I recently proposed an important church planting proverb, namely, that every church planter should find a top-notch church planting apprentice.
Once you’ve got a church-planting apprentice, bring him everywhere with you.
YOUR APPRENTICE HAS ABILITIES YOU DON’T HAVE
If you’re involved in the leadership of a church plant, it needs to be one of your most basic assumptions that the people around you will have complementary ministry gifts to yours, without which your church plant would be impoverished. If you have an apprentice, take him with you into as many ministry situations as possible, and you’ll be greatly increasing your effectiveness simply by having another gift-mix engaged.
You never know when you’re going to be caught speechless, only to glance over at your sidekick to find him with just the right words on the tip of his tongue.
YOUR APPRENTICE CAN’T LEARN THIS STUFF IN SEMINARY
It’s not that you, the church planter, are more brilliant than his seminary professors. It’s just that the seminary classroom is better suited for reflective study than for on-the-spot training. Seminary professors aren’t going to take you with them to a deathbed, an intervention, a homeless shelter, or a confrontation with a dangerous individual.
You’ll probably drive your apprentice’s wife crazy pulling by him out of bed at 2am to head to yet another crisis. But when your apprentice is out planting a new church without you, he’ll be glad that he has poise instead of panic in the inevitable 2am scenarios he’ll face.
YOUR APPRENTICE NEEDS TO COUNT THE COST
Since church planting has become ‘cool’, it’s even more necessary than ever to count the cost of being a missional pioneer. If a prospective church planter turns out to like tough books more than tough people, he needs to channel his life’s work toward scholarship and get off the front lines as soon as possible. If a prospective church planter turns out to work better in predictable, established rhythms and contexts rather than in unpredictable environments, he needs to consider pursuing ministry in an established congregation where his strengths match the context.
There’s nothing wrong with realizing that church planting is not for you. And the best way to find out is to get into tough scenarios with tough people where tough decisions are constantly called for. You can count the cost best if you’re experienced the cost up front.
Most people will tell you to use your apprentice in order to work more efficiently—to free you up to do what you do best. They’d say that dragging him along to everything is inefficient and redundant. Certainly some aspects of a church plant can and must be made more efficient. But relationships and the people that make up a true community—these are not efficient things.
So bring your church planting apprentice everywhere.
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