For church planters, the big picture — the “real endgame” — should always be about the kingdom of God, said Vance Pitman, vice president the North American Mission Board’s Send Network.
Pitman spoke during a panel discussion with two other church planters during the NAMB breakfast in Anaheim, that was held June 15 in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention’s Annual Meeting. Trevin Wax, vice president of resources and research for NAMB, moderated the panel with Pitman, Jason Robertson, pastor of Huntington Beach Church in California and Cam Triggs, pastor of Grace Alive Church in Orlando, Florida.
Pitman noted that “everything in [a church planter’s] life should revolve around and center in the kingdom of God. … The Kingdom is the picture of what God is doing in the world.”
Your church will die. The Kingdom is eternal
The local church exists to gather people, disciple them and send them out, he said.
“What’s unfortunate is that we’ve made the local New Testament church the goal,” he said. “I believe in the local New Testament church, but here the local New Testament church is not the goal.
“The real endgame is the kingdom of God.”
The church is the tool for the expansion of the Kingdom, he said.
“The local church exists to gather people to introduce them to king Jesus, to disciple them in kingdom living. Then send them out for the expansion of the Kingdom in cities and nations all over the world.”
Every church is going to die, Pitman noted.
“That church that you are losing sleep over and burning the midnight oil over is one day is going to die,” he said. “All of them do. Every church that Paul planted is dead and gone. … But hear me, the kingdom of God is alive and well.”
He continued, “We are to leverage the local New Testament church for engaging and expanding the Kingdom. Jesus never said go plant churches. He said go in cities, go in towns, go into nations and make disciples.”
Asking the right questions
Robertson, who has more than 25 years of ministry and church-planting experience, shared lessons learned regarding finding those that will then plant churches.
He noted that he once used to look for guys who “checked all the boxes” of leadership and calling.
“You might say at the front end, we were setting the standard too high,” he said. “We’re now just looking for men who have certain characteristics that you notice it right away, that this guy loves the word of God. This guy has a passion for prayer. He has compassion for people. And we simply walk up to him and say, ‘Hey, have you ever considered being a church planter?’”
He said most will say no at first. Then he follows up by asking them if they would at least consider it as a possibility. “And that’s where they’ll begin to say, I’ll do that.”
By changing the question, Robertson said, he started seeing more people accepting the call to become a church planter.
“I don’t know if God is calling more men to be church planters or if I’m just asking the right question,” he said.
“Because all of a sudden,” he noted, “we started identifying church planters one after the other. We started planting a church every single year in our church. I’ve got three church planters in the pipeline right now within 12 months. I think it’s just the way we are approaching the process.”
Triggs said one of the keys for him is looking for a church planter who is a good church member.
“I don’t think you’re going to be a good church planter if you’re not a good church member,” he said.
“You look for those people who are serving faithfully, giving their heart and mind to the local church. Who cares if they’re great on a platform if they’re not great at home.”
He noted a church planter needs to be faithful, available, intentional, teachable and humble.
Pitman added that humility is an essential part of the process.
“One of the great tragedies of church planting and the pastoral role in the United States is that there is an absolute absence of humility. And I think it’s a Christlikeness issue.”
“We need a revival of humility in the pulpits and the planters of America, and I think that begins with intimacy with the Father,” he said. “I watch so many of us planters and we come up with all kinds of ideas and strategies, think-tanks and whiteboard sessions. Listen, God has a plan. He doesn’t need you and me to come up with one. He has one.
“What He needs us to do is to press into Him, so that we hear Him and then allow Him to accomplish His plan through us.”
For more stories from the 2022 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting, visit thebaptistpaper.org/sbc2022.