Seven tough questions for a church planter’s spiritual inventory

By Rick Duncan

Trainers of church planters can easily rattle off the names of guys who, sadly, didn’t make it. Sometimes, unforeseen circumstances wreak havoc on the church plant. Often, though, the deficiency lay in the character of the planter.

When a planter’s character is lacking, God simply won’t honor his efforts. Instead, God lightly esteems the planter and his efforts.

In 1 Samuel 2, we see the story of Eli‘s worthless sons. Obviously, they were not church planters. They were, of course priests. Scripture says that they — as priests — “despised the Lord.” And because they despised Him, they were not honored by Him. They were, instead, “lightly esteemed” by Him.

“But now the LORD declares … ‘those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed’” (1 Sam. 2:30b).

How did they despise the Lord? The text tells us: They were worthless (v. 12a). They did not know the Lord (v. 12b). They were greedy and gluttonous (vv. 13-14). They abused worshipers for personal gain (vv. 15-16). They treated the offering of the Lord with contempt (v. 17). They were sexually immoral (vv. 22-24). They would not listen to their father (v. 25).

Therefore, they were lightly esteemed by the Lord.

It’s a sober warning for anyone who’s in any kind of spiritual leadership role. And it’s a warning to our church planters who desperately need the Lord to honor their efforts, rather than lightly esteem them.

This tragic story can lead us and our planters to seven self-examination questions that arise from I Samuel 2:

  • Where and how have I become worthless — wasting time, money, and resources that should be spent on building Christ kingdom?
  • How have I been failing to grow in my personal intimacy with the Lord — failing to grow in the true knowledge of God?
  • Where and how have greed and gluttony crept into my life — unnoticed and unchallenged?
  • How have I become entitled — believing that worshippers are there to serve me, rather than believing I am there to serve them?
  • Where and how have I been handling holy things — the Word, prayer, worship, communion — in a casual and cavalier way?
  • How have I become complacent and compromising regarding my moral purity and godly sexuality?
  • Where and how have I have begun to resist godly accountability and God-appointed authority?

Eli‘s sons did not have good answers to these kinds of questions. We know the rest of the story. They lost their ministry. And they lost their lives (1 Sam. 4:11).

As trainers, let’s encourage, challenge, admonish, and equip our planters by asking the tough questions so that their lives will honor the One who said, “Those who honor Me I will honor.”

A prayer to pray: Lord, save me from any temptation, no matter how small, that might cause me to despise You by how I live and minister. Help me to be the kind of servant of the Lord who truly honors You. You deserve and desire to be honored — not just with my lips, but also with my life. Help me to take an inventory of my life to see where and how I may be despising You, even if it might be what some would think is innocuous. Keep me — and the spiritual leaders I know — pure before You and useful to You. For Jesus’ sake, Amen.,

Published January 3, 2019

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Rick Duncan

Rick Duncan currently serves as the East Coast Trainer for the Send Network, the church planting arm of the North American Mission Board (NAMB). As an appointed missionary by NAMB in 1986, Rick was Founding Pastor of Cuyahoga Valley Church (CVC) near Cleveland. A graduate of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, Rick earned All-SEC baseball honors three times as an outfielder. He was drafted by the Minnesota Twins and spent five years playing professional baseball. Before becoming a pastor, Rick served four years on staff of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in Jacksonville, Florida. Rick graduated from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. He loves to encourage younger leaders to create environments that God can use to invite people to new life in Christ. After 42 years of marriage, Rick is still in love with his wife, Maryanne. He enjoys spending time with his three sons: Alan, Ryan, and Evan. He is the proud father-in-law of Joanna, Alan's bride, and the proud grandfather of Ethan (7) and Caleb (3).