This year will bring me to the end of four years at Moore College. It’s been an amazing time of learning, growth and deep friendships, but like all good things it must come to an end. So what exactly does next year hold for the Clemens family?
Image courtesy of Flickr
Well… next year I will lead a committed team of missionaries to plant a church in the city. If you’d like to find out more details fill in this form and I’ll be in touch. That being said, most of my peers at College will be joining established churches as assistant ministers. Several others will probably be youth ministers, women’s ministers and school chaplains.
So why have we chosen to do something different?
In sharing our vision to plant a church, I have often been asked (and occasionally challenged with) this question. “Isn’t it a little soon?” they say, “Shouldn’t you at least be an assistant minister for a few years?” Or my personal favourite, “What makes you think the normal rules don’t apply to you?”
In this post I hope to briefly explain why I’ve decided to plant a church in my first year out of college. For the sake of transparency, I have three primary motivations:
- To encourage those who have a burden to plant churches to get out there and do it.
- To caution those who are impatient from planting a church too quickly.
- To provide a brief defense for those who think I’m somehow breaking the rules.
So with that in mind, let me begin with three reasons that are NOT the reason I’ve decided to plant a church next year:
1. I don’t expect to make mistakes- I am absolutely certain that being an assistant minister for a few years would be immensely helpful. In fact, it would probably even save me from making a whole bunch of stupid mistakes when we actually do plant. But the truth is, mistakes are inevitable! The only way to make no mistakes is to do nothing. The real question is how costly will the mistakes we make actually be? Now that’s a scary thought, but by the grace of God I’m trusting that he’ll protect us from the worst of them.
2. I refuse to work for anyone else- church planters can come off as a rather obnoxious bunch. They often seem like renegades, mavericks or guys that can’t work for others. Thankfully, if they’re Christians then you know that’s not true. They work for King Jesus! But the point still stands. Am I unwilling to work for anyone but myself? No. While I do eventually intend to become the official leader of our church, we’ve asked Bruce Hall from ENC to oversee things to begin with.
3. I’m unique among men- the truth is, church planting is not for everyone. But at the same time, it’s not for nobody either! Men I deeply respect have gone ahead of me. In recent years, Toby Neal and Hans Christiansan have both planted churches in their first years out of college. Another friend, Dan Godden has done it while he’s still at college! The point is, there’s a whole bunch of guys who under God have planted great churches without traveling the usual path. By God’s grace we hope to do likewise.
So if that’s NOT the reason, what is?
1. I want to see the lost saved- I am convinced that the vigorous, continual planting of new churches is the single most crucial strategy to see the lost saved and the renewal of existing churches. It’s that simple. Like Paul’s young protégé, I want to do the work of an evangelist. I believe that planting a church that plants more churches is quite genuinely the best thing I can do with my life. So i’m keen to get going.
2. It’s been a long time coming- I first became convinced of the effectiveness of church planting about six years ago. Knowing that I wouldn’t be ready to plant a church until I had finished college, we tried to reverse engineer the last six years to prepare us to do it. Do I know everything I need to know? Of course not! But thanks to the kindness of others we probably know enough! I wasn’t ready to plant a church back then, but with God’s help I believe the time has come to give it a go.
3. There’s been external confirmation- in the last few years I’ve been fortunate enough to do assessments with two excellent church planting networks- the Geneva Push and Redeemer City to City. Both have asked probing questions, but each has chosen to approve our application to plant a church. Now this is no sign from God, but it is to say that there’s people out there who don’t think it’s a ridiculous idea. So we’re moving forward with the support of others we respect.
4. I’ve seen it done twice already- in the last few years I’ve had the privilege of watching two Godly men plant new congregations. In 2011 I saw Paul Dale plant a new congregation of CBTB in Lavender Bay. In 2013 I watched Matt Straw plant a new congregation of St Philips in Walsh Bay. Both experiences gave me the chance to learn what to do (and sometimes what not to do) when planting a new church. Both of those experiences were worth their weight in gold.
So where does that leave us?
- If you have a burden to see the lost won and plant a church… ignore the haters, get out there and do it! Assuming you love Jesus and have external confirmation, go make mistakes for Jesus!
- Sorry to get all “Driscoll” for a moment, but if you’re 19 and still living at home… maybe start by planting a Christian group at uni or work and leave the church for a few more years.
- If you’re still not convinced… please pray for us. As keen as we are, I genuinely fear making mistakes that will hurt the people God has entrusted to our care. We need your prayers.
Question: what are some key things you would advise young church planters to learn before stepping out on their own to plant new churches? Leave a comment by clicking here.