On a recent podcast interview I did with Brian Brodersen, he said that the great commission IS to plant churches.“Jesus’ mandate was to go and make disciples,” Brian said. “We know from the rest of the New Testament, obviously, the apostles thought he meant go and start churches, because that’s exactly what they did.” Pastor Brian went on to talk about the importance of church planting in the Calvary Global Network and shared his heart for more churches to be planted worldwide.
And this is not just talk. We are getting back to our Calvary Chapel roots with a renewed vision to plant one thousand churches in ten years. This is an achievable goal, especially with the large number of Calvary Chapel churches—and with the assistance of the Cultivate program that has the infrastructure and resources to help you fulfill God’s calling to plant. This new initiative by CGN has over sixty experienced coaches on hand ready to help the sending pastors and church planters fulfill their calling. We work with the local church to provide everything from assessment and training to funding. By God’s grace, at CGN we are re-focusing on the great commission—and putting a huge emphasis on planting churches.
If you do not have a heart to plant a church, you may have already tuned out. But if you are still reading, I would encourage you to keep going. Take a minute to examine how you could be used by God in this important commission because all of us are called to church planting in one way or another. As the Bible says, some plant, and some water, but God gives the increase.
For those who have sensed a calling to plant, I want to give you five things that have helped me over the years in my church planting journey. These are very practical things that I have personally seen work in various church planting efforts. I have learned that sometimes it is the simple things that can have the biggest impact.
1. Confirm Your Calling
I was only twenty-three years old when Lynne and I joined the church planting team headed to Kampala, Uganda. One of my friends, Rob Dingman, said that we were jumping into the deep end of the pool for our first try at missions and church planting. But we believed that God had called us, so we bought the plane tickets.
Ten years later, as we were leaving Uganda for the United States, we looked back on the season of ministry in Africa. It was wonderful. By God’s grace we left behind a thriving church, planted in the heart of the city, and multiple church plants that had been sent out from there through our Calvary Chapel Bible College extension campus and training program. It was a mission success, but it was not without its difficulties. Challenges happen more frequently in church planting because when the hand of the Lord is upon you, the hand of the enemy will be against you.
But God is faithful, and He was the one who had called us to be there.
Tough times happen, but it was during the difficulties that we were able to rest on the fact that God had called us. Without this confirmation of our calling, we would have left within the first year. Church planting is not easy. It is front-line ministry. It is storming the gates of hell (see Matthew 16:18). That is why you need confirmation of calling. A confirmation of calling is simply a confidence that God is the one who has opened the doors and led you to do this. Paul encouraged Timothy by saying “This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare.” Timothy’s confirmation came through prophecy, and he held tightly to it during difficult times.
There are whole books and articles written on the calling of God, so I will leave you to those. For now, I would encourage you to be sure of God’s calling, because when times get tough—which they will—that may be all you have left.
“He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.”
2. Gather Your Team
Just like in professional sports, you need to have a quality team if you want to win. Church planting is not an individual sport; it is a team effort. You should have people around you who are going to help you fulfill the vision God has given to plant a church. Nothing beats a team of quality people.
What should we look for in team members? Besides the obvious things like having a relationship with God, and being a man or woman of the word, I would suggest three simple things:
- A good team member is a servant. They are joining the team to serve, rather than joining to be served. It may sound like a no brainer, but you would be surprised at how many people are in it for what they can get, or for self-glory, rather than for what they can contribute to the mission.
- A good team member is skilled. I have heard it said that all God is looking for is a willing heart, and that He does not need your talents and gifts. That is true, but you are not God. You need people who are gifted and skilled in the specific work you are asking them to do. Worship ministry, children’s ministry, media team, preaching, and hospitality all require gifted people to lead.
- A good team member is steadfast. Remember that thing about difficult times? You need people on your team who are not going to run when the going gets tough. You need tough people who are going to run toward the goal, even if difficult. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
When we planted a church in Bellingham, Washington, we were blessed with a team of fifteen people to help in the work of the ministry. I could not have possibly done it without them. You need a team to succeed at church planting. It does not have to be fifteen people, but you need at least enough to spread the load of this important task.
3. Plan Your Budget
It takes money to plant a church. Without money we will not be able to do the things God is calling us to do. How much money will we need, and what are some of the expenses involved in the new church plant? That varies from place to place. Thankfully, we have resources like Cultivate to come alongside potential planters and sending churches to help plan budgets—and work through financial needs.
Here are a few things you need to plan for when you go out to plant a church:
- You need money for your family. How are you going to provide for your family while planting a church? You can raise support, be supported by your sending church, work bivocationally, or a combination of these. Or maybe you are independently wealthy. If so, you can just skip to the next section.
- You need money for your meeting space. Some places are cheap, and others are not. Some spaces are available throughout the week, others are rented for service times only. Remember that your meeting space will have a big impact on whether people will join your church or not, so make it a priority.
- You need money for your equipment. There are a lot of little things that you need to acquire for a new church plant. If you are sent out from a bigger church, maybe you can “borrow” some of their stuff. If you are starting from scratch, you will need to budget for things like sound equipment, advertising, chairs, renovations, and more.
Ministry can be expensive, and you should be ready to sacrifice personally for the sake of this new church plant. Over time, the needs of the church will be met by the congregation, but for now, plan ahead, work at raising money, and manage your expectations. Doing the work of the Lord is costly, but God will provide for all your needs through Christ Jesus!
4. Craft Your Culture
Everyone has a culture, including the people you are trying to reach.
Culture is defined as “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group. Also: the characteristic features of everyday existence (such as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time”
Church planting is mission work. Just like with any missionary on a foreign field, we must learn the culture and customs of those to whom we are ministering. A lot of church planters become ineffective because they are unable or unwilling to adapt to the culture they are trying to reach. Church planting in our own country is a little easier, but you must still try to understand the different cultures represented in order to reach them more effectively.
The fancy word for what we want to accomplish is “contextualization.”
Timothy Keller explains contextualization like this: “It’s adapting your message to be understandable and compelling to particular hearers without compromising the truth in any way.” Keller continues stating that “The first task of contextualization is to immerse yourself in the questions, hopes, and beliefs of the culture so that you can give a biblical, gospel-centered response to its questions.”
Planting a church in rural Montana will be much different than planting in Tampa, Florida. Take some time to humble yourself and learn from the people around you. No one likes a know-it-all, and do not expect people to come to your church if you arrive with a superior or willfully ignorant cultural attitude. We need to get to know the people in order to reach the people.
“I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”
5. Publicize Your Church
There is a reason you are planting a church here. You know that there are people in this town that need a church like this. You believe that many people will benefit from this good Bible teaching, Spirit-filled church. If they only knew it was here, they would certainly plan on attending.
So, get out there and spread the word!
How are those people who need to be part of your congregation going to hear unless there is someone telling them about it? I am surprised at how many churches neglect this important part of ministry. Maybe they are embarrassed, or maybe they think it is unspiritual to “advertise” a church. Whatever the reason, I can tell you that we have had great success in planting churches because we put time and resources into spreading the word.
A few of the many things you can do are:
- Develop a social media presence. Use Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and others to reach your community. Have a volunteer who is gifted at photography take pictures of church services and ministry for content. Find a skilled volunteer to help with your social media accounts.
- Get a simple website with service times, location, and an “about” section where people can see who you are and what you believe. Post a few videos of your service to help newcomers see what is going on. Work on search engine optimization and Google ad words (these are free for nonprofits). You may need to take some time researching this, or getting a volunteer, but it is worth the effort.
- If you can get a meeting space or permanent presence on a busy road or part of town, that is ideal. The more people who see your sign the better. Have signs, flags, and banners printed with your church logo and information to put out front.
- Get involved in community organized events and gatherings. People need to see you out in the neighborhoods and at places like farmers markets, road cleanups, volunteer events, and the like.
- Word of mouth is the best. Once people start coming to your church, they will tell their friends and neighbors. This is the most effective way to get the word out about the church. Provide them with things like stickers and invite cards.
There are many things you can do to spread the word. Get out there and let people know that God is doing a new thing in your community!
Success Is from the Lord
Never forget that Christ is the head of the Church. We are simply working for Him on his mission to seek and save the lost. Ultimately, success comes from the Lord, and He is the one who will help you along the way. Do not put too much pressure on yourself.
Something I have learned recently is that I do not need to stress out so much on performing for God. We just need to enjoy the process of following His call and being obedient to His commands. In the end, the strongest churches are the ones that are planted with patience and faithfulness.
 “A Vision to Plant a Thousand Churches” – Brian Brodersen & Clay Worrell (https://cgnmedia.org/podcast/cultivate-church-planting/episode/a-vision-to-plant-a-thousand-churches-brian-brodersen-clay-worrell)
 1 Corinthians 3:6
 I believe that church planting is an offensive against the gates of hell. “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”
 1 Timothy 1:18 (NKJV)
 1 Thessalonians 5:24 (NKJV)
 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NKJV)
 Philippians 4:19
 Merriam-Webster Dictionary https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/culture
 For these and more, read Keller’s great church planting book Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City https://timothykeller.com/books/center-church
 1 Corinthians 9:22 (NKJV)
 Facebook may seem “uncool” and outdated, but it is the number one social media platform for adults over fifty years old. 70% report using it regularly. https://www.marketingcharts.com/demographics-and-audiences/boomers-and-older-228353