9 characteristics of a church planter: Family dynamics

We plant gospel-centered churches because it is the prescribed Great Commission strategy found in the Scripture. The apostle Paul never evangelizes and disciples without planting churches (cf. Acts). So wherever the gospel was preached, congregations were formed where new believers could gather to embody and grow in Word-inspired and Spirit-led fellowship, community, and mission.

Church planting is undoubtedly highly demanding and consuming work. But at its core, it should be a labor of love that flows out of the gospel. Well, at least that’s what it’s supposed to be. And I say this much, because if you’re a husband/father, the commitment to establish and lead the household of faith will all too often collide with the commitment to be loving and faithful to your household.

Here’s the premise of this blog post: Church planter, your calling is to dynamically love your family as you lead your church family.

What does this look like as you cast vision, fundraise, connect/build relationships with the lost, gather a core-team, train leaders, disciple converts and young Christians, build out systems (and the list goes on)?

Here are some things to consider:

Shape a biblical perspective on family

Teach your people what God has deemed and designed to be the building block of humanity: families. As the family unit is being deconstructed and redefined by our increasingly secularized and “progressively sophisticated” culture, we must plant churches that live out a bold and compassionate counter-cultural witness.

Husbands and fathers can no longer be viewed as the butt of society’s humor. They must be called to sacrificially lead and lay down their lives for their families. Wives and mothers should be honored for rearing children and submitting to godly husbands/fathers. Our sisters need to know this is not a second-rate, compromised life. Mothers and fathers must be engaged very practically in the lives of their children, preaching the gospel to them incessantly and humbly modeling what a gospel-transformed and shaped life looks like. Children must understand what it means to honor and obey God-given authority. Anything else is folly, which will lead to death!

Everything begins with instruction (cf. Eph. 6, Deut. 6), and all instruction and imperatives must find their roots in the reality that our family units serve as the metaphor for the household of God (cf. Eph. 2:19, Gal. 6:10). Church planting brother, remember to preach/teach and model biblical family life.

Sacrifice, but don’t dare neglect

I’m a church planting pastor, but I’m also a CPK. No, don’t be thinking with your stomach à la California Pizza Kitchen. I’m a church planter’s kid. My parents immigrated to the States back in ‘71, and by the early ‘80s my father had planted an SBC church in Queens, New York, which he relocated to Rutherford, New Jersey.

To make a long story short, my father did not love his family as he led the church he planted and pastored. As painful as it is to recall and share this, I do so because my family suffered greatly under the weight of his ungodly understanding of what actually serves as the testing, training, and proving grounds for pastoral ministry: the small flock at home (cf. 1 Tim. 3:4-5). My father’s theology and praxis were well-meaning but patently unbiblical, in that he believed true ministry involved sacrificing his family on the altar of ministry. His sinful mismanagement of our household resulted in bitterness and brokenness that has since been redeemed and restored by our good, good Father in heaven. (My dad and I are completely reconciled, and he’s a congregant of the church I planted and currently pastor.)

Church planting brother, church planting and pastoral ministry demand faithfulness and sacrifice for God and His people (cf. Phil. 2:17; Luke 9:23). There certainly will be occasions when you find yourself gently explaining to your child why you can’t make it out to her ballgame. There will be instances when that planned date night with your wife will need to be rescheduled because of an emergency counseling session or hospital visit. That being said, do not neglect your wife and kids because your church plant has become a projection of your identity. This is sinful idolatry. Godly sacrifice is biblical; neglect of self and family is sinful.

Shepherd, be shepherded

Church planters are first and foremost called to be pastors who shepherd God’s flock. Before we’re entrepreneurs or catalysts or project managers, we are under-shepherds who serve our Chief Shepherd. But lest we forget, our primary identity is that of sheep who need shepherding.

Do you desire to be a better, more godly husband? Then you need care and mentoring from the Bridegroom himself. Do you know you need to grow in what it means to have a father’s heart? Then you need to spend time with the Father, in His Word and communing with him in prayer.

Church planter brother, are there people in your life right now who are caring for you as you care for your family? Is there an accountability structure in place with your sending/mother church and the elders there? Do you have a coach? Is there a brother in your plant team who has carte blanche to call you out on this? How about for your wife? Is there a sister or structures in place for her as well?

The greatest dynamic for our families is the power that flows out of the gospel. And interestingly enough, the etymology for dynamics is the Greek work dunamikos, which is derived from dunamis or “power.” Whatever season of church planting you’re in, may your families be characterized by close-knit relationships where you are cherishing your wife and nurturing your kids. May the church planting journey be a joyful blessing for the family you love as they participate in the ministry you lead!

Published February 7, 2018