As I look back on my days in a small evangelical church in a Northeast Iowa town of 10,000, I never would have imagined I would be where I am today or that God would use me as he has. Back then, church seemed to be one big checklist, my goal was to check all the boxes.
Sunday worship service? Check.
Bible study? Check.
Once I checked them off, I was good.
As I grew in Christ, learning, serving and leading, it was clear that God had plans for me. The gospel ignited a flame that could never be extinguished. I would read Scripture, and it seemed so simple. It was calling me to change, to grow, to believe. The gospel became the definitive purpose in all I would do.
But where would I go? What could be next? I had ministered a lot around the town where grew up and never really settled in a church.
I grew up in the Catholic church. I attended Catholic school for eight years before transferring to the public system. I surrendered my life to Christ in my early 20s, but there were no evangelical churches in town. Eventually, I came to think I did not need a church. But I was wrong. God has called us to him and to his church to live in community together.
One summer day, I met Skip Hansen, a local pastor starting a new church. Skip challenged me to bring my passion for the gospel to his church. We were a bit apprehensive, but my wife, Terri, and I eventually decided to try this new church and see what God was doing.
I was working then as a full-time cabinetmaker. Terri and I also had our own business. We had a plan for our lives and were moving forward with jobs, business, children and all the things we assume are a part of everyday life. Getting involved in this new little church added even more to our plate.
This church seemed like so many others. If you were to stop by and visit, you would say that you have seen hundreds of churches like it. On the outside, the ministries and messages of most churches seem similar. But one distinguishable characteristic made the new church unique: the intentional opportunity and development of people for ministry brought on by Skip Hansen.
Skip poured fuel onto the fire that God had ignited in me by giving me opportunities to learn, grow, preach, wrestle with myself and, at times, suffer. He targeted who I was and added resources, connections and patience.
Eventually, Skip encouraged me to attend Converge’s Church Planting Assessment Center, where Terri and I met God in an incredible way. Two years later, we planted Iron Ridge Church in Waukon, Iowa. Iron Ridge is now 18 years old. My son, Bryan, is its lead pastor and I have moved on to become Converge’s director of Church Planting assessment.
My work as director is more challenging than ever because of Converge’s five-year goal of deploying 312 church planters. Here’s how we can do it: Converge will deploy more church planters in the next five years than we have in any five-year period if we can do one thing — harvest potential church planters from those who sit in front of us each week. If you join us in making that your mission, you will be a part of an incredible cultural and spiritual shift in our country and world.
It may seem foreign to think that someone sitting in front of you each Sunday could plant a church. But it can — and does — happen. Our churches hold the largest overlooked field of church planters.
Jesus told his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few” (Matt. 9:37). I believe we too often look into the distance for church planters rather than see the potential in front of us each week. If we seriously look at the people God's given us and help grow and develop and challenge them as God leads, we would see the church planters who will help lead the revival we are all looking for.
The truth is, no one’s riding over the horizon to save us. God has given us everything we need. We must take a new look at what we have been given and ask God to help us develop leaders and church planters to impact our world. We must get back to calling children of all ages to full-time ministry, to missions and to the streets.
The world will never suggest a surrendered life to our children. We must do it.
What if we encouraged young people to consider full-time ministry from the moment we began teaching them? What if every week we prayed for and encouraged our people to consider ministry? What if we asked someone to step up and give him- or herself as a sacrifice to start a new church? Would God not provide?
Consider what Scripture tells us: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within is” (Eph. 3:20).
Turn up your own faith and passion
Have you ever watched survival shows? They are interesting for lots of reasons. You will realize is that if you cannot start a fire, you're not going to make it. Fire is essential to survival, and the expansion of people around the world is only possible because of it. You must have fire in the coldest regions of the world and in the desert, where nighttime temperatures drop very low. Sometimes you need fire just to keep away night’s darkness.
Fire has several necessary components. First, you need dry, cured (broken) kindling, ready to burst into flames when the spark is put to it. Next, you need material such as a striker rod or two rocks that can cause a spark. Then, you need accuracy. If the spark does not hit the combustible material, there is no fire, and you freeze to death. Not a pleasant thought. Finally, and most importantly, you need oxygen. Oxygen determines the fire’s potential. Too little, and it goes out. Too much, and it destroys everything around it.
Fire and church planting have similarities. The right person is the kindling. The spark is the opportunity. Accuracy is the right qualities and oxygen is the Holy Spirit.
Turn up your faith and passion when praying God will lead you to potential church planters.
What to look for in potential church planters
Someone who is led by the Holy Spirit and who will raise a hand and say, “Here I am, I’ll do it.” Allow him to develop and assess his abilities for ministry fit, and pray for and support him.
Someone with entrepreneurial skills and a drive to start new things. Whether in ministries, businesses, etc., that person naturally has a strong calling from God. He could even have a holy dissatisfaction with his current situation.
Someone who sees people who need something that does not exist in their life. He develops people and loves seeing others grow, achieve and lead. His family life and relationships are healthy — and being healthy means you know you are broken. The spouse supports the new church.
Someone who has grit, which gives him the ability to follow through even when he lacks certain skills. Many churches started in small situations or towns today are developed through sheer grit. The changes in our world and cities will require a new level of grit to see a new work come to life.
God has called us to find, develop and deploy the next generation of church planters, missionaries and Christ followers. If you think you could be a part of that next generation, learn more about church planting and start a conversation with our seasoned church planting professionals today.
Marlan Mincks, Converge Director of Church Development
Marlan Mincks is Converge Director of Church Development.