Unlike the church planters of the 80's and 90's who were well educated with earned bachelor and master degrees, well dressed, nicely groomed, with the ability to speak well and quite possibly could have had successful careers on Wall Street or in a Fortune 500 Company, this new breed of church planter, from a worldly perspective, is unsophisticated, raw and in many ways intimidating. For the most part the church planters of the 80's and 90's were trying to reach the upwardly mobile, career minded, white collar workers who were buying up new houses in newly formed planned communities with the hope of getting away from all the crime and violence. Their target groups were the respectable, hardworking and law abiding citizens trying to carve a nice life for their family and kids. They had the nice homes, good schools and fancy cars. Their kids were involved in baseball leagues, soccer leagues and cheer leading, and as a result the churches that these church planters started were the spiritual alternatives to the world, by providing multiple ministries for each age group in nice new facilities with a pastor for every age. While there has been a measure of success with these church plants a whole larger segment of the nations population has gone virtually untouched. A majority of the people groups in North America did not relate to these corporate style churches. This is partly because some just did not live in the areas where these churches were started. They live in the city and not in the suburbs. For others they just couldn't relate to the ministries that were being offered or their lifestyles were so radically different that they just didn't feel they could fit in.
As a result God is raising up many new unsophisticated and raw church planters to reach those untouched mission fields in North America. This new breed of church planter is the answer to our prayers for God to send more laborers into the fields. They are radically different from those of the past and have left many scratching their heads in bewilderment over their successes. These new church planters are breaking all the acceptable rules about church planting while still managing to experience tremendous success. Churches like The Sober Project, Set Free Ministries and most recently His House Christian Fellowship have been started by this new breed of church planter. This is the kind of person that God is raising up and training up and unleashing all over North America to reach those that have been ignored. As the body of Christ we need to recognize this activity of God, adjust our strategies and join him in what he is doing.
Four of the characteristics of this new breed of church planter I have also observed as characteristics of Christ's apostles. Peter and John had been arrested and brought before the very council that had accused Jesus of blasphemy and sought to have Him crucified. This was also the group that had intimidated Peter at Jesus' trial to the point that Peter denied knowing Jesus on three different occasions, but then a little over 50 days later Peter stands before them preaching and teaching in the name of Jesus with uncompromising conviction. The council demanded, under threat of punishment, that Peter and John stop preaching in the name of Jesus but Peter and John were unwilling to do so. This council of religious leaders did however express four of the five characteristics about Peter and John that I find to be true among the new breed of church planters today. I guess, while these new church planters are a new breed from those of the 80's and 90's, they are really not new at all but just a breed coming back into fashion by the Spirit of God. Listen to the description of Peter and John by the council,
"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
The first characteristic that I want to mention is that they were ORDINARY MEN. Peter and John from a worldly perspective were no special men. They were ordinary and hard working fishermen. They didn't hold any special place of honor or recognition in the synagogues. They were probably the type of person that most aspiring people would choose to avoid and not associate with. They weren't part of the ruling group. They were nobodies in their community. Sure, they served a place in society, but not one of honor or respect. They were the type of person you would hire to clean your house or wash your clothes. But here they were, these ordinary men, with the ability and power to gather and inspire a crowd and make them into fully devoted disciples of Christ. The council was amazed that such ordinary men could have such a tremendous impact on the community.
Today's new breed of church planters are just as ordinary as Peter or John. From a worldly point of view they are nobodies, they are people who very likely had lost the respect of society, their family and friends. These new church planters don't hold any special place of honor in the community and they sure wouldn't be caught sitting in our pristine churches. They don't dress nice for success and could care less to do so. As a matter of fact they probably don't even own a suit. You will find them wearing blue jeans, shorts, leather coats, Tee-shirts and quite possibly sporting a few tattoos. They look like the kind of guys you find working at a construction sight or attending a Raider's football game. They are your typical blue collar worker. THEY ARE ORDINARY.
But God loves to use ordinary people to do some of his most extraordinary work. God loves to use the things that this world considers foolish, unimportant, average and ordinary to accomplish his greatest miracles. Listen how the Bible describes them:
"Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many of you were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things and the things that are not to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God, that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: 'Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (NIV)
Did you catch what God is trying to tell us? God likes to choose the foolish people of this world, those without much worldly influence, those who were not born into prominence to do his greatest and most powerful work! Why? In order to shame the world. In order to leave those who have chosen to follow the ways of this world scratching their heads and desperately trying to figure out how in the world could somebody of such little significance now have such powerful influence over crowds of people! CHRIST HAS CHOSEN THESE ORDINARY PEOPLE SO ALL THE WORLD WILL KNOW IT IS GOD DOING IT AND NOT MAN!
This is not unusual! This is the normal activity of God throughout history. Gideon was a nobody. He was described as a man who was the least of his family, coming from the least clan of his tribe and hiding in a wine press out of fear. But God took this coward and used to him to win a great victory over their enemy. Simply amazing. James the half brother of Jesus describes Elijah in James 5:17-18,
"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 a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops."
There it is! The Bible describes one of the most amazing prophets of the Old Testament as A MAN JUST LIKE US! Elijah was no superstar in and of himself. He was an ordinary man whom God used to do extraordinary things so that the world would know that there is a God in heaven and he rules the earth. In my own denomination, Southern Baptist, during our height of growth when God was forming us into the largest Protestant Denomination of North America God was doing so through a Church Planting Movement of ordinary men starting churches. They were farmers, ranchers and hired hands moving out west to the new frontier, with a desire to build a life for themselves and their families and with a vibrant and uncompromising faith in the Lord our God. As they moved into these wild frontier lands to settle down and found no church they took it upon themselves and started forming congregations all over the place. ORDINARY MEN AND WOMEN BEING USED BY GOD TO BRING FAITH TO THE WILD WEST!
Do you see yet? Using ordinary men with a strong faith in God is God's modus operandi to accomplish His Kingdom's work! We need to stop busting our butts trying to find that 1 in a million church planter who is going to do great things for God. That will only bring glory to man! But instead we need to invest the majority of our time, energy and money in RAISING UP, TRAINING UP ORDINARY MEN WITH AN EXTRAORDINARY FAITH to be our new church planters. NOW THAT WILL BRING GLORY TO GOD!