What do I need to be a successful church planter and missionary? I’m called to be an apostle to the unreached in my area. My heart longs to see them coming to Christ. I pray and work to see people coming into the Kingdom of God, growing and being discipled. I dream of seeing not just one small, struggling fellowship started, but of hundreds, even thousands from my people group coming to know and follow Jesus. It hasn’t happened yet, but I’m doing my best. I learn all I can. I attend all the seminars. I read books. I pray. I wonder…what are the keys to seeing my dreams for this people group come about?
I go to one seminar on Leadership, and I learn about management skills. I come home knowing that I need to clearly write out my vision and lay out my goals and objectives step by step. I go to another seminar and I learn about team dynamics and team leadership. Yes, I think, the key is for my team to work better together. We need to understand each other’s personalities more, and function in our different giftings more smoothly. I pull out my SOFM notes and books to study. That’s it, I think, I need to focus more on the FM values. Maybe I should contextualize our service more, or maybe we should do more with training the local leaders. I talk to another leader from a nearby organization about these things. “No, no,” they say, “the real key is prayer and ministering in the Spirit. All those other things are just philosophies of man. You need more of the Holy Spirit.”
I feel a bit confused. I want to see my people group reached, but what does it take? What do I need to do? What should I focus on? How do spiritual things like prayer, work together with strategic things like the principles I learned in my SOFM?
Many serious and committed church planters experience these kinds of confusing questions. It is important that we in Frontier Missions remember that strategies, seminars, and the many tools and teachings that are given, are only effective when they are Spirit anointed and Spirit led. Romans 8:14 says, “the sons of God are led by the Spirit of God.” There is not only a balance between the spiritual and the strategic. Instead, you can think of strategies and tools as a glove. Without the hand of the Holy Spirit inside of them, giving life to them, they are limp and ineffective.
Sometimes I think we spend too much time focusing on the glove or tool, and too little time reminding ourselves as church planters of our need for intimacy with God, fellowship with the Holy Spirit and a growing, alive, walk with Jesus. If our relationships with God grow distant or dry, no matter how much strategy we know and how many tools we have learned to use, we are still only holding a bunch of empty gloves, which will fail to be effective.
2 Cor.3:6 says “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant-not of the letter, but of the Spirit, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” Our competency as ministers, or our ability to produce good fruit and results, is not because of our skills as church planters. Our competency or our fruitfulness flows out of our relationship with God.
Does that mean we should throw all our notes from SOFMs and SCPLs and all our books on church planting strategy away? No way! What we must do though, is take all the knowledge and skills available to us and use them for God’s glory. Not becoming proud in our knowledge, but depending deeply on Him and seeking a closer walk with the Lord each day. Remembering that it is only as His Spirit gives life to our plans and strategies that they will bear the fruit we so much long to see.