About a year ago I gave a talk in Nashville for Church Planting Leadership Fellowship. The theme of the event was Alpha Cities, and my talk, rooted in my book Why Cities Matter, was about 15 life-giving habits/priorities for church planters to cultivate in city environments (this content should also be helpful to those not in city environments, and to pastors who are not church planters). I received a great response from this talk and people have asked me for the notes. I finally got around to turning a condensed version of my notes into a brief blog post.
1. Know and love your city.
I would live in Silicon valley even if I wasn’t a church planter. I love living here. Having this kind of love for your city helps you contextualize the gospel from a place of deep understanding and genuine love for your city, and it ensures that you’re not simply using your city for ministry—you and your family genuinely enjoy living there. Do you know and love your city? The best way to start is to approach your city like you’d approach knowing and loving a person.
Action Question: What is your city’s history, values, dreams, fears and ethos? (See chapter 4 of Why Cities Matter for a more on the five key questions to ask of your city.)
2. Prioritize friendship.
Most church planters are lonely, and it’s most often their fault! Don’t settle for superficial relationships or building a church where everyone has deep friendships and you sit alone at the top. If Jesus needed close friends, then so do you. It’s how God made us. So make pursuing and enjoying real friendships a normal part of your week. Perhaps you should put it in your job description. I think planters/pastors should be men who have incredible friendships, there’s just no way to navigate this calling well without great friends.
Action Question: Who are your friends?
3. Disciple men.
Jesus invested his life in a handful of men and changed the world. As the lead guy, investing your life in a handful of guys will set the culture of your church. Don’t spread yourself too thin, pick a few guys who will invest in others and invest yourself them (2 Tim 2:2).
Action Question: Who are your guys?
Church planting is a creative profession. If you do not rest and refill yourself along the way, you will burn out. Find your own rhythms to rest daily (unplug/play for some portion of each day), rest weekly (sabbath), rest monthly (I take a monthly headspace day where I get away to fill up) and rest annually (my family gets out of town for the entire month of July). For more: See my interview on Sabbath/rest here.
Action Question: How are you resting?
5. Unleash your rookies.
Some of your best ministry will happen through new believers. Don’t wait for people to ripen on the vine, we have an enormous mission and the best news in our city! God is able to use anybody, and seems to love doing a special work through new believers, so give them vision for this and set them loose (even before they feel ready). Sameer is just one of many examples of how the Lord has blessed this at Garden City.
Action Question: Who do you need to set loose?
6. Play big.
Too many church planters settle for a ministry that can be explained by their own resources and abilities. Jesus loves your church/city more than you do (Matt 16:18). Push into the impossible and trust God to show up. This is the kind of ministry worth giving your life for.
Action Question: Does your current ministry require a supernatural explanation?
7. Resist the devil.
Satan hates you, and he is tricky. He will seek to breed disunity in your church, discouragement in you, speak lies and seek to get at you through your family, etc. You have to be a fighter (1 Peter 5:8-9). Church planting will always feel like a fight. Embrace this reality, and fight.
Action Question: Where do you need to resist the work of the devil?
8. Go to where men work.
Nine years ago I started to visit men in their workplace. I realized this was the first time anyone had done this for many of them. This is a great way to care for the men in your church, spur them on mission and get to further know your city (#1) as you see and observe these work environments.
Action Question: Whose workplace can you visit this week? For more, read my post: Go To Where Your Men Work.