Church planters and shepherds of new flocks can sustain church planting movements when freed from common limiting factors. Clear away this blindness to keep moving forwards.
1. Limitation: Many church planters are young men without jobs who must be supported by a limited source of funds that comes from outside of the region they serve.
Remedy: Enlist as church planters more persons who already have an income and who would qualify as a shepherding elder as defined by the New Testament.
2. Limitation: Church planters receive training only in occasional workshops or meetings held during the day, and those who work during the day cannot attend. Thus, mainly single young people are trained, bypassing biblical ‘elder types’ who support themselves and have the maturity required in many communities to reach serious-minded heads of families.
Remedy: Supplement classroom training with coaching that is made available to all.
3. Limitation: Church planters who are self-supported volunteers often have jobs or operate businesses that do not let them travel far.
Remedy: Let paid church planters start the first two or three churches in a region, as they are able to travel afar. Thereafter, let these churches send some of their own members to plant the rest of the churches nearby in their region. The most effective church planting teams are normally composed of members of a nearby ‘mother’ church of the same culture. Such members usually have friends and relatives living where they plant daughter churches.
4. Limitation: New churches often have leaders with little training or Bible knowledge.
Remedy: Enable shepherds to fulfill their biblical duty of coaching the new leaders of their daughter churches, in the same way that Jesus and the apostle Paul did.
5. Limitation: Church planters lack experience in coaching in the way Jesus and His apostles did.
Remedy: Ask an experienced coach to help you start coaching. Sustaining a church planting movement requires vigorous, ongoing training of church planters and shepherds. In many movements, including those where churches multiply under severe government restrictions, coaching is done the way Christ and Paul did it. Coaching in some form, formal or spontaneous, is a common element in church planting movements. Employ a ‘menu’ of topics and skills that meet urgent needs of new churches that multiply rapidly.
6. Limitation: Coaching as Jesus and Paul did proves too time-consuming to continue indefinitely.
Remedy: Do not coach indefinitely! As Jesus and Paul did, wean apprentices as soon as their churches are doing the ministries required by the New Testament. By that time, your trainees will gain confidence and skills needed to coach other leaders of their daughter churches or cells. Trainees can later receive ongoing training in more conventional forms such as workshops, personal reading and classroom. Do not impose institutional training on leaders prematurely.
7. Limitation: Failing to evaluate progress in evangelism, objectively and frequently.
Remedy: Go over with coworkers this checklist of common causes of slowdown in evangelism. Find any that hinder your progress and correct them.
Checklist of Common Causes of Slowdown in Evangelism
[ ] New generations of believers no longer learn how to evangelize as in Luke 10.
[ ] No one teaches them joyful responses to opposition and persecution.
[ ] Some forms of Satan’s bondage remain unbroken in Jesus’ Name.
[ ] Exclusive emphasis on obedience leaves believers neglecting grace and the Spirit.
[ ] Instead of finding folk willing to repent, believers keep trying to win folk who resist.
[ ] Churches meet to worship so often that they neglect evangelism and discipleship.
[ ] Leaders no longer maintain and extend mentoring chains.
[ ] Zealous workers go so far away from home that they cannot follow up new believers.
[ ] Workers try to work with folk of another culture without cultural sensitivity.
[ ] Volunteer workers neglect the advice of paid workers who have valuable experience.
[ ] True but abstract theology replaces the original Good News from Jesus and his apostles.
[ ] Believers prefer equipment, methods or materials that are too expensive or inappropriate.
[ ] New believers no longer make disciple in new gatherings where most people are saved.
[ ] Young workers fear mature men, so they try to approach children, youth or women, first.
[ ] Workers lack understanding of the questions and issues of other religious communities.
[ ] Evangelists try to persuade people logically instead of asking them to repent and believe.
[ ] New church activities replace activities that the Holy Spirit normally blessed in the past.