by Brent Hanson.

I don’t fit the profile of most church planters. My personality is naturally introverted. I am not a person who is known for boldness. I tend to be soft-spoken. I did not have much speaking experience when I started this effort.

New Song Community Church was not planted the way the experts say you should plant a church. No mother church gave us our start. We didn’t have a huge group of supporters. Churches and pastors in the Fellowship were certainly helpful, but we were hundreds of miles from the nearest FCA church in the United States.

I say all this to confirm that our church is God’s work, not man’s. I have made many mistakes over the past decade ore more, but God has been faithful and taught me some important lessons. Here are four of them:

Follow God’s Calling
Jesus called out to them, “Come, be my disciples, and I will show you how to fish for people!” (Mark 1:17, NLT).

For a full year before Debi and I moved back to our home area of metro Detroit, God had been confirming his call to me night after night on my prayer walks through His Spirit, His Word, and circumstances. We arrived with a new baby and only a modest teaching job at a Christian school, but we believed God could somehow use us to reach people for His kingdom.

I definitely advise against trying to start a church without a clear call from God. That calling will be tested many times-not only by circumstances but also by people.

I remember a conversation with a church planter several years ago. “I’ll see how it goes,” he said. “If it’s too hard on my family, then I’ll have to reconsider.” His church failed within a year. We did not start New Song with that mindset. We knew God had called us. So whether we had 2 or 200 show up, we were not going to quit.

The calling helps you persevere in hard times. The calling helps you keep going when others quit. It was the calling that kept the apostles going as they faced great difficulties.

Trust Character Over Talent
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others (2 Tim. 2:2 NIV).

Oh, how I have learned this lesson! New church plants, I think, are a magnet for every kook, church reject, and control freak close by. However, no matter how talented or capable someone may be, it is never a replacement for character. I have learned to test someone’s character for a period of time before entrusting them with leadership. I watch to see if they have manipulating or controlling tendencies. I want to see if they really have a servant’s heart. I watch for any sinful tendencies.

When New Song first began, I had an associate pastor whom I had known for several years. We had some minor disagreements at the beginning. Then as time went on, I discovered something more sinister at work. This couple had designs on the title of senior pastor. They did their best to capture people’s hearts and minds. They constantly did things to undermine our leadership. They even joked to us, “Don’t worry, when you guys leave, we’ll take over the church,” even though we had made a lifelong commitment to New Song and had no plans for leaving.

I thought of confronting the matter directly, but I was concerned that it might result in a church split. So I began to pray, “God, either change them or cause them to go.” Within a year, they left.

As is always true, mistakes you make in leadership reproduce themselves in those underneath. For the next three years, people who were under this couple’s leadership slowly left. I am thankful to say that the church never split. We continued to grow, but it was only by God’s grace. God covered for me. Through that experience, I learned the importance of having trustworthy associates.

A structure is only as good as the people in it. I believe it’s better not to have a ministry at all than to have a ministry led by an untrustworthy or borderline person.

Keep Loving and Reaching
“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35 NLT).

Two things are sorely lacking in many of our churches today. One is love. A church very easily becomes inward, forming cliques and different camps. This can happen in a church plant too. The initial group of people becomes comfortable with what they have and forgets about the world around them.

True Christian love always leads to outreach. There are a number of different formats, of course. Obviously, personal relationships with unbelievers are the best way to acquire new people. Other methods include service events for the community, evangelistic outreach events, and outreach mailers.

Many churches give up too easily in this area. We have consistently invested in reaching out to our community through mailers and other methods, seeing steady results. Whatever method you use, don’t give up on loving and reaching out. It will be the key to the future of your church and well worth the investment.

Pray and Believe
“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matt. 21:22 NLT).

I believe in the power of prayer and faith now more than ever. The sad truth is that a church can attract a lot of people without having much faith, because it is simply a group coming together for socializing and entertainment. That is not what God has called the church to be.

Church is meant to be a place of life transformation. That is why I look forward to the testimonies we send out every month in our “New Song Connection.” It reminds us all of what it’s about-lives being changed from darkness to light, from the kingdom of this world to the kingdom of God.

Dependence upon methods will lead only to a human work, but prayer and faith will open the windows of heaven for God to do something powerful in the church. When we moved into our new building, we committed to a weekly prayer and praise service that lifted up the needs of our church, our community, and our world. It has been awesome to see how God has worked. As we have prayed together in faith for God to move mountains, He has responded with His omnipotent power. Every week we hear different testimonies about how God has answered, delivered, and saved.

My prayer is that more FCA leaders will respond to the call of God to plant churches in Jesus’ name. He has used me in spite of my many weaknesses and I know God can use you as well.

Brent Hanson is senior pastor of New Song Community Church, Wolverine Lake, Michigan.

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