Elder Philip Murphy is the author of this report. He is actively practicing ministry as a church planter. Recently he conducted a survey of members of the National Association of Christian Ministers to determine what they thought were the 10 most important things that a church planter should know. After collecting the results, he combined them with his personal experience in church planting to produce the below report:
By Elder Philip Murphy
Church planting ministry is perhaps one of the most rewarding ministries in the world today, but on the other hand, it can also be the most complicated and stressful. The key word there is can. There have been previous threads regarding church planting in this very organization. There has been much information gathered from these posts. The ten things covered here will compile what we have gathered from the previous threads here as well as real life experience in this ministry. It is not meant to be a substitute for prayer, study, or be a formal guide of how to or how not to do it. It is our sincere desire that this may answer some of the unknown questions that people may have regarding church planting, or may be of assistance to someone who is trying to discern whether or not this is the ministry they need to partake in. We urge each one to pray, study, and seek God's will in all things, especially when planting a church.
#1.) Know this is your calling: It has been said on here and we have personally experienced it ourselves. Planting a church must be led by God and God alone. Many people want to plant a church for all the wrong reasons. God only knows the full extent of the need we have in this world for a good solid church that teaches and preaches Bible only. We must seek God's will through prayer, study, and by examining our motives for wanting to start a church.
Some of the wrong reasons for wanting to start a church are: [a.] You are tired of being under another pastor for whatever the reason may be, [b.] You think every other church is wrong and you want to show them up, [c.] You want to make a gain for yourself, [d.] You want some type of authority over other people, and [e.] You think you have all the answers to every problem facing churches today. These are just a few, but primarily, these are the main wrong reasons you see out there today, from our observations.
We cannot tell you whether or not God is leading you to start a church. What we can tell you is one of our own's experience on how he was led into this ministry. The following is Brother Phillip Murphy's testimony on his entrance into the church planting ministry: "I started my journey with this ministry with my second church that I was a member of. Shortly after I became a member of this church, the members decided to draft a formal set of bylaws and a church constitution. I was elected to oversee this and work directly with a Christian attorney who advised us on the process. This was a huge learning experience for me and the members of the church. You cannot just type any old thing and call it bylaws or a constitution. There are things that need to be present and things that don't. When it was all said and done, I can honestly say that I am not an expert on drafting these types of documents, but I do understand the process and how it needs to be done. Eventually, I would assist another neighboring church with the same thing. It was then that I had a curiosity about church planting enter my heart.
My pastor and I went as far to talk about planting a church at some point in the future, but to be honest, I was scared to death of the notion of such an undertaking. I did not feel qualified to perform such a task. I shrugged off the notion and for quite a while, was able to ignore the calling. However, after a while, things started to fall apart. Doctrinal differences entered the church, and I eventually was led back to my home church where I worked for many more years, still knowing good and well what God was leading me to do. It was here that I fell under the scrutiny of my pastor and his club of local pastors for not agreeing with their doctrines or conforming to their ways. I was pretty much shunned by every church in the area that had the same doctrinal beliefs. I then went with my wife to her home church and worked there for another good span of time, only to see the church die because of another bad pastor. I then went on a journey to find a church that God led me to, and every single time, something stood in the way. It was at this point that I began to pray diligently and seek God's will about planting a church. I knew that my family and I was needing a church because the bible teaches us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. It also teaches that we are to do our very best at fulfilling the Great Commission of Jesus Christ. I should have known God's answer after I knew these things and could not find a church to attend, coupled with how I had been led in the past. However, I was still wanting deep down to avoid starting a church. The straw that broke the camel's back was when other people came to me, desiring exactly what I had been led to do to begin with, which is ultimately what I wanted as well. So, to make a long story short, I studied everything I could find about church planting. I then contacted two other pastors who have planted churches that I know personally and have been working with them since. I know have a church planted and God is really blessing us, but at the same time, Satan is trying every way possible to hinder our efforts. But as I have said before, we know God has plans and we are doing what God wants when we face the opposition from Satan.
This is how I came into the church planting ministry. I only wish that I had heeded God's call much earlier. But in a way, I am glad I did wait as long as I did, because I learned many things along the way that has helped me tremendously. By finally heeding to God's call in my life, I was able to obey what God wanted all along, not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, do my part in the fulfilling of the Great Commission of Jesus Christ, and help to meet a definite need that existed in my area."
Some of the right reasons for wanting to plant a church are: [a.] you know this is what God wants in your life, [b.] you have a desire to be a servant to other people, [c.] you want to do your best in the fulfilling of the Great Commission of Jesus Christ, and [d.] there is a need in your area in which you can help remedy by planting a church. As said before, there are many more that I could list, but these are the most fundamental.
We know this has been a lengthy section, but it is by far the most important thing you must know if you are being led to plant a church. If it is God led, take the step, if not, save yourself a great deal of heartache and don't.
#2. Establish a good base of support: We cannot tell you how important it is to find like-minded people to offer support when you step out to plant a church. These people do not necessarily have to be ministers. They can be other Christians who share the same goals you have. It is very helpful if you can find at least one minister who is willing to assist you in your area. They can be a great source of strength during your journey. Another thing, and probably the most important, is to ensure that your family is on board with what you are doing. They need to be a great part of it too. You already have one advantage, you are a member of this organization. This organization can offer a great deal of insight into many topics, including church planting.
#3. Don't wait for a large congregation: If you wait for a large number of people to get on board, you will likely never plant a church. This is something that will take work after the church is planted. Jesus said wherever two or three are gathered together in his name, there he will be in the midst of them. If you obey God, the people will come.
#4. You can make it as easy or as difficult as you want: Let us be the first to say that there is nothing wrong with utilizing an official church planting organization. But these are often times very time consuming and expensive. You do not have to have a professional do this for you. All you need is someone who knows the process and has basic computer skills to draft your documents. We have seen people spend thousands of dollars and others spend less than one hundred dollars. This really needs to be a group decision amongst those who are on board with what you are doing.
#5. There are no set laws to establishing a church: The United States of America and it's citizens are protected under the constitution when dealing with religion and the practice thereof. The government cannot interfere with you establishing a church, unless you allow them to.
#6. Three ways of establishing a church: You can establish a church one of three different ways. You can [a.] Incorporate a church, [b.] Establish a non-profit church, or [c.] Establish a free church. Many people are starting to incorporate churches for the sake of obtaining government protection against lawsuits. This requires the drafting of Articles of Incorporation and other documents and would be best served to have an attorney or church planting organization take on this task. The most established way of establishing a church is by making it a non-profit and seeking tax exemption from the IRS. This is a lengthy process and requires alot of paperwork and expense but is how most churches operate today. A free church is a group of believers that have no part in dealing with the government. Since there are no laws in reference to establishing a church, it too is perfectly legal and acceptable in the United States. This requires drafting documents as to the standard of operation, standard of beliefs, and most importantly a declaration that states the establishing of the church. This too needs to be something that is discussed amongst you and your supporters.
#7. You need to have a formal meeting: Before any decisions are made, there needs to be a formal meeting take place. You will need to record the proceedings of this meeting in the form of minutes, with location of meeting, time and date of meeting, who attended, and all that took place. Be very specific. This will stay in the permanent church minutes. This will be a reference point in the future should any questions arise as to the legality of the church, how it was formed, how the church documents were approved, ect. This is one of the biggest mistakes church planters make. Everything needs to be voted on, including offices in the church.
#8. You do not need a building to have a church: In the wise words of a dear Brother in this very organization, Jesus did not say to build, he said to go. The church is not the building, it is the people. You can meet anywhere. You can meet at a home, a fellowship hall, outside, or a barn as far as that goes. It is important to establish a place to meet, but it is not important where that place is.
#9. You will face opposition of some form: We are going to serve you notice right now. If what you are doing is God led, you will most definitely face trials from Satan. These can come in many forms. You will likely see people who will talk you down, you may have financial struggles in getting the church established, and you will have ups and downs spiritually. The important thing to remember is that if God be for us, who can be against us? God blesses what he leads, and his will is always accomplished if we heed to him alone. This is one of the advantages of having a good support base. We cannot stress enough how important prayer will be for you during this walk.
#10. Be obedient to God: When you do establish a church, realize that it is not your church. It belongs to Jesus. We need to follow the guidelines outlined in the Holy Bible pertaining to the church and how it operates. We need to model ourselves as closely as possible to the ultimate shepherd, Jesus Christ. The bible teaches us how we as pastors should react and act. Let God be your guide in all that you do.
In conclusion, as stated earlier, the church planting process is a very rewarding ministry. If you weigh the challenges verses the rewards, the rewards are much greater. If God is leading you into this, then you will be fine. You must make the step forward to do what God is leading you to do. We pray that you will find this helpful and like we say, there is no substitute for prayer and study. We encourage you to simply seek God's will and have the courage to be faithful to his purpose for you. God bless.