What Kind of People a Church Plant Needs (including ours!)
The Puritans had a practice of thinking through the various types of people that formed their church or visited during a Sunday gathering. In Perkins’ The Arte of Prophecying (i.e. preaching) he states that any given congregation is generally comprised of…
“ the ignorant and unteachable, who needed the equivalent of a bomb under their seats;  the ignorant but teachable, who needed orderly instruction in what Christianity is all about;  the knowledgeable but unhumbled, who needed to be given a sense of sin;  the humbled and desperate, who need to be grounded in the gospel;  believers going on with God, who needed building up; and  believers who had fallen into error, intellectual or moral, and needed correction.” J.I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness, p286
ARE YOU SERIOUS?
This type of intentional thinking is also needed when inviting others to participate in the planting of a new church. It can be easy to assume that being on the launch team/community of a new church plant should be left to mature, stable, devoted Christians who are serious about their faith and Jesus’ mission. That may be every church planter’s dream, but I have yet to meet a church planter that has a launch team where that is the case. Even more, this can leave others that don’t fit into this category on the fringes not feeling able, qualified or wanted.
ARE YOU NEW TO THE FAITH?
On the other hand, many planters hold to the position that the initial launch community should be comprised of mostly new converts and non-believers. We see this in Paul’s ministry in the Book of Acts. He enters a city, proclaims the gospel, people believe, and a church is formed. This opens up wide networks of friends that have yet to meet Jesus. It also creates a strong missional dynamic into the DNA of the church from the very beginning that is hard to build in later. Yet, Paul rarely worked alone, sometimes he left co-workers behind, and at other times he sent others out in advance of his arrival. Our context is also different today. What do we do about the Christians who are not connected to a church, part of a dying church, or feel called to step out in faith to be part of a new church?
The mission of the church is to make disciples (i.e. followers of Jesus), which not only includes moving people to initial faith in Jesus (salvation) but through a life of continued faith in Jesus (sanctification). It includes coming alongside non-Christians, young Christians and maturing Christians and pointing each to Jesus as individually needed. That means a young church, such as our own, should reflect the body of Christ in all its diversity, in all levels of maturity, while embracing the guaranteed messiness that results.
FIVE TYPES OF PEOPLE.
I propose the following five types of people every church plant needs, including our own:
#1 Growing, mature Christians.
Every church plant needs a number of growing and maturing Christians to help set the pace, disciple others, and lead the mission through life and ministry.
#2 Young, teachable Christians.
New and young Christians that are part of a church plant show that the Gospel is at work and mission is taking place. New faith is contagious for everyone. New and young Christians also tend to have more friends who don’t know Jesus.
#3 Humble, honest Onlookers.
The presence of humble and honest onlookers reflects that the church, as a whole, is engaged in the community, building relationships, living out the gospel and inviting others into experience the gospel in community.
#4 Curious, questioning Doubters.
The presence of curious, questioning doubters says the same thing. Those who are doubters, though involved, are saying “I have questions, but this community of faith is compelling.” This is a great sign of missional health.
#5 Hardened, hating Unbelievers.
While the hard and hating may not actively participate in the life of a new church plant, those that do should still be pursuing them. The goal is not to merely get people into the church, but to invite them into our lives. A new plant is regularly praying for those that fall into this category, thus they become part of the life of the community.
WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE DOES A CHURCH PLANT NEED?
Anyone and everyone – but aim for diversity. Obviously, we can do without the drama of heretics, sin, wayward leaders and the like, but God uses even these people to shape and mold His people into His image, in their context. I find this is a simple, yet helpful grid for determining the health, faith and mission of our church.
“The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable…” 1 Cor 12:22
Want to get involved?
You can start by joining us on Sept 26th for our Vision Night where we’ll take some time to unpack who Jesus is calling us to be and what he is asking us to do in this great city.