthew 28:19–20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” We make disciples when we bring others along to know and follow Jesus, and when we help existing followers of Jesus mature in obeying Jesus in every area of life.
So, how does church planting fit into the mission of making disciples? Church planting is the apostolic strategy for accomplishing the mission Jesus gave us.
Church planting is God’s plan for gathering the harvest.
We see this pattern all over the book of Acts: When the gospel comes to Antioch, a church quickly forms (Acts 11:19–26), and later this church sends out a church planting team (Acts 13:1–3), and this team establishes many churches on their missionary journeys, and these churches further spread the gospel message in their regions (Acts 13:49). A consistent refrain in Acts is that through these church planting efforts “the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily” (Acts 19:20), resulting in gospel-proclaiming congregations of believers. Church planting is how the first-century church pursued the mission and gathered the harvest.
Church planting continues to bear fruit today. Studies consistently demonstrate the unique effectiveness of church plants to reach those who are not yet disciples of Jesus. An average new church will grow primarily by adding people not currently attending any church and is six to eight times more effective than an existing church at reaching the unchurched.
New Testament church planting is intentional disciple-making that results in the formation of a new congregation.
While every church should strive to continue making disciples, church plants are a unique opportunity to reach areas and populations with little to no gospel presence. “Gospel presence” can be defined as the sufficient, clear, doctrinally sound, missionally faithful presence of local church communities who bring the gospel to unique geographic regions and social cultures of a given area. With this criteria, in the US, and around the world, there is an acute need for more disciple-making churches to be planted. Many urban areas lack churches sufficient to reach every neighborhood and culture: many suburban areas have population growth outpacing the number of churches there, and many rural areas may lack strong and vital gospel presence.
We need to plant more churches—therefore, we need more church planters.
Jesus says that we should “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38). The biblical pattern for this work starts by identifying gifted, called, and qualified church planters to lead teams of disciples to join God in advancing the gospel to a particular place to reach a particular people. So, we must pray for God to raise up church planters and then look for the answers to those prayers.
What Does a Church Planter Look Like?
What particular traits define a man who is called by God to lead a team of disciples in advancing the gospel, making new disciples, and establishing a new local church?
This assessment tool is aimed at guiding you in identifying those the Lord of the harvest is preparing to be sent into the harvest. It’s the result of bringing together biblical principles, practical wisdom, and lessons learned in planting churches for over 30 years as a family of churches in Sovereign Grace. This tool is meant to be profitable for self-assessment, but it is also designed to be part of a larger conversation with your pastors and those around you.
Regardless of what particular role each disciple plays in advancing the mission (as a church planter, pastor, small group leader, etc.) every disciple is part of Jesus’s mission. May this assessment serve to stir your desire to be a faithful disciple of Jesus for the glory of God.
What particular traits define a man who is called by God to lead a team of disciples in advancing the gospel, making disciples, and establishing a new local church?
The 7 Traits of a Church Planter
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