It was in the spring of 2011, while I was a worship pastor at a church, that I started having conversations about church planting. My friend, Charles, was planting a church at that time and every week I would come alongside him to serve while he was planting. I would dream and have all kinds of “what if” conversations with him. Little did we know then that two short years later, with a missionary team of 20 adults, with God’s help we would plant a church.
I had the incredible opportunity of being the lead pastor of that church plant for the first seven years where many people came to faith in Jesus and were baptized. Then the Lord transitioned me into a new assignment of serving our Arkansas Baptist churches by helping churches to plant churches.
While writing this, I can’t help but reflect on those years of planting and pastoring that church. But it does raise a question- one I have probably been asked dozens of times: “How can I know if I’m called to church planting?”
The call to plant a church comes from God. Discerning whether this call is true is the key next step for a faithful Christian. So, how do you know if you are a church planter? Here are a few signs that commonly accompany a calling to church planting:
- Confirmation from others closest to you. This calling comes from the Holy Spirit through God’s people. If the Holy Spirit is calling you to do something, then the Spirit in fellow believers should speak through them to confirm your calling. Jehu’s confirmation came from a young prophet sent by Elisha to inform him that God wanted to anoint him as the next king of Israel (2 Kings 9). In the New Testament you can see the apostle Paul doing this repeatedly with Timothy. This would be your pastor, Sunday school teacher, mentor, and other godly influences close to you to confirm what God is doing in your life. Do they believe in you and what God has placed in your heart? Do they see the character, gifts, and qualities of pastoral calling in your life (1 Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-10; 1 Pet 5:1-4; Act 16:6-7). God will use mature believers around you to validate your call to plant.
- Your spouse and family. If you are married or have children, God is not just calling you to plant a church—it’s a tag-team sport. He is calling your entire family. You will need each other. Church planting should be a blessing for your marriage and children. It will be an incredible experience with many challenges but there is nothing like serving the Lord together. Part of discerning God’s call for you to plant a church is discerning if and how he is calling your family to plant a church. You and your spouse have to be on the same page in this journey. If you are not on the same page, slow down. Your call to your marriage is more important than your call to plant a new church.
- A pattern of ministry initiation. Do you have a track record or a pattern of starting things? Maybe a business, a Bible study, or a compassion-based ministry.
- A pull you can’t resist. Do you have an overwhelming internal desire for a new work in a particular place, or to reach a specific people group that outweighs every vocation option that you may have on the table? Is there a sense of “I cannot not do this”? It feels similar to what the prophet Jeremiah said, “His message becomes a fire burning in my heart, shut up in my bones. I become tired of holding it in, and I cannot prevail.” (Jeremiah 20:9).