Eight Characteristics of Pioneer Planters

Antioch PlanThe Antioch Plan is recruiting pioneer church planters. And it’s willing to train them, mentor them and resource them. But it’s hard to know what a pioneer church planter is. Would you know what to look for either in others or even in yourself?

The Bible is unmistakably clear that men ought to have three characteristics to be considered for church leadership. Titus 1, 1 Timothy 3 and 1 Peter 5 identify the ability to teach the truth and refute error, godly character and management of their household. And so any man possessing those three characteristics in growing abundance, and who’s up for it, should be considered for church leadership. But not everyone is well suited to every type of ministry. Presumably that’s why not everyone can get to be the Senior Minister at St Helen’s Bishopsgate, even if we wanted to! Some of us are better suited for one type of ministry over another. So who’s well suited to pioneering church planting?

This isn’t an exhaustive list but it’s been shaped by what we’ve observed over a few years of launching and growing church plants with a variety of individuals. These would be the kind of characteristics that we’d be looking for.

1.       Pioneer planters need godly motivation

Fundamentally, we do it for God. We’re not about building our own little kingdoms. We’re not trying to make a name for ourselves. Church planting can be seen as the extreme sport of church ministry. And pioneer church planting sets us apart just that little bit more from the conservative risk averse normal people. But we do it for God and His glory. And so we’ll do it even when there’s little visible fruit. We won’t be deflated that the Lord doesn’t seem to share the same ambitions for our fledgling church plant as he does!

So it’s worth asking, is your motivation for becoming a pioneering church planter that you want to build Christ’s kingdom for his glory? Or is it more about your burgeoning reputation?

2.       Pioneer planters need biblical maturity

God grows His church through the gospel. That’s His powerful way of saving people. And we need to be convinced that’s the case so that gospel ministry is at the heart of what we’re doing. It’s not the whole of what we do. But it is the heart. And we won’t be deflected from it if it seems to be taking time to see the changes we’re praying for and working towards. Relational Bible teaching and personal discipleship is a deep work. It takes time for most people to be changed by the gospel. That’s not to say that God couldn’t do it in a moment. But for most of us, turning our lives around in repentance and faith is like turning a supertanker.

Are you persuaded that the way in which God will grow His church is through the faithful preaching of the gospel?

3.       Pioneer planters need personal work skills

Biblical ministry is fundamentally relational. It’s about forming friendships in which the gospel can be communicated and applied to our lives. And therefore pioneer planters need to be people people. They need to have developed skills in personally discipling individuals with the gospel.

And so ask yourselves or, if you dare take the risk, ask others ‘am I good with people?’

4.       Pioneer planters need robust and persevering personalities

All ministry has the potential to be discouraging. But perhaps the potential is more acute in trying to start a church plant from scratch. And so we need to be able to take some knocks and not be so brittle that we want to throw in the towel at the first signs of discouragement.

And so ask yourself ‘am I someone who perseveres or am I a quitter?’

5.       Pioneer planters need an entrepreneurial mind-set

Many ministry appointments involve being asked to take responsibility for a group of people who are already part of the church. But in pioneering church planting, there is no church. Or at least not much of a one! We have to go out and get one. And so an outlook that enjoys exploring different ways of reaching and gathering people is essential.

So ask yourself, ‘am I the kind of person that thinks of ways to make things happen and then makes them happen?’

6.       Pioneer planters need flexible patterns of Bible teaching

London is full of different types of people. There’s a wonderful diversity to the population of our city. And that’s true even within a separate suburb. And God has given the scriptures for everyone. And so we’ll need to develop different ways of helping different people access the Bible in a way that they can understand.

Are you someone who enjoys the challenge of helping a wide variety of people get to grips with God, Jesus and the Bible or are you mainly interested in pursuing one type of person?

7.       Pioneer planters need generalist skill set

It’ll probably be a long while before the church planter will be able to recruit his own staff. And it may be a while before he’s able to share the ministry responsibilities with others in the church family. And so he’ll need to be generally good at everything rather than exceptionally good at one or two things. He may need to be able to teach the kids’ slot, counsel a couple facing marriage issues, prepare a Bible study, speak at an evangelistic carol service and book the venue and make the arrangements for the church launch dinner.

So ask yourself, ‘does doing a bit of everything excite me or am I desperate to simply concentrate on a narrow area of ministry?’

8.       Pioneer planters need team building capabilities

Having met and gathered a core team, pioneer planters then need to build that team into more than the sum of its parts. They need to understand how teams work and be a team player and not simply enjoy being team captain. In particular they need to be developing others within the team to take responsibility for leadership. And helping everyone to commit to one another and to the task they’ve undertaken.

Are you good at recruiting others and helping them find a place in a team?

Co-Mission is after pioneer church planters. Could that be you? Or someone you know?

We’re not after the finished article. We don’t think it exists. But we are after leaders who have the potential to gather and grow a small group Bible study into a church family who initially might meet in a home or a small building. It’s a bold development in the planting strategy of Co-Mission. And we’re excited by what God might do.

Do you fancy being a part of it?  

2 thoughts on “Eight Characteristics of Pioneer Planters

  1. Windy_London January 29, 2014 / 6:55 pm

    9) If married then married to someone who shares the vision of turning life upside down for the sake of the gospel.
    10) Cross cultural skills. Very similar to 6, but experience of loving people who have a profoundly different worldview. Those who are freaked out spending the day with non Christians, or old people, or immigrants will have difficulty in an urban plant.

    Although the best church planters almost all have good relational skills, most of them also know how to switch off their emotional intelligence for a minute so they can press on, unabated by the emotional bricks that are lobbed at them. This characteristic of swimming against the tide and pressing on in the face of criticism can somtimes be mistaken for arrogance, and often makes the planter a bit of a maverick who is hard to manage.

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