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The Send Network Church Planting Blog

The planter as generalist: Preaching

August 8, 2017 by Noah Oldham

Early on in the church planting process, every planter figures out this painful truth: To be a successful church planter, you must become a generalist. There are a lot of things that must be done, especially in the beginning stages of a church plant, and many, if not most, of them fall on the planter’s shoulders.

For instance, a planter, must focus on evangelism. He must grow in his knowledge and ability in evangelism. He must also grow his entrepreneurial skills—building relationships and the art of starting things. Further, he must grow in organizational leadership; learning how to inspire and manage volunteers and encouraging others in the work they are called to join him in.

Yes, there are a number of other things a planter must do well. But one of the greatest things he must keenly focus on in planting a church is preaching. Recently, I read a blog by a famous Christian leader with a very wide readership, explaining how planting must be more than just preaching. As I’ve already pointed out, that is absolutely true. But let’s be clear: While planting a church is much more than preaching, it is not less.

A planter must do a number of other things, and he must do them well. But, even if he does all of these other things very well, without preaching, he still doesn’t have a church. He can have a non-profit. He can even have a strong parachurch ministry. He can start all kinds of things, but without the ability to teach and preach the word of God, he won’t have a church.

So church planter, if God is calling you to plant a church, He is necessarily calling you to grow in the art, craft and skill of preaching.

To that end, I’d like to offer a couple pieces of exhortation.

1. Do not neglect preaching.

Many planters have a large amount of God-given charisma. They’ve been able to “get by” with their quick wit and attractive personality. In social settings and even small speaking engagements they’ve found a moderate level of success in the popular leadership philosophy known as “fake it to make it.” This may have worked in your youth ministry days, or even when you were support staff in a church, preaching “every once in a while.” But it will not be sustainable once you are responsible to feed the sheep you’ve been entrusted with by the Good Shepherd, weekly, with the rich food of His Word.

To that end, I would challenge you to give one-fourth to one-third of your work week to preaching preparation and delivery, especially in the early years of planting. As a generalist, you may have to get creative with your time. We don’t always have large chunks of hours to sit at a desk, uninterrupted, studying the text and pouring over commentaries. Instead, you will have to learn to use a dictaphone, the art of piecing together thoughts from sticky-notes and idea from napkins and a rhythm of preparing your sermon all week long as you weave in a hour here and 15 minutes there between other meetings and responsibilities.

2. If God is calling you to plant a church, He is calling you to be the best “you” you can be in preaching.

If God has called you to lead a people, then those people need you. If God has called you, He wants you. He doesn’t need or want or desire a replica of some other famous preacher. I’ve known planters who have gotten tired and began preaching someone else’s sermons, emulating someone else’s style, even copying someone else’s manuscript. They believe (a lie) that with all the other things they have going on, preaching is the thing they can afford to drop and instead borrow from someone else and still see success.

But I would argue that your preaching is the most important thing you will do. In your preaching you will multiply disciples. You will equip those disciples for the work of ministry. If you give all your time to personal and individual ministry and you don’t give the time necessary to preaching to equip the saints for the work of ministry, you will have a church whose growth is severely stunted.

Planter, you’ve been called to a gloriously high task. There is so much for you to do. But in those moments you feel overwhelmed be reminded of Paul’s exhortation in 2 Timothy 4:2, “Preach the Word.”