While I was on deputation, I took advantage of the extra time I had to read. There are many good books on church planting, and I was able to read about ten of them before starting Hermosillo Baptist Church. I do not consider myself an expert on church planting, but I can share with you some things that helped me in the process, and I hope they will be a blessing to you. While Hermosillo Baptist Church is in Mexico, and some things do not apply to other regions, I believe that these points will help you prepare to plant your church. I pray that these thoughts will add value to your planning and give you direction.
1. What Kind of Church Will You Start
I believe you will find the answer to this question after a season of prayer. God will give you a vision (burden) for a particular need which demands a particular church. As you study the area or region where you intend to plant a church, you will see the defining characteristics of the people who live there.
As I traveled on deputation, I saw many different types of churches. Some churches that were in the mountains (where the town is considered a village) are different than churches in the city. The principles of soulwinning and Bible preaching are universal, but the temperament of a church depends on its pastor and the kind of people who make up the church. A baking contest for example, may be a big hit in one church while it may be a colossal failure for another.
God called me to a city, so the church that I started is geared to reach city people. Everyone is welcome to come, but in our city the majority of the people to whom we minister are professionals, college graduates, entrepreneurs, etc. I also wanted to make sure that the ideology I grew up with in the states would not be a stumbling block to the Mexican people. For example, I worked at a church in America where one of the most attended church activities among the men was shooting skeet. Because of the cartels and killings, people in Mexico do not look favorably on guns. I learned quickly not to even mention the approval or use of guns.
In each country there are people groups that demand for the church planter to consider very well what kind of church he needs to start to more effectively reach his community.
2. Do You Want to Reach Everyone
I am sure every preacher has a desire to reach everyone, but because of the way he structures his church he may accidentally limit himself to one sector of people.
It is our desire to reach everyone—rich and poor, city people and country people, educated and non-educated. There is a great distinction among the social classes here in Mexico and it is very common to see that division even in their day to day interaction. Unsaved upper class people can be very judgmental, and may determine whether or not they will go to church by the condition of the building. People that are not quite as well to do might not be as concerned with the facilities. I want to reach both groups of people, so I make sure that our church facilities are as nice as possible and well kept.
We try to keep an atmosphere in our church where everyone feels like they can grow spiritually. “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more” (1 Corinthians 9:19). We want to make sure that we serve all people to gain more people. Do not limit yourself to only reaching one sector of people in your community.
3. Can You Handle Surprises
There are four surprises you must anticipate.
1. Things will cost more than you expect.
If you are like me, you will have more vision than your bank account allows. You will need to buy many practical things. There is the deposit for the building which you will be renting, chairs, tables, nursery equipment, brooms, mops, vacuums, office supplies, hospitality supplies, and a host of other details that can amount to hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.
When my wife and I planted Hermosillo Baptist Church, we decided to invest money in things that had the greatest impact. A well-kept nursery and children’s ministry and good quality paint was in order. My family and I did what we could with what we had. My wife painted murals in the children’s rooms, and I had verses printed and framed for the auditorium walls. All this cost money; we did less than I wanted, but we did what was within our reach.
2. Last minute details take longer than you think.
You dare not procrastinate when you are planting a church. Things that can be done in fifteen minutes will accumulate at the last minute. So if you can get it done on the day that you realize that it needs to be done, do it.
Last minute leaders are frustrated leaders. They also tend to lose the respect of those who follow them. Last minute leaders continually struggle because everything is a crisis. You do not want to start your church this way.
3. Things will be harder than you think.
I remember standing in front of the building we were renting and thinking, there is little to be done; it will not take long to get this building ready. It did not turn out that way. My wife and I spent three weeks preparing the building for our first service. Make sure you give yourself time and energy to get everything done.
4. Not everyone who promises to help you will keep his word.
I was promised funds for our start up that never came in. I am sure God allowed that to happen to strengthen my faith, but it sure felt horrible at the time. This surprise had a big price. Churches promised to send in money, and I spent the money before it was deposited, thinking, they promised, so therefore it is a guarantee. One week before our opening service, I vividly remember my wife and I standing in our auditorium without any chairs and with no money pondering what we should do.
I then began to beg God, “Lord, please, please provide chairs! Where will the people sit when they come to church? Please provide the money that was promised.” As my wife continued to paint upstairs in the children’s room, I plead with God concerning those chairs. God knew our need, and He put in my heart to write one email. I asked the people on our email list to pray with us about the chairs that we needed. I did not ask for money, I just asked for their prayers.
The next morning I opened my computer and saw an email from one of our supporting churches that said, “We just remodeled and have old chairs. Can you pick them up?” I thought, Is Hell hot? Is Heaven sweet? Yes, I will pick them up! God even provided some money we were not expecting that week which paid for our gas to pick up the chairs.
I hope that, you will not be in a similar situation; but if you are, remember that God never breaks His promises, and you will see that He is in control.