It has been a year since my friend Allan Karr and I released our book, The Wholehearted Church Planter. This past fall, however, was the first time I actually formally used it to teach any group.
The context: San Quentin Prison in a semester seminary class on Missions, Evangelism, and Church Planting.
Yes. Along with dozens of others, serving as a “brown card” volunteer, I teach seminary classes to convicted felons, most of whom will be imprisoned for the rest of their lives. Some of my former students have been released and serve in new churches now!
The content of Wholehearted seemed especially relevant to this group. Its big idea is that the primary qualification for church planting is wholeheartedness. This is a far more demanding criterion than any church planting knowledge base, skill, or even spiritual giftedness.
The biblical challenge to wholeheartedness, of course, is the Great Commandment: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself” (Luke 10:27).
First and foremost, church planters are disciples who must know and love God and people, as well as appropriately love themselves. This is ever so much more important than the best of vision casting skills or oratory expertise!
To know and love the triune God includes acknowledging His mission and purpose. It means choosing to imitate Him, obey Him, and embrace His mission. The main job of any church planter is to multiply Jesus DNA into the lives of others and to form new communities of faith out of these Jesus DNA bearers.
Secondly, how will church planters learn to know love people? They learn to know people by spending time with them. We learn to love by actively blessing, respecting, honoring, and serving them while helping them come to multiply Jesus’ DNA. We can learn from knowing and loving both ordinary and extraordinary people, and conversely, this will help make better and more wholehearted church planters.
Finally, church planters must learn to know and love themselves. I conducted an experiment with the students in my class I mentioned earlier. I asked them to talk about their strengths and weaknesses, talents, gifts, experiences, and love languages. I wanted them to consider what they bring to the table, and how God might use those things. Then I asked them to affirm one another in their capacities, gifts, and strengths. Guess which one they did best?
Yes. They affirmed one another. For some this was the first time they had been so publicly affirmed for many, many years. They didn’t have to be like one another, or like any model of a spiritual leader they had ever seen. The group was strengthened and blessed. They began imagining how God might use them to plant churches.
Church planter, how about you?
Is the direction of your life aligned with a Luke 10:27 call? How’s your heart? Lord of the Harvest, we pray that you would raise up and call out all kinds of wholehearted church planters for your fields!“Let’s Plant a V3 Church in my Neighborhood” Share on Facebook Tweet This
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