Serve Blog — April 2024

Essential Tools for the Church Planting Missionary

Like any self-respecting dad I am the proud owner of a well-used toolbox. Over the years this receptacle has acquired a variety of tools designed to meet the repair needs of an active household. Yet there are a few tools that are basic to any collection; tools that I find myself returning to daily. No gadget or gizmo will ever be able to replace your basic hammer, screwdriver, and pliers, for example.

As I reflect on the years God has allowed me to be involved in church-planting, I believe a similar principle applies. There are truckloads of books on the market that offer this new method or that new approach to planting a church. Some of these may be useful in certain contexts, others would find better use as paperweights or doorstops. But as I look back on our church-planting endeavors over the years, I find myself returning to the same basic tools, tools that are essential for the toolbox of anyone setting out to start a church from the ground up.

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A dedication to the biblical model of a church

Before one begins the process of church-planting, it is helpful to have a clear idea of what constitutes a local church. Much of the newest, most popular church-planting literature advocates for a watering-down of the biblical definition, so as not to offend potential members. Not only are such methods ill-conceived, they are also counterproductive. A clearly defined body of believers who covenant together for edification in the Word, mutual encouragement in faith and holiness, the practice of the Lord’s Table and Baptism, and the evangelism of the lost will never cease to attract those in whom the Holy Spirit is at work.

A determination to disciple

If there is one mistake I wish I could go back and undo, it would be my tendency, early in our church-planting ministry, to bypass training and discipleship. Impatient with the long process of developing mature believers, I tried to force the issue by giving people positions of leadership who were in no way ready. For this impatience I, and the church, paid a heavy price.

There is no substitute for the biblical discipleship process. Churches need mature members and leaders, and there is no shortcut to developing them.

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A decision to love the people God sends your way

Much ink is spilled in church-planting literature about how to grow your congregation. This emphasis on numerical growth can be dangerous. A much healthier (and more biblical) mentality for the church planter is to focus on ministering to those whom God has put in your trust. Are there only five people in your church? Love those people. Pour out your heart to them in your preaching, and your life to them during the week.

Of course, we would prefer to have 50 or 500. But can we expect God to entrust great numbers into our care if we are neglecting the few who are already there (see Luke 16:10)?

This list of basic church-planting tools is by no means comprehensive. Many methods and strategies may be biblical and effective. But, like the well-worn hammer, screwdrivers, and pliers in my toolbox, these are the ones I find myself returning to time after time for the work God has given me.


Amdrew Comings

BMM Missionary to Brazil

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