Saturday, September 15, 2012

THE ORDINARY CHRISTIAN'S GUIDE TO CHURCH PLANTING: Step 5 - Develop A Prospect List

Hopefully by this time you have developed a comprehensive prayer strategy that will empower the work of starting a new church with the power and presence of God himself.  I cannot overstate the importance of step 4.  If you do not develop and implement a strategic prayer ministry, nothing from that point forward will be of any use.  Church planting is not a human endeavor. Jesus said, after Peter's great confession, that He (Jesus) would build his church and the gates of hell would not overpower it.  From that statement we see that church planting is Christ's work and he is the one who accomplishes it.  Therefore, it is vital that we understand that church planting is not something we do for God but it is something that God is going to do through us.  W,ith that being the truth then the dependence on God through prayer is essential and cannot be removed from the equation.  So if you have not started to implement a comprehensive prayer strategy STOP reading this post and go back to step 4 and do that first.

The task in step 5 is the development of a prospect list! This list will determine the ground for planting the gospel seed from which the harvest will come. In other words from this list will potentially come the people who will become the members of the new church.  The development of this list is a vital BEST PRACTICE for any church planting endeavor.  What do I mean by "BEST PRACTICE"?  Simply this:

IT IS ONE OF THE BEST AND ESSENTIAL ACTIVITIES

You cannot start a new church unless you know who you are going to invite to be part of it.  Now please understand developing a prospect list doesn't mean that they all will come and be part of the new church. 

A LARGE PORTION OF THEM WON'T!  

Developing a prospect list provides you with a starting point - not a finish line.  Developing a large prospect list provides you a tool to begin sorting through a large group of people whom Jesus is going to use to build His church.  At this point in the church planting process no one has an idea who God is going to use.  Right now your only job as the church planter is to beging sifting through the potential people and weed out those whom God is not going to use and begin to disciple those he does intend to use.

WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE SHOULD BE INCLUDED IN 
YOUR PROSPECT LIST?

First, let me start off by saying who you should not consider!  Since you have already enlisted and formed your church planting team which consists of at least two Christians (you and one other Christian) your prospect list shouldn't include any other Christian that is growing in the Lord and active in a church.  Leave them alone!  Now I know that probably sounds very strange and counter intuitive but believe me this is important.  Why?  Because we are not trying to start a new church that robs  growing Christians from other churches! We are wanting to start a church that focuses on fulfilling the Great Commission of making new disciples.   In starting a church and especially a house church you don't need a lot of strong growing Christians to form a solid foundation.  In a house church two strong growing Christians is plenty.    When you place your focus on developing a prospect list and reaching Christians who are already growing in the Lord you run the risk of forming what I like to call
-
"SPIRITUAL NAVEL-GAZERS" 

Spiritual navel-gazers are Christians who like to get into small groups and focus on themselves by encouraging each other and praying for one another.  While there is nothing wrong in and of itself in singing praises to God, praying with each other and and encouraging one another they should not be an end unto themselves.  Our mission and our goal is to fulfill the Great Commission by MAKING DISCIPLES.

But as Followers of Christ and as a church planter our call is to shine the LIGHT OF CHRIST in this spiritually dark world.

Second you need to know that there are two groups of people you want to use to form this prospect list:


  • The Totally Unsaved:  These are people who have never committed their hearts to the Lord Jesus Christ and if they were to die today would surely go straight to hell.  
  • The Far Away Brethren:  These are people who are Christians, or at least profess a faith in Christ, but have for one reason or another fallen away from Christ and the church.  
Identify people from both of these groups and you will have a very productive prospect list from which to plant the gospel seed and see whom God raises up to form and grow his new church.


WHERE DO YOU FIND THESE PEOPLE?  

You find these people from within your own sphere of influence.  You find them from those people you already know and have a relationship with.  This is another BEST PRACTICE.  Finding prospects from within your own sphere of influence is not only a proven contemporary strategy but more importantly is also a profound Biblical strategy.

When Jesus talked to the woman at the well in Samaria and shared with her everything she had ever done and revealed to her that He was indeed the Messiah she immediately ran back into the town and told everyone what had happen and invited them to come and see for themselves.  When Jesus healed the Demoniac of a Legion of Demons the man asked Jesus if he could go with him when he left and Jesus told the man "No" and instructed him to go back to the towns in that region declaring the great things that God had done for him.  The man obeyed and later when Jesus came back to that area the people were completely ready to receive Jesus and his ministry.  Why? Because they had heard and believed the testimony of the man who had been healed.

So in developing a strong prospect list you need to think of all your family, friends, fellow workers, neighbors and people you may know from your social groups who are either not Christians or they are backslidden Christians and add make them part of your list.  In putting this list together let me give you a couple of suggestions:

  1. Pray Before You Start:  Prayer is always the best way to start any activity.  You can never go wrong by praying.  Ask God to reveal to you and bring to your memory all those people that He wants included on the list.  You might be surprised whom God brings to mind.  I know of people who have been in earnest prayer in developing their prospect list and have had people come to mind that they haven't seen or heard from in years. God knows who he's working with and you need God to reveal His list to you.  I guess in reality we are seeking to understand who is on God's list.  That's why prayer is so important.  
  2. Don't Prequalify Them:  What do I mean about that?  Simply this: Don't try to play God and decide if a person will or will not come to Christ or attend your church.  Only God knows the heart of a person and we can only guess.  Larry Munguia is now a very good friend of mine and fellow pastor but before Larry came to faith in Christ no one ever thought he would do it.  Everyone was concerned for his wife, Bobbi, and they prayed for her consistently. But interestingly enough Larry came came to faith in Christ before his wife and it was his changed life that convinced Bobbi that Christ was real.  Larry is now the Senior Pastor of a church he started called The Sober Project.  My point is this, we don't know whom God has chosen and prepared for this new life and new church.
  3. Include All Vital Information: As you form this list make sure that you have each person's name, address, phone number, email address and Facebook account.  Why? Because you will want to stay in consistent contact with them sharing about activities, ministries and any other offers the church may want to make.  A church planter should maintain a  prospect list twice as large as the average attendance of the church.  Building a robust prospect list at the very beginning of a new church will only enhance the work later and having all this information will insure the ability to stay in contact.
Between you and your church planting team you should easily be able to form a list between 50 - 100 people.  This is more than enough to form and establish a new house church.


Now that you have built your list you work your list the way you started it - through prayer!  That's right start praying for your prospects.  Ask God the Father to begin drawing them to Jesus.  Ask the Holy Spirit to begin convicting them of their sin and need for a Savior.  Pray that God will bring circumstances and situations in their lives that will make them hunger and thirst for Christ and his righteousness.  Pray that these people become dissatisfied with this life of sin and become desperate for the life that only Christ can give. Send the names of your prospect list to the PRAYER WARRIORS you have already enlisted and get them to start praying over them.  Pray as a church planting team over the prospects.

 PRAY - PRAY - PRAY
AND NEVER STOP PRAYING!

Home Work:  
You and your church planting team get together and begin develop a prospect list of 50 to 100 people.

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