Qualifications for a church planter: Part 1

By Tim Wheat

Jeff Foxworthy is a nationally recognized comedian who combines Southern charm with a touch of soft sarcasm. As the host of, “Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader?” many adults have gone down to defeat from the intellectual prowess of 10 year-olds and the one-line zingers of Foxworthy. Even more popular than the show has been Foxworthy’s ability to poke fun (and make a living) at his Southern roots through his comedic act of “You might be a redneck if…”

As he delivers line after line of redneck jokes, many of us home-grown Southern folks laugh out loud because we know exactly what he is talking about, agreeing that he is describing us or someone in our family. Even for those who don’t speak his language (or have his accent) will laugh along too because of the stereotypical personification of Southerners.

In like manner, I am often asked, “How can I spot a potential church planter?” There are the givens; they must have a grasp of the gospel, they must sense a calling to plant, and they must realize without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit nothing of eternal significance will occur. Beyond those qualifications, pastors want to know what are the basic characteristics or behaviors of someone who could make a good church planter?

So for those who are asking, “You might be a church planter if…”

1. You are a risk-taker who likes to start new things.
In terms of culture, this person is an entrepreneur. In terms of the Bible, this person is apostolic. As we trace the travels of Paul throughout the pages of scripture, it becomes obvious that every new church planted called for him to take risks and do something that had not been done before in those cities. Good church planters come from those who have a history littered with starting new things. It could be creating new teams, new systems, new events, new experiences or new products. Embedded in church planters is the Sprit-formed DNA to create something from nothing and the willingness to take whatever risks are necessary, whether it costs time, reputation, credibility and even resources. If you are a risk-taking starter, you just might be a church planter in the making!

2. You have a number of people who naturally follow
It has been said you can tell if you are a leader by turning around and seeing who is following you. If no one is following then you are not leading, you are simply taking a walk. Church planters are leaders. They have to be in order to successfully carry out the humanly impossible task of creating an eternally focused, spiritual community of Christ-seekers. Church planting is the most leadership intensive endeavor because it involves enlisting large groups of volunteers to reorient their lives, sacrifice their time and resources, and give themselves to a vision with no guarantee of success! To accomplish the God-breathed vision, church planters are those rare individuals that God has uniquely anointed with the gifting and skills that bring others around a task, a goal, a vision, or simply a direction. If you look around and have others looking to you for what is next, you just might be a church planter in the making!

3. You like to involve and empower others in what you need to get done
Similar to the characteristic above, but also distinctively different, is the ability to to empower others with responsibilities and opportunities. It is one thing to have other follow you, yet it is something different to allow others to share in decisions, shape direction, lead events and take ownership of ministries. Church planters cannot do it all; the ones who try, fail In Acts 14, Titus 1 and numerous other places, the pattern of church planting involved establishing and empowering others to lead in order to see the gospel proclaimed and the Kingdom advance. If you are a team-oriented guy that empowers others, you just might be a church planter in the making!

Know anybody who exhibits these characteristics? They just might be a church planter. Stay tuned as this blog continues with three more characteristics in Part two.

Published September 28, 2016

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Tim Wheat

Tim Wheat is the Executive Director of the Send Network for the North American Mission Board. Previous to his position at NAMB, Tim served as a church planting pastor as well as a church planter, campus minister, and Senior Pastor. Tim and his wife, Melody, have three daughters; Madison, Michaelah, and Maicie, and live in Milton, GA.