“If you ever see a turtle on a fence post it is because someone put it there.”
I remember hearing these powerful words from Pastor Johnny Hunt while sitting in an audience of church planters several years ago. I firmly believe that at the core of sending well is remembering how you have received well. As sending pastors and churches, we must never forget we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before and invested in us.
The Apostle Paul modeled this mindset for us in 1 Corinthians 15:10: “But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out His special favor on me – and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by His grace.” As the Lord calls out church planters from our local fellowships, I want to offer a few suggestions to help equip us to better care for and communicate with those we commission.
Adrian Rogers was famous for calling Christians to “live their lives open-handed and to hold everything loosely.” What if we as pastors held the families and finances of the church we lead loosely and open-handed? Our God is a sending God, and we must follow that example. When we commissioned our first church plant last year, I told our church planter he was free to preach and ask our entire church to go with him.
To be completely honest, yes, I was a little nervous that some of our faithful covenant members might walk out the door alongside him. However, God reminded me that they are not my people, but His. They’re not my resources, but His. It’s not my church, but His. Pastor, will you stand and ask your leaders that you have spent years investing in to go with your planter and trust God? Remember, we gain by losing. A phrase we champion at Living Hope is that we are not losing members, but launching missionaries.
Okay, so you have had your commissioning service and officially sent out your planter. Check. You have posted it on social media. Check. You have even sent him with some money and a few people. Check. Now what? Are you done? What’s next with this relationship? In the same way new parents desire to watch their children grow and eventually provide them grandchildren, sending churches should desire to see their church plants grow and plant other churches, providing them spiritual grandchildren.
While we are really good at sending in the short-term, we must get better at supporting for the long-term. One of my greatest joys came recently when I was able to announce via video to my sending church, Kirby Woods Baptist, that six years later they were going to be grandparents! All the years of relationships and resourcing helped make this possible. When it comes to partnerships with your planters, please remember that you need your planters and your planters need you.
Make it a priority to serve your planters on a regular basis. Call them, coach them and care for them. Get your church family involved, and remind them that those we send out are extended family. Last month, the women of our church prepared gift baskets at their retreat to support four of the church planters we sponsor in Send Cities. These gift baskets were filled with hand-written notes, toys for their children and gift cards for them to go out for dinner dates.
We were overwhelmed at the responses from our planters indicating how much God used those baskets to encourage them at just the right moments in their ministry. We must remember the words of the Lord Jesus when He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” If you are a turtle on a fence post, remember God used several resources to place you there. Now go and do likewise.
Published June 30, 2016