In our modern age of sophistication the church has not gone unaffected! Much of the modernization of the contemporary church is a positive thing that has helped the church become more effective in accomplishing its mission. A perfect case in point is the fact that I am sitting in my living room, using a lap top computer, writing a blog that can be shared over the internet to encourage and stimulate God's people to be more intentional and effective in pursuing Christ's mission. However, not all modernization and sophistication is beneficial to the church and in some cases could be down right a hindrance.
In the area of church planting one sophistication that has been almost universally adopted by every major denomination and church planting groups in North America is the practice of performing Church Planters Assessments. A church planting assessment is a process to determine if a potential church planter has what it takes to successfully plant a new church. It is a screening process to sort through people and separate those who have a good chance for success from those who have little chance of success for starting a new church. The rationale for this practice is to be A GOOD STEWARD of the resources that will be invested in a potential church planter. Knowing that financial resources are limited the need for greater success in a church being started is important and thereby the need to assess the church planter. No one would disagree with the importance of being a GOOD STEWARD. I surely would never disagree with that principle. BUT IS THE MODERN DAY CHURCH PLANTING ASSESSMENT PROCESS HELPING OR HINDERING A CHURCH PLANTING MOVEMENT TAKE PLACE IN NORTH AMERICA?
Before we can adequately answer that question we need to understand the kind of churches that we are looking for church planters to start here in North America. That church is what I call The Corporate American Church. It is a highly sophisticated church that offers a plethora of ministries, times and staff. It is a church that has buildings, budgets and boards to manage and expand. It is a church that is innovative, creative and adaptable to an ever changing culture. This kind of church demands a church planter to be highly entrepreneurial, visionary and able to motivate a highly competent staff. With this understanding of church and the kind of church planter needed to pull it off it is perfectly understandable why such a sophisticated church planter assessment would be advocated. However, with the number of churches that are needed and the rate these church need to reproduce for a Church Planting Movement to take place there are not enough potential church planters available with the leadership skill level to create this church planting movement. So it really doesn't matter how effective we become in assessing the potential of church planters to start these kind of churches, it will never produce a church planters movement for lack of available leadership.
I suggest that instead of emphasizing the enlistment of people who need to have such high leadership skill level to start churches we enlist and train ordinary people who already have a job and don't need financial support to start churches that aren't so sophisticated. IS IT POSSIBLE FOR GOD TO USE ORDINARY PEOPLE TO DO EXTRAORDINARY THINGS LIKE START A CHURCH? Let's take a look at a couple of Bible verse to answer that question:
"The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus." Acts 4:13 NLT
Peter and John, two of the Apostles of Jesus and two of the authors of the New Testament were acturately described as ORDINARY WITH NO SPECIAL TRAINING IN SCRIPTURE. As we read the book of Acts we can see what God was clearly able to accomplish through these two ordinary men. The one qualification that these two men did have was that they had been with Jesus.
"... The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops." James 5:17,18 (NIV)
Did you pick up on the description given to one of the most famous prophets of all times? Elijah was a man just like us! WOW! The great Elijah who challenged the Prophets of Baal was a man just like us! He wasn't anything special that an ordinary person couldn't become under the power of God. The one qualification that we do see here was that he was a Powerful Prayer Warrior.
Now if you take these two qualifications of having spent time with Jesus and a strong powerful prayer life and add to them the qualifications found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 you will quickly see that there is a far bigger pool of potential church planters available to us to raise up, train up and unleash into the church planting fields than what we are currently looking for through our modern day and sophisticated church planters assessment.
So are church planter assessments needed? I would say, "YES" but not the kind we are presently using. For the most part the modern day assessments only look for those people who are able to start The Corporate American Church and for the most part sorts out those who are only able to manage their own household well. The assessments we need to employ are those that measure the spiritual maturity of a believer and whether he manages his own household well. And if they meet that criteria train them on how to start a basic church family and unleash them to do it. Don't pay them a salary but provide them some resources to do evangelism and allow that new church grow and develop as God's grace allows it to.