The article was written by Tony Merida, Nate Akin, and Matt Sigmon from Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. Part 1 can be viewed here.
5. Plant the Church You’ve Always Wanted to Go to
This is the sagely advice of Larry Osborne. It might sound self-serving, but it’s not intended to be. Larry says, and we agree, that the church you are most gifted to lead is the church that you would want to be a member of. A lot of guys seek to plant someone else’s church, or the church that they think will reach a lot of people (and those things are important and we should learn from others), but the church that you will lead best is the one that you would want to go to. This church is the one that you will be able to lead authentically and intuitively because it will be an extension of your theology, philosophy, personality, passions and gifts.
As you begin your church plant, set it up the way you want to do it. But note this big qualification: This assumes that you are following the Bible on the foundational matters first. What we’re referring to here are the various methods and ways of doing particular ministries in the church. For example, if you want to take the Lord’s Supper every week (and we think you should!) begin doing that immediately. If you want to recite the Apostle’s Creed, then do it immediately. If you want to have home-based small groups instead of Sunday school, then do it. While there are many hardships in church planting, remember that you do have this blessing: you have no tradition. So go for it! Further, remember that church planting is tough, but one way to make it a joy is to plant the church you’ve always wanted to go to. And this is the church that you will stay it for the long haul because it’s an extension of you and the other elders.
Side Note: In addition, if you hope to be a multiplying church, then plant a church where everything you do can be easily reproducible, whether that is in NYC or Tokyo. The church that we want to go to is a reproducible church.
6. Don’t Give Leadership Away to Quickly
One of the potential pitfalls will be to give leadership (or even a spot on the core team) away too early. We often think if anyone has a pulse, loves Jesus and wants to serve in a church plant, then they should be given leadership (usually driven by a strong desire to keep numbers up or to not have to do everything yourself). We avoided this pitfall because of others warning us of it, but we have also witnessed others that weren’t so fortunate. We would rather risk having less people do more, or even having small groups that are too big before forming smaller groups led by the wrong leaders. This pitfall has the potential to divide and destroy a church, its vision, and its mission. It is best to be patient and look for men as future leaders who are faithful, available, and teachable. These will be the type of guys who have humbly served in the church in various ways already, and are respected by the church for the character and diligence.
7. Start Small Groups Early and Invest in Small Group Leaders
It was our desire from the beginning to teach our people the importance of community and multiplication. We have also tried to demolish the idea that the church is a building or a weekly event. Thus, investing in our future small group leaders was more important to us than our launch service.
If you start small groups early, you will build community and promote the importance of multiplication. The key to multiplication is intentionally investing in and equipping small group leaders. It will be the best avenue for the elders to replicate themselves (2 Tim 2:2), and it will allow for you to have more men you can trust to help you shepherd your people.
It is vital that the elders spend time with their small group leaders because these are the main leaders that will interact with the flock on a daily basis. Many have said this is a major strength of IDC. We intentionally spend significant time every week with our small group leaders. There are some churches where small group leaders never interact with the leadership of the church and this can be detrimental in carrying out your vision and mission.
8. Teach Your People to Be Missionaries
The mission of the church is to glorify God by making disciples of all nations. So the reason you plant a church is to do that. Therefore it is essential from the beginning to build in a culture of missionary activity (teaching your people to be missionaries to the city in which they live). We have gone about this several ways.
One way we encourage our people to live as missionaries is to practice gospel-centered hospitality. We encourage our people to love and serve their neighbors by having meals with them, like Jesus did. Most people say that they can’t do outreach because they’re too busy, but surely they have to eat every day! And surely they can eat a few meals a week with our neighbors. Missionaries in other parts of the world use this method, and we can use it as well. Mission doesn’t always have to look “extraordinary.” It can look like a barbeque!
We also make it a point to say in front of the entire congregation when we covenant with new members that we are commissioning them to missionaries to the city of Raleigh. We keep reminding the covenant members of this reality ever week that we welcome new members.