I was asked to write a post titled “Shaping your senior pastor’s heart toward planting.” I need to say that’s a tough one for me to do as a senior pastor. Having been a church planter, seeing the need, and knowing the value of established churches and church plants, I am already actively involved in church planting. You don’t have to convince me. I get it! Have you seen the numbers of lostness in your community? Staggering.
I also know, having been in the established church and church plants, that church plants reach people established churches often have a hard time reaching. A church that meets in a shopping center, school, or even a rented bar attracts people who may not feel comfortable entering the building under a steeple. (That may be hard to hear, but it’s true.)
But why do some pastors not see the need? Why are so many established churches, and especially healthy established churches, not planting other churches — or assisting those who do?
I think there are a lot of reasons. It could be they never fully understood the need. They are so busy leading, preaching, and ministering in their own context (the pastor’s job is never done), they simply never looked into the vast void we have in our communities — large and small — for church plants. It could be they never found the right mechanism. They never found their place. Perhaps they don’t feel they have enough resources for their own church, much less sending valuable resources elsewhere. Perhaps they have a “let someone else do it” mindset. “That’s what the denomination is for.” Sadly, it could be they are afraid of losing people in their already established church. (You should know, however, that when established church people leave their church, they go to other established churches — not usually to church plants.)
It could just be no one opened the right door to their heart. Maybe that person will be you. How could you go about doing so?
Here are five things to encourage the senior pastor to do church planting:
Hook them up with a vision trip. This may be one of the hardest, but also one of the easiest, if you can make it happen. You may struggle to get your pastor to agree at first, but if you can get them on a church planting vision trip to a city, they’ll at least get some of the church planting “bug.” It’s infectious to see what God is doing in the area of church planting.
Hang out with church planters. Here’s a hint: Church planters love to eat. And they usually know the coolest places. Take a planter to lunch and hear their story. In the process, hopefully you can connect your pastor to the heart of planting. (And, worst case, you discover a new restaurant!)
Expose them to other models. It could be through a book, such as Gaining by Losing by J. D. Greear or Hero Maker by Dave Ferguson. It could be through a conference like Exponential. Or it could be by visiting with a church that believes in planting churches. There are lots of them. (The SEND Network is full of resources to help expose your pastor.)
Vision cast. Help them see the value. Help your pastor see that “to whom much is given, much is required.” They can invest their church leadership knowledge into the planter. Most planters I know are hungry learners. The established church pastor has experience the planter needs with regard to structures, systems, and ministering to people. In so doing, they become part of building another church. And that is contagious too.
Pray. You knew that one was coming, right? But, seriously, may we never forget prayer is still the greater work. We need to pray for church planters, and we need to pray God will send out His workers into the harvest. Stop and pray right now that God would open the heart of your senior pastor to the idea of church planting.
Ultimately, it will be a work of God’s grace if your pastor decides to become involved in church planting. It won’t be, and shouldn’t be, because you manipulated things to make it happen. That’s never the right way to get what you want — or even what someone else needs. And, it’s never effective long-term. You can, however, motivate your pastor to consider church planting.
God may use you to plant just the right seed in your pastor’s heart. I’m praying to that end.
Published May 15, 2018