By Jay Nickless, church planting field coordinator
My first church planting endeavor was in 1988. I was 26. Upon moving to the target community, I thought that visiting the pastors in the area would be a really good idea. After all, if anyone was going to appreciate my sacrificial efforts, and be a source of encouragement, it would be my fellow pastors. As I announced my intentions to one of the more prominent pastors in the region, his response was, “Why in the world would you do that? Couldn’t you get a real church?”
In 1988, church planting was relatively unknown—let alone cool. There were no church planting conferences and very little in the way of resources on how to plant a church. So, I simply did the best I could and made it up as I went along. Which is a nice way of saying that I made a ton of mistakes. My heart and my zeal were unquestioned, but my methodology left a lot to be desired. And did I mention that I made a lot of mistakes?
It only took me two years, three months, five days, six hours and twenty-one minutes to realize that I had no idea what I was doing. I was certainly disappointed, but surprisingly, I was not discouraged. In fact, I was intrigued. There was something within me that was stirring more than ever. I knew there was something to this whole church planting thing. If done right, this could be a way of “not making it difficult for those who are turning to Christ” (Acts 15:9).
And so, after experiencing how “not to start a church,” I prayed one of the simplest and most meaningful prayers of my life. God’s answer to that prayer launched me on the greatest adventure and journey of my life! What a ride it has been!
In 29 years the landscape of church planting has dramatically changed. It has advanced from relative obscurity to that of renowned prominence in many Christian circles. “We’ve come a long way baby.”
I cannot even begin to express how thankful I am for the journey that God has allowed me to travel. I’d like to think that I have grown and learned at least a few things along the way. Things like:
- Church planting is not about church planting.
- Spiritual sparks still ignite in the environment of God’s Word, God’s Spirit, and God’s people.
- The journey never ends.
I’ve also had the privilege to work with some amazing partners, who have helped me develop some pretty successful church planting strategies, ones that have been tried and tested in multiple locations with different church planters in different cultures throughout the country. In the next few months, I’ll be unpacking three essentials of a successful church plant, including how to get the right planter in the right place with the right plan.
In the meantime, by the grace of God (literally) I’m still learning, growing, and travelling on that journey … but I’m not alone. I’m privileged to travel together with a group of people who call themselves a Fellowship. The Fellowship of Evangelical Churches.