Occasionally I am asked how to prepare a church planting proposal or prospectus. In this post, I want to tell you not to write a church planting proposal. Some of you may feel excited about planting a church, about making an impact in a city or community. Perhaps you have some friends who are excited with you, ready to risk all possessions and security for the sake of Christ. You have been talking with some guys about what the church would look like, where it would be, what kind of theology it will espouse. You envision a tight, missional community. You have some of your pastoral team picked out. Your dreams are starting to get onto paper.
St Augustine experienced a similar thing. He discussed and deliberated over the troubles of life with his friends. A group of them decided that they would form a community. This community would share possessions and would be significantly funded by Romanianus. They selected two officers and were ready to initiate this new community, and then they considered their wives. Augustine writes: “As a result, the whole project, which we had worked out so well, collapsed in our hands; it was completely broken up and thrown aside.” (Confessions, VI.14)
Some of you need to consider your wives as you consider church planting. Your calling is to your household first (1 Tim 3:4-5; 5:8). If your wife is not ready for church planting, you are not ready for church planting. Honestly explore any reservations your wife may have about your vision, your dream. Submit to her in love and listen closely to God. Some wives, however, will approve of your vision to plant a church but not have a clue what it really takes. Just because you have spousal support doesn’t mean that God has called you to plant a church. Like Augustine, you may already have your prospectus but you have neglected your wife, the Church, or God in honestly discerning a call to plant. Save yourself some serious heartache and converse deeply with your wife, speak honestly with the church, especially a group of men who can wisely assess you for gifting and calling to church planting. And don’t project your pipe dreams onto God.
Even if you are not called to plant, your preparations do not have to be in vain. Like Augustine, you can respond to this realization by resting in Proverbs 19:21 “Many plans are in a man’s heart, But the counsel of the LORD will stand.” Don’t cling to your plans; cling to Christ. Cherish the perfect counsel of the Lord, which may be discerned through spouses, assessors, blog posts, circumstances, failure, or private encounters with the Lord. In doing so, you will position yourself for greater joy and purpose in the kingdom of God. Like Augustine, you will be able to conclude: “Out of that counsel you derided our plans and you prepared your own, according to which you were to give us meat in due season, and to open your hand and fill our souls with blessing.” Heed the counsel of the Lord; put down your church planting proposal and receive the meaty blessing God has for you.