One of the key characteristics most church planting assessors look for in potential church planters is teachability. Over the last three-and-a-half decades of starting churches and supporting church planters, three aspects of this trait stand out to me the most: knowing one’s self, practicing humility, and seeking wisdom.
Knowing One’s Self
A few years ago, I coauthored a book based on the belief that almost anyone who knows and loves God, others, and the holy self can plant some kind of church. Although Shakespeare’s words in Hamlet aren’t Scripture, they still remind us of an important actuality:
to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Teachable church planters are willing to hear from God, and also from those who know them well, about their strengths, weaknesses, experiences, and capacities, and about how these can affect their church planting strategies, models, methodologies, and more.
Recently, a church planter told me he wanted to plant a multiethnic church. This gifted, educated, relationally savvy individual had a thick accent, and I was afraid that if he used a one-time, big-bang approach to marketing, first-time guests to the services would choose not to wade through his accent to hear what he was teaching. To my relief, he listened. He knew himself well and opted for a more relational methodology.
Andy Wood planted South Bay Church in San Jose, California, eight years ago. It now has an average attendance of 2,000, spans three campuses, and has baptized hundreds of people. Yet, every time I attend one of Andy’s services, he has new questions aimed to help himself grow as a planter, pastor, and missiologist. His posture of humility has always struck me as a primary reason his church has thrived in a spiritually challenging climate: Silicon Valley. Sadly, many planters never ask questions, and some don’t want to hear another person’s advice.
God chose Moses to lead the Israelite people: “Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3). In Philippians 2, the apostle Paul writes, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” How I wish all church planters would listen closely, believing that God may speak to them through others!
I am regularly astonished by church planters who make huge decisions without seeking the advice of others who have gone before them. I watch them blow their budgets out of “faith” that money will pour in. I see them start weekly worship services before they have a true core team. I observe them select leadership-team members with whom they fundamentally differ theologically. I see them neglect checking the community calendar before they schedule major outreaches, move services into facilities that are not conducive to growing a church, recruit children’s workers without performing background checks, and, regrettably, the list goes on.
Scripture tells us, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). Church planters, we must pay attention—“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel” (Proverbs 12:15).
Enough preaching; teachability is a high and holy calling.
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