7 Church Planting Lessons

I am almost finished with Organic Church by Neil Cole. It has been a fun and challenging read. Towards the end, Neil shares what he would do differently as a church planter if he could start all over. Here are his 7 church planting lessons:

organic church - resized

“Recently I was asked to describe what I would do differently if I were to start again, knowing what I know now. Here was my response.

First, I would begin in the harvest and start small. Don’t start with a team of already-saved Christians. We think that having a bigger and better team will accelerate the work, but it doesn’t. In fact, it has the opposite effect. It is better to have a team of two, since the right two makes the work even better: an apostle and prophet together will lay the foundation of a movement. The churches birthed out of transformed lives are healthier, reproductive, and growing faster. It is about this: a life changed, not about the model. Never forget that.

Second, I would allow God to build around others. Don’t start in your own home; find a person of peace and start in that home. Read Matthew 10 and Luke 10, and do it.

Third, I would empower others from the start. Don’t lead too much. Let the new believers do the work of the ministry without your imposed control. Let the excitement of a new life carry the movement rather than your intelligence and persuasiveness.

Fourth, I would let Scripture, not my assumptions, lead. Question all your ministry assumptions in light of Scripture, with courage and faith. There is nothing sacred but God’s Word and Spirit in us; let them lead rather than your own experience, teachings, and tradition.

Fifth, I would rethink leadership. The Christian life is a process. There is not a ceiling of maturity that people need to break through to lead. Set them loose immediately, and walk with them through the process for a while. Leadership recruitment is a dead end. We are all recruiting from the same pond, and it is getting shallower and shallower. Leadership farming is what is needed. Any leadership development system that doesn’t start with the lost is starting in the wrong place. Start at the beginning, and begin with the end in mind. Mentor life on life and walk with them through their growth in being, doing, and knowing. The end is not accumulated knowledge but a life of obedience that will be willing to die for Jesus. The process isn’t over until there is a flat line on the screen next to the bed.

Sixth, I would create immediate obedience in baptism. Baptize quickly and publicly and let the one doing the evangelizing do the baptizing. The Bible doesn’t command us to be baptized, but to be baptizers. It is absolutely foolish the way we hold the Great Commission over our people and then exclude them from obeying it at the same time. We need to let the new convert imprint on the Lord for protection, provision, training, and leading, rather than on other humans.

Seventh and last, I would settle my ownership issues. Stop being concerned about whether “your” church plant will succeed or not. It isn’t yours in the first place. Your reputation is not the one on the line; Jesus’ is. He will do a good job if we let him. If we have our own identity and reputation at stake in the work, we will tend to take command. Big mistake. Let Jesus get the glory and put his reputation on the line; He can take care of Himself without your help.”

Neil Cole. Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens (Jossey-Bass Leadership Network) (Kindle Locations 2520-2526). Kindle Edition.

What would you add or take away from Cole’s list?


  1. Reply
    Scott Allen says

    Great stuff. I’ll have to check the book out. At a quick glance I would add the following:

    1. Build a plan for multiplication into the DNA of the church from the beginning. If it is understood from the start that the aim of the church is not to continually be “pregnant” but to strategically give birth to self-led, self-sustaining, and self-reproducing churches, the buy-in for members to be on mission will be higher because an achievable goal is set. Plus, discipleship and leadership training is given direction as well. (Ps I agree with Cole that just moving a bunch of Christians somewhere else as a startup is probably not the best model)

    2. We’ve talked about this, but in regards to point 6, I would add that in order to aid in “teaching them to obey all at I commanded” and instill Jesus’ mission in them from the beginning, have new believers baptize others as well. The more ownership we can give to others of the ministry, the better.

    That’s all for now.

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