In 2003, my wife and I moved from Brazil to the UK. Soon we began to study the Bible with some friends at home. In 2005 this group of friends grew, and we decided to plant a church. However, I made some mistakes during the process of planting a church which resulted in the death of the church a few years later. How did that happen? Well, although I knew that it is right to take risks, I did not know that taking risks that can be avoided is not. This is a lesson I learned the hard way. Therefore, if you are thinking about planting a church, let me give you five reasons why you should become an apprentice (and especially an apprentice in a church plant) before planting a church.
- First, it helps you to discern your motivation and fitness for church planting. Church planting is in vogue right now. We have many more church planting networks, church planting conferences and church planting training courses than we had a few years ago. This is great! However, church planters must not plant churches just because it is trendy and cool. On the contrary, they must have a God-given desire, right motives (to glorify God and reach the lost), right character and ability. A church planting apprenticeship will help you to understand whether God is leading you to plant a church or whether you are just following the crowd.
- Second, being an apprentice in a church plant helps you to develop a plan. It is important to know whether you should be planting a church, but that is not enough. You also need a plan. There is a saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. So, you need a plan to help you to turn your dream church into a real church. A plan which clarifies what your church planting will accomplish (vision), the reason for its existence (mission), and the guiding principles (values) by which it will operate and make decisions. A church planting apprenticeship will give you the time and skills to develop this plan with the support of your mentor.
- Third, it helps you to gain first-hand experience. Plans are always perfect on paper but, when you try to put them into practice, you normally find out that plans require adjustments. However, you can only find out what these adjustments are by trying out your plans first. So, a church planting apprenticeship will give you the opportunity to try out some of your ideas in a safe environment. In simple terms, you will be able to take risks, make mistakes and learn from them before planting a church.
- Fourth, it helps you to gain some essential leadership skills. You can have a clear conviction to plant, a good plan and some experience, but without knowing how to lead people, all your hard work is in vain. As a church planter you will have to develop three main skills to grow a heathy church. One, you must know how to guard the teaching ministry of the church by guiding, protecting and proclaiming the truths of the Scripture. Two, you must know how to oversee the direction of the church by thinking about where the church should go, what the church should be, and how the church should function. Three, you must know how to ensure the spiritual care of the church through discipleship, administration of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism, church discipline, admonishment and counselling. So, a church planting apprenticeship will give you the opportunity to gain these three essential skills.
- Fifth, an apprenticeship helps you to enhance resilience. You can have a conviction, a plan, experience, essential leadership skills, but without prayerful determination you will eventually give up. The reason is simple, church planting is hard. Francis Schaeffer puts it this way: “what we are doing is not just difficult, it is impossible.” Church planters do not start up companies with the aim of making money but churches with the aim of making disciples for Christ. Church planters’ competitors are not other church planters but the devil, a spiritual being who hates Jesus and his followers. So, a church planting apprenticeship will help you gain the spiritual strength needed to handle future hardships.
Unfortunately, my lack of experience in the past resulted in the death of my first church plant. However, you do not have to take my same path, right? You can avoid making the same mistakes that I made by gaining first-hand experience. So, why don’t you become an apprentice before planting a church?