In my recent post on Why I Moved to New England, I wrote this:
Despite having planted a church and being passionate about church planting movements, I know I am not a church planter. I’m a pastor. I don’t have the wiring to plant. But I love planters and want to encourage and edify them however I can and I want to attract them and raise them up in my church and support them because church planting is vital and necessary and becoming more so every day.
In the comments, reader Chris wrote:
A blog post discussing the process whereby you realized you are not a church planter would be extremely helpful to many of us.
I am not sure how helpful it could be, actually, and it wasn’t much of a process, but I can share how I know I’m not a planter.
To preface, I should say that I did not learn I wasn’t a church planter by experiencing a failed church plant. I did plant a church, although to say “I” did it is not true, and never is it true for any church planter. We planted a church because we had to. The story of this is somewhat complicated, but I was pastoring a young adult ministry within a larger church, and all parties realized after about a year that we basically had a church within a church. So quite by “accident” — read, “by God’s providential wisdom” — we didn’t set out to cultivate an independent church, but we ended up with one anyway. What we did at our church was in a few ways radically different than what our host church was doing. We had entirely different philosophies of ministry. Eventually, we all knew that what we had was not sustainable for our ministry nor desirable for the host church, and parting amicably and with mutual blessings, our thing departed to become officially an independent church. And if I had not been called by God elsewhere, I assume we would still be there. In that sense, I don’t consider Element a failed church plant. I think a church plant is only a failure if you fail to do what God has called you to do.
But my point is, that experience did not teach me I wasn’t a church planter. I knew before we planted that I wasn’t a church planter. I was a pastor. And I had a community I was pastoring. So the planting kind of happened by itself.
The first reason I know I’m not a church planter is that I don’t have the desire to plant. This is not a disobedient thing, I don’t believe. Meaning, I don’t believe God is calling me to plant a church despite my commitment not to. I think “calling” is somewhat overrated, and my experience is that God often plants seeds of desire in us that coincide with calling. I know I must leave room for disobedience, grieving of the Spirit, and just outright Jonah-like running from God’s commands, but I think normatively speaking, guys who plant churches really want to plant churches. It fires them up. They are generally energized by the process, even though it is grueling and tiresome and nerve-racking oftentimes. The urge for me isn’t there, and neither is the inkling. And my experience of how God works in me to go places and do things entails his stirring in me an interest and desire that wasn’t there before. Your mileage may vary, but that’s how his leading grace has historically been applied to me.
Secondly, I don’t have (what I think is) the wiring to be an effective and fruitful church planter. This is what I mean by that: I borrow from the tri-perspectival framework for pastoral makeups. (For background on this, see my short post from the archives called What Kind of Pastor Are You?) I think all pastors have a mix of prophet, priest, and king in them.
In the prophetic framework, pastors are preachers, teachers, accountability holders, vision-casters, leader-developers, scholarly, writerly, etc. In the priestly framework, pastors are relational, counselors, visitors, servants, evangelists, compassion-givers, communal shepherds, etc. In the kingly framework, pastors are administrators, builders, visionaries, accountants, pioneers, entrepreneurs, organizers, initiative-takers, sociologists, historicists, economists, strategists, etc.
Again, I think every pastor has (or should have, anyway) all three frameworks in play to have the right makeup to be an effective pastor. But pastors aren’t made from cookie cutters. We all have different personalities, experiences, temperaments, interests, educations, degrees of giftedness, etc. And from my viewpoint, I think church planters have a high concentration of the kingly framework. It doesn’t mean they aren’t solid as prophets and priests. But they are just stronger as kings than pastors who aren’t wired for church planting.
As I survey my own makeup, I know I do not have a high concentration of “king” in my makeup. I would guesstimate I am only about 15% kingly. This does not cause many problems in my ministry because I am able to delegate to and rely on other leaders and laypeople with strong administrative and organizational gifts. In fact, I often stun the pastors in the weekly pastors’ fellowship group when I do not know all the details of my church calendar or when I say I am not the person to contact about scheduling women’s breakfasts and the like. In their organizations, kingly or not, they are expected to pretty much keep all plates spinning. I am grateful for a church that frees me to pastor according to the degrees of my giftedness, and in return they are pastored better than if I weren’t.
But I digress. Church planting isn’t about administrating women’s breakfasts. It’s about pioneering, gathering a core, establishing something new in untested places, raising money (oh man, is it ever about raising money!), and some other things that just aren’t “me.” I know this. I don’t worry about it. I don’t sweat it. I love church planters. A lot. And not being a church planter doesn’t mean I’m not passionate about church planting. I want to pastor a church planting church. I want to raise up and send out church planters. I encourage and network with church planters. I learn from them. I support them spiritually and financially and materially. And I really believe, although knowing God can do whatever he wants however he wants, that revival will not happen in American evangelicalism and awakening will not happen in lost America apart from vital movements of gospel-centered missional church planting. I want in on that.
I don’t know if this is helpful. I don’t know if you have the wiring to be a church planter or not. I’m not an assessor, so if you are unsure, if I were you I would submit to those who are.
I would only say that if you are honest with yourself, you know if you’ve got the wiring or not. If you are low on the kingly side, there’s nothing wrong with you. You may be a phenomenal pastor. And heck, God uses asses all the time. But you may not be a church planter.
That said, if you have the desire, and God is opening doors for you, I know from Scripture and experience that God equips the called at least as much as he calls the equipped. My advice is to seek godly counsel and get into an assessment program of some kind. If you have, and you’re still unsure: You’re probably not a church planter. (And that’s okay.)