Acts 20:28 – 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.
I have had the blessing of connecting with a really cool group of people this past week. Converge Mid-Atlantic held their church planting training known as LAUNCH in Owings Mills, MD. It was an amazing time in which we learned all of the practical aspects of planting a church. There were seminars on how to create your development team, how to select insurance, legal matters with starting a church, marriage & ministry, children’s ministry, and the cultural aspects of planting. Topics such as evangelism, marketing, and finances were all covered. It was a very good time learning from pastors of small to mid-sized churches about what they went through to plant their church, the struggles they encountered, and the things they’ve learned along the way.
The conference was held in the ministry center of Messiah Community Church, pastored by Rod Hairston. Not only is this guy a pastor of a church, he is also the chaplain for the Baltimore Ravens! (Did I mention I am a Pittsburgh Steelers fan?) We were able to take a tour of the Ravens facility and it is clear that you could feel pastor Hairston’s legacy of Jesus throughout the organization. That man has given that team Jesus!
Other pastors who presented were Jim Eaton of Mosaic Church in Frederick MD, Ron Crawford of New Vision Church in Bowie MD, Jeremy Copeland of Story Church in Durham NC, Charles Whittaker of River of Life in Temple Hills MD, and Steve Lowe of Journey Church Community in Eldersburg MD. These men have all planted churches and are seeing them go through the regular struggles of all pastors: growth, decline, member disagreements, marital issues, and cultural shifts. Their insight into church planting was priceless.
If anyone is ever thinking of planting a church, there are all kinds of training conferences, seminars, and boot camps out there. Afterward, these organizations would always want you to plant a church with their organization, but it isn’t necessary. These men understand that you are planting a church for God, and we need to help equip the saints regardless of whether they plant with Converge, Liberty Church Planting Network, Acts 29 Network, Orchard, Vineyard, or any of the other groups out there who have strong church planting systems in place.
I would like to caution anyone who is considering planting a church, though. First, planting a church is an “all-in” mentality. Everything you own and love becomes part of the church. This includes house, kids, spouse, car, and Fifi the toy poodle. Second, look seriously at theology of the network you are planting with. That is the one thing that I walked away feeling unanswered was just what DOES Converge believe? There are hot button issues that plague the church such as views on baptism, women in ministry, gay/lesbian roles in the church, and others. There are even basic foundations of faith that need to be understood before a comfort level can be attained. These deal with inspiration of the Bible, the Holy Trinity, and end times teachings. I wish Converge would have spent a seminar on making sure everyone in the room was on the same page theologically. Just in talking to people around the room I could tell there seemed to be a little bit of a disconnect there with regard to theology.
Overall, I learned a lot, a lot of practical stuff that will translate to me when God’s call comes to fruition. Going on a fact-finding mission yielded significant results that I will keep for a long time to come. I find it interesting that during my 3 years in seminary going for a degree in church planting that these “nuts and bolts” practical applications were not covered. Seminary is preparing me for a lot of the theology of church planting, but the practical application is almost non-existent. I wish there was a seminary class or classes that would be required for church planters to take that involved this hard core day to day stuff.
At the end of the day, I will head back to my home church, a full arsenal of great information in hand for when it is time to plant God’s church somewhere. In the meantime, I’ll keep praying for the day to come and continuing to meet more and more pastors in the area while finishing my seminary degree.
I will thank God for the men of God that He put in front of me this past week who armed me with practical knowledge on planting churches.
Ephesians 4:11-13 – 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.