Training that Grows the Relational Soul of a Church Planter – Ongoing Training for Trainers – with Boston Send City Missionary, David Butler

David Butler oversees church planting strategy throughout greater Boston by shepherding kingdom leaders and church planters. While not from the northeast, a trip to Boston rocked his heart for the city. After being a lead pastor for 35 years in Tennessee, Kentucky and New Hampshire, David now lives on mission with a prayer and vision to see “In Boston as it is in heaven.” David earned a BS in political science from Murray State University, an MDiv from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and his DMin from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Gayle, have three married children and nine amazing grandkids. There are few places David enjoys more than being at Fenway taking in a Red Sox game.

Before you listen to the podcast, take a simple self-assessment. Give yourself a score on a scale of 1-10, 10 being high.

___ As a trainer, I don’t just focus on getting through the training curriculum. Instead, I make efforts to become part of the story of each planter I train.

___ I find myself being so dialed in to the planters’ stories that I have a discernment that enables me to ask questions that help the planters grow emotionally.

___ I am willing and able to share my own stories of brokenness that set the stage for planters to feel free to be authentic and vulnerable in sharing their own stories.

___ I am sensitive to the fact that when planters get together, they are often protective, wanting to project a glittering image–a false self–to make themselves look good.

___ I have developed tried and true ways to encourage planters to evaluate whether or not the work that is being done by God through them is because of the work that is being done by God in them.

___ Total

Where did you score highest? Lowest? What does this score tell you about your ability to help planters grow emotionally? What steps might you take to help your planters not only develop their technical planting skills but also their emotional and spiritual health?

Now, listen to the podcast with David Butler. Afterwards, answer the following questions.


David acknowledges that church planting is demanding, especially in areas like Boston. It’s like “cultivating concrete.” He listed the challenges of

  1. Expectations
  2. Comparison
  3. Resources
  4. Abandonment

These can expose a relational and emotional lack of maturity in the life of a planter. What other challenges have you seen that expose character flaws in the lives of planters?

David said, “We don’t spend enough time letting guys tell their stories.” He’s talking about their family of origin stories. How might providing a safe place for planters to tell their stories help them grow in their emotional intelligence?

David talked about traits of a healthy church planter. He mentioned the importance of Resilience – grit, an ability to fail forward. He mentioned that planters must “Love the city more than they want to change the city.” Then he articulated what one of the Boston planters shared: A healthy church planter

  1. Is Humble
  2. Is Hungry
  3. Is Holy
  4. 4) Has a high EQ
  5. Knows how to Hustle

Think of a church planter you are training. Which of these characteristics is missing most in his life? What can you do to help that planter grow in that area?

David stressed that character is not really a competency and that it is, and always will be, an area for ongoing development. He says that it’s tempting for us to focus on how well the planter is succeeding in his church planting tasks, but that it’s rare for us to use John Wesley’s question, “How is your soul?” As a trainer, what are some practical ways you can improve your ability and focus to journey with a planter in the process of his relational and emotional growth?

David believes that his role as a trainer and as Send City Missionary is to become on a daily basis more and more a part of the story of the planters’ relational and emotional growth. What changes do you need to make as a trainer to make yourself more available to be part of the planters’ journey toward greater emotional and relational health?

David read a quote about a mentor from the book by Richard Plass and David Cofield The Relational Soul. “He had suffered many losses but still had an indomitable spirit. Years of deep and regular communion with God enabled him to live well with his significant limitations. He had learned to die daily to his false self, and as a result was amazingly gracious and openhearted, direct and wise. And he could laugh. He was someone I wanted to be around, so we began to meet a couple times a month. With me he minored in advice and double-majored in encouragement and perspective. At his stage in life he wasn’t trying to prove something. He just loved me.” What steps can you take to become a trainer like this?

David encourages planters to see that planting is really about authentic relationships. If people in the community can see the planter’s brokenness, they will be attracted to how real the planter is. When have you seen a planter’s vulnerabilities become attractive in a missional sense? How might you encourage other planters to become more and more emotionally healthy so they can feel free to lead from their own weakness and brokenness?

After listening to this podcast, what is God saying to you about how you might create space for helping a planter grow in his emotional intelligence? What is God saying to you about how you might learn to minor in advice and double major in encouragement and perspective? When will you start? Who will help you?


You can follow David on Twitter at @dab1520, on Instagram at dab1520, and on Facebook at David Butler.

Books and resources mentioned in this podcast.


Published October 30, 2019