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March 31, 2005



If you have time to write this much, you have time to help me re-grade around the foundation of my house and re-mulch.


Hey man-

Fun stuff! :)

I enjoyed reading your critique...

lots of thoughts- but here's one I had after reading Russ's comments: How long does a church have to exist before it's a "success." Our church has been going for a year- if we shut down this year (which, thankfully I don't anticipate), would we be a failure?

5 years?





I guess by that standard, every church in history will eventually fail... every one has so far. I guess what I want to do is shift our definition- closing the doors and moving on to the next thing is not failure. Failure is failing to be missional, failing to preach Good News to the poor, failing to make a difference and failing to introduce our world to Jesus... By that standard, I know a lot of churches who manage to keep the doors open but who are miserable failures, and I know a some church communities that only did their thing for a few years and yet were great successes.

cool! keep on bloggin' ! :)



Thanks for the response. I agree with your point completely. This is why I believe we need to do the hard work to develop metrics for what in fact makes a church plant "successful". Also, I agree with you that many churches are financially "stable", have been around for 50 years, will probably remain another 150-- and they are void of any spiritual vitality, missional engagement with culture, and any sort of vision/values that are being reproduced.

Also, I think that we can and do talk about "success" on many levels. If your church would have folded 6 months into the journey, the plant would not have been a success. Plain and simple. However, as I hear you saying in your article, you would have been faithful to what God had called you to do. So, faithfulness is an essential component of success at that level. But the plant still would have been a failure. Am I wrong?

I also believe that someone could be 5 years into a plant, own a building, have multiple people on staff, have a great budget, and be a failure.

So we're back to some kind of metrics. What makes a church plant successful? I don't have the answer, but I think it has to be something more than stepping out and doing it.

Your thoughts are right in line with many of those that have been stirred in my mind as a result of your article, so thanks again.


1 more thought...

If a church plant does all the things you outline above: being missional, preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God to the poor, Introducing the community to Jesus, "making a difference"-- yet fails to establish itself in a community; fails to reproduce disciples of Jesus, etc., fails to develop any sort of longevity, my question is:

"What went wrong?"

Do we just call it a success and move on?


Good questions!

Because I don't see "existence" as the core reason (dare I use the word PURPOSE?:) ) behind the church, I don't see starting a church as the measure of success or closing the doors as the measure of failure.

It's what happens between those two events.

All churches will close their doors.

Not all churches do the things that Jesus wants a church to do...

you ask:
"If a church plant does all the things you outline above: being missional, preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God to the poor, Introducing the community to Jesus, "making a difference"-- yet fails to establish itself in a community; fails to reproduce disciples of Jesus, etc., [and] fails to develop any sort of longevity..."

I ask...
if a church is
preaching the Good News (in word and deed) to the poor
introducing the community to Jesus
making a difference...

How could it not "establish itself in the community"?
How could it not be a disciple-making community?

And even if it (for some reason) does not develop institutional stability,
Yes- I would call a church that does those things a success, whether they did them for 6 months, 6 years or 60 years...

Here's another way to think of it- We all know a guy who was only doing ministry for three years, got real big but then shrunk down to about 120 before he himself took off and left that church to scatter to the four winds...

I kid.

more later...


Didn't his last?

I kid too...Thanks for the interaction Bob. Keep it coming. Perhaps I'll get to say that I know you after all!

Mike Daling

In reference to Bob's comments:

Your points about all churches closing is well taken. No one can say an exact amount of time that a church must be open before it can be determined a 'success'. Also, I agree with you that there are many churches that are having services that don't do what Jesus wants them to do. However, I don't think this was Kevin's point at all.

The things you mention 'missional, preaching the Good News (in word and deed) to the poor, introducing the community to Jesus, making a difference...' are great standards that must be given great attention. I think Kevin's point was that these things often cannot be carried out unless the church taht is doing them lasts.

I would contend that (though you are likely exaggerating) 6 months is not enough time for a church, a community of faith, to live up to the standards mentioned above. Those things are carried out over a lifetime - over many lifetimes. When a church begins this type of work and then dissolves very soon afterwards (6 months, a year, etc.) normally leaves great pain in its wake. Actually, pretty much any church that dissolves very soon after it is formed leaves behind a lot of collateral damage.

Kevin's point was that the things you mentioned (which I think Kevin agrees with) have the best chance of succeeding in a church that lasts. There is no specific timetable to this, but you are talking about being missional, preaching to the poor (in word and deed), and making a difference. These things don't happen outside of trusting relationships. Any church should seek these things, but it is a pre-requisite that they don't just disappear. It should be just assumed.

Therefore, being that a church needs to last to accomplish its purpose (pretty much any purpose - unless that purpose is to introduce yourselves to everyone in the neighborhood and then leave), the person or people planting that church MUST possess giftings that fit the task.

If we are going to ask the question, 'Why shouldn't you preach?' - we would likely answer that on one's calling, preparedness, and ability. Certainly, there are many who put up all kinds of reasons why they can't when they clearly should, but I think we all are acquainted with those who shouldn't preach - and yet do.

Would this not be a similar situation?

I once had a teacher who said, 'If you can do anything else other than be a pastor, then do it, but if God has placed it on your heart then you can do nothing else.' How much more true is this then in church planting. All pastoral problems that are normally present are still there, and there are countless more. Any pastor needs to be able to work tirelessly, but how much more for a church planter? Any pastor needs to be able to cast vision, but how much more for a church planter? Any pastor needs strong leadership around him or her (even though Kevin is a complemantarian), but how much more vital is that to a church planter.

If being a pastor can be a headache, being a church planter is a migraine. This is not to make things sounds negative all the time, but a church planter simply MUST be able to deal with all of these issues. Church planting is a worthy undertaking and a worthwhile one, but it is not easy.

In reference to your questions:

'I ask...
if a church is
preaching the Good News (in word and deed) to the poor
introducing the community to Jesus
making a difference...

How could it not "establish itself in the community"?
How could it not be a disciple-making community?'

I would answer this by saying that church plants often seek to do these things, but fail at them - then they shut down. Part of being 'established in the community' and being a 'disciple making community' is that the church does not shut down. This takes more than good intentions and worthy goals. It takes people who specifically are gifted to carry out their tasks. This has to be assumed. What part of church, business, or life would you give someone a task they are not equipped to carry out - and be genuinely hopeful that the task gets carried out? Why would this even be considered in church planting?

I hope that I am not taking you wrong. I just do not think that Kevin's point was weighed correctly. (Correct me if I am wrong, Kevin) I think Kevin's point is that those who SHOULD (are gifted and equipped) plant churches - should plant churches. However, there are also those who should not plant churches because they are neither gifted or equipped for the task.

At this point, I would also somewhat disagree with the statement: 'Not everyone is called, gifted or able… but just the fact that you’re thinking about it says something. Just the fact that you want to tells me a lot. And if you actually step out and do it? Well… that says volumes about you, about your courage and about your faith in the God who is advancing His kingdom all around this world.'

'Just the fact that you're thinking about it' does make a difference. However, that is only a start. There are many other factors that must be weighed out - specifically if you are 'called, gifted, or able.' These other factors are essential to the decision. Many people 'step out and do it', and I believe that it says all of those things you say about them. It still does not mean that they should plant churches. A hand is not made to be a foot.



That's a long one, man! :)

I'll agree, that "lasting" enhances your mission/success... But I still don't think those things are dependent on lasting.

For me, I defined "failure" in our church planting adventure as:
If we didn't love those God brought us
If no one got fed because of us
If no one heard about God, about Jesus and took a positive step in His direction because of us.
If we somehow failed to love each other.

Now- I'm not saying that those things have to be YOUR definition of success or failure. But what I am saying is that by those standards, success/failure was not time/dependent.

If we lasted for six months (maybe the money didn't come and my wife and couldn't pastor, parent and work all at the same time) and we had to "shut the doors"... If we lasted for only six months but in that time:

loved faithfully everyone God brought through the doors
fed/clothed/visited others (basically, the standard laid out by Christ in Matthew 25)
people heard about Christ and took some positive steps in His direction, including salvation
loved each other to the best of our ability

How could that be called a failure?

And just because the "organization" no longer existed, did it fail? No- it set out to do what it wanted to do- perhaps not for as long as it had hoped, but still...

I guess it's all in how you define it.

I really, really, really want us to get our definitions of failure and success in a slightly more healthy place (as I see it, admittedly)

You're right- churches dissolving often leave pain in their wake. But I think a HUGE part of why that is true is that they see dissolving as failure and fight it with every fiber of their being, holding on long after they should move on and do something different. There are so many, many older churches (and even newr ones) dying very slow deaths and the kingdom resources used up in that process would so much better be put to use elsewhere and elsehow (WOW- sounds very euthanistic.. sorry.)

i guess I just hope to learn to see these things as transistions, evaluating our church experience by what we did and how we lived, not by for how long we did it... Encouraging churches that are seeing the end approaching to not devolve down into a death spiral, but hang it up while there's still some life and health and good memories left...
And encouraging some people to jump in by taking away the potential shame of "failure." I'm serious here: If you plant a church, and it doesn't "take", you are not a failure.
You are only a failure if, whether your church takes or not, you don't do what you're supposed to do... I think...

more on giftedness later...

Mike Daling

I agree with almost everything you say here, except the fact that you are saying it to people you are encouraging to plant churches - regardless of their gifting. We should revaluate our understanding of success. We should also not call a person a failure because their church plant failed (although this might be appropriate if the person did not do the things they were supposed to do - as you stated above). So, I agree with you that 'if you plant a church, and it doesn't 'take', YOU are not a failure.'

This doesn't change the fact that certain people should be planting churches and certain people should not. Would you be able to conceive of a situation where someone who isn't prepared in their experience, gifting, etc. would go into a church plant and not be able to sustain it for any length of time - and still be able to 'do' the stuff you outlined above? Maybe, as you have said above, there are situations where finances just don't work out. We can never be sure that they will work out, so that is no reason to not plant a church. However, that is not the same as someone going out to plant a church who clearly does not have the gifting, calling, or experience to do so. Also, would it not be a massive failure to mismanage the finances of your church?

Why wouldn't we encourage these people to put their own gifts to full use in an existing community of faith? I don't want to be naive here (I do happen to go to a church in which these things are possible), but most people are gifted to support a church - or even a church plant - not run them. The fact is that things WILL get difficult, and if someone isn't convinced that God has prepared this type of work for them they will fold.

The factor of 'How long we did it' is not simply a question of transitions. The things that 'church' should be doing must be sustained to actually say that you did 'what you're supposed to do.' I cannot love my wife for 6 months, call it quits when things to too tough to bear, and still call my marriage successful. And I don't think this is an unfair comparison, although it does have its limitations. If I, as is very common even in the church, am not prepared or called to live out the really difficult times in my marriage - then I shouldn't get married in the first place.

This has nothing to do with churches that are not doing what they should, and yet are thriving financially or otherwise. 'Why shouldn't you plant a church' is a question of whether or not someone should do something in the first place. If a person is not prepared to live out their role as a church planter through very tought times, then they should not plant a church. Those times always come.


If Bob is a fan of 24, he is a success in my book. Case closed.


sure... not everyone should plant a church. In our network, we'll still have assessment, but it will come relationally, over coffee and the span of a few months. We may have to tell someone "You shouldn't plant a church" but because we have built a relationship with them, I hope we'll REALLY know that, and they'll really be able to hear it.

Seriously here- Mark Driscoll sees part of his job as to discourage those who might plant a church who shouldn't.

I see mine as encouraging those who might not, but who should.

There's plenty of people filling the first role out there... I thought it was time we heard from someone from the second camp. :)

Mike Daling

A few things:

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately for the sake of our little banter), I honestly have very little knowledge of Driscoll or his ministry at all. I have a picked up a few tidbits from Kevin here and there, but I have never read anything of his or heard him speak more than one line (wasn't there a comment about 'your inner Archie Bunker' a few years ago, Kevin? Well, that is all I have ever listened to Driscoll).

I seriously want to applaude Bob in his efforts to get people who should plant a church to do so. I have no idea how closely you assess people, but I hope that you are able to build relationships that are close enough so that you can prayerfully guide them one way or the other. Have there actually been times that you have told someone they shouldn't? I only ask this to see if you were able to have it received well. Seems like a hard thing to swallow no matter what the relationship.

I have gleaned that Driscoll is fairly blunt and not very nice about it sometimes. The reason that I have taken this idea to task is that I am participating in a church plant right now - one that has excellent leadership, has been (for the most part) financially stable, and has a distinct mission in regards to multi-ethnic community and caring for the poor.

It seem like, as far as church plants go, we have everything going for us. However, from week to week and month to month I see the enormous toll all of this takes on our pastor and the rest of our leadership. The pastor even guards his time very well, and usually gets away for personal retreats somewhat often. Even so, the pressure and constant demand to perform all his duties from time to time weigh upon him very heavily. These are all things a pastor endures at any church, but it is much more so because there is no real defined polity for him to rely on. The church plant was started with a team of people from another church, so there was already multiplicity in leadership, but all responsibility and decisions have had to go through the pastor (even the insignificant ones which he really shouldn't have to spend time on).

The thing is, the pastor and all of the rest of the leadership took a great deal of time to fast and pray through God's calling toward this church plant. They are certain of their calling and gifting, which encourages them to keep going when things are really bad. Without this, our community wouldn't have lasted this long. How much more would that be true for someone who is going into a situation that is financially unstable with no other leadership around them?

Seriously, I disagree with your last statement. There are NOT enough people telling people who should not be church planters not to be. Generally, there are not enough people out there sifting through people who want to be pastors. I graduated with an undergraduate degree in Christian ministries. As far as I can remember I only heard one professor take this question seriously in any way. Everyone else made it sound easy. In fact, it was seen as the major to be in if you didn't know what else to do - or just didn't want to have to work hard. Unfortunately, many of my classmates have not lasted in ministry (although, thankfully, many have). The point is, there was virtually no one really preparing us for ministry - with all its ups and downs.

For me, the second camp is mostly all I have heard from.


I don't want to make it sound like
a. I'm down on Driscoll. I think (as per your post) there need to be people saying "Whoa- think about this." I just also think there need to be people saying "Go for it"
I want to be the second. In my experience, there need to be more!

b. I have it all figured out. I don't- but here's what I think of when I read this...

I have never been less stressed out in ministry, less in danger of fatigue and burn out. And this year we planted a church and had a baby...

Again, not that I have figured out the "right" way to do this, but...

The way you do the plant will determine your level of frustration. If, in fact, "all responsibility and decisions have had to go through the pastor (even the insignificant ones which he really shouldn't have to spend time on)", then of course, there's significant danger of burn out. How could there not be?

I think it's possible to do church in a way that allows the pastor to shepherd, but puts the responsibility for developing ministry on the people. I think it's biblical and I think it's healthy. Planting a church does not need to kill you. It doesn't.

Our elder meetings are a blast. It's not all fun and games, but by and large, we are having a great time.

I'm sorry this has not been the experience of your leaders- I sure wish it had been...

Real questions here: What do you think are the qualifications to plant a church? And where do you get them? And would the first church planters have made the cut?

Mike Daling

Let me say that my intent in my last post was certainly not to make it sound like my pastor and leadership team are burned out. My intent was to point out that things get extraordinarily difficult - even in the case of people who are truly and clearly gifted for this sort of thing. God has blessed me and the others in our community with hard working and unbelievably loving leadership.

Don't you think that your level of frustration, better yet, level of resistance will increase dependent upon how you do your church plant? Is it easier to get people into a nice show on Sunday morning, or to get them to truly serve the poor in heart and deed? My point is, the level of resistance does increase - probably more when you are doing a good job.

It takes special gifting, and certainly calling, just to be a pastor. It takes that much more to be a church planter. As far as qualifications, it would be fairly arrogant of me to lay down several qualifications when this is not my area of expertise and MANY others of debated the question for so long. I also would hesitate to try to come up with a complete list of qualifications outside a Biblical theological theme. This is done far too often in areas such as eldership, for instance. I would say that qualifications for any ministry would incorporate 1) Biblical theological themes, 2)practical needs of the community, 3) and preparation.

I absolutely believe that the apostles and their followers who went out and planted churches fit under these general categories. That is one of the reasons that their ministries are framed the way they are in Acts - namely, they were the legitimate carriers of the Gospel to the nations. They spread the presence of God (the Temple, for all of you G.K. Beale lovers) - as Israel should have - to the nations.
They tended to the needs of the specific communities, developed leaders, after having spent a great deal of time preparing for the task. This, obviously, needs more development.

By the way, congratulations on the baby! Boy or a girl? I have a 3 year old - I think I will go play with him right now.

Ronnie Batchelor

Great stuff . . . benefited from the article and comments.


Jonathan Chatendeuka

I am a pastor and planting churches in Zimbabwe and other countries. Please can you connect me to the ministries or churches, even individuals who would like to sponsor me in the ministry and family. I will be sending the reports bi-monthly and even photos. I know I am really called it is only resources which are limiting me.

I hope to receive a favourable response from you. God bless you.

Jonathan Chatendeuka

This is good stuff and very challenging.

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