A Church Planter Must Be Devoted To Theology

A Church Planter Must Be Devoted To Theology

There are lots of articles and books flying off the shelves at the moment (I hope to write one myself shortly) on the whole topic of church planting. What makes a good church planter? A gift for evangelism – check. A gift with people – check. An ability to lead – check. An entrepreneurial spirit – check. Able to handle God’s Word – double-check. Devoted to theology – erm..hmm…not reading too much about that one (that is not to say that people aren’t writing about it – I just haven’t come across too many who include it in their list of ‘musts‘).

Yet when I read Acts 2:42 I see that the early church was marked by its devotion to the ‘Apostles teaching’. Or, in other words, their doctrine and theology. I say this because as a church planter I am an excitable guy. I sometimes get ahead of myself. I like the buzz of a ‘new’ thing and of starting something or revitalising a dying or struggling work. That’s the thrill that never goes away (hopefully). It is different from a more ‘settled’ pastoral approach. But I (all of us) need to remember that what I am bringing to people is not new. It is not my ideas or my thoughts or my inspirational beliefs but the WORD OF GOD. That faith that was ‘once for all delivered to the saints‘ (Jude 3). I can be as clever  and contextual as I like but if I do not have a deep and solid theological mooring in the Word of God then, at best, I will be a loose cannon and, at worst, a danger to the kingdom of God.

That’s why church planters must be deeply rooted in the Word. Paul teaches us that ‘faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God’ (Romans 10:17). People need to hear the truth of the Scriptures in our planting. It sounds so obvious and simple doesn’t it? But if we are not students of the Word and if it is not being deeply imbedded into our souls, then we might as well be giving people a bag of fluff when we are trying to reach out to them. There’s lots of nonsense ‘out there’ in ‘Christian land’ that says that ‘theology kills’ and we should just ‘preach the love of God’ to people but in our planting surely we are not just calling people from something (their sinful rebellion) but to something (a lifelong, deepening committment to God through the study of His word as it is illuminated and applied in our lives by the Holy Spirit).

I always teach my people that in discipleship we can only take people as far as we have gone ourselves. If our spiritual lives and our growth in the Word is stunted then sooner or later it will find us out. The same pep and zeal we have for the lost and for evangelism we should have for studying God’s word and understanding its relevance to our own lives before we bring it to connect with the wider world. The problem, as always, is balance. Some love the study but they forget the people and we end up with ‘sound churches’ who know lots of stuff but have very little dynamic, life changing experiences of God. Or we have the ‘go-getters’ who are out there doing the business for Jesus but are forgetting to feed their souls on the life-giving nourishment of His Word. We then end up with busy, but immature believers, fed on a diet of pragmatism and emotionalism, blown about by every wind of doctrine with a deep suspicion of anybody who wants to ‘get into theology’.

A planter must be aware of what the dangers are in his own heart and life. We are, largely, a bullish and forceful breed (we have to be). That is why I believe, where possible, we should work with teams so that some of the excesses of our personalities can be diluted through the benefit of multiple gifts. Yet, all of us should be committed to the centrality of the gospel and the Word of God as the foundation and touchstone for all of our endeavours.