10 Essential Characteristics of an Effective International Church Planter: #1 Spiritual Vitality and Maturity

#1 Spiritual Vitality and Maturity

One of the responsibilities my husband Curt has, that he enjoys the most, is overseeing the training of prospective international church planters sent out by the Summit Church. He wants to make sure that every Summit member that goes to the nations is a well-discipled disciple maker. “That’s the local church’s responsibility,” he always says. 

A few years ago, Curt and his team, along with some of us who are mentors/coaches within the program, came up with a list of ten characteristics we believe to be essential to the success of an international church planter. We compiled these based on our collective field experiences and then had that list reviewed by multiple people who have spent their lives serving overseas. These characteristics are what our church teaches and disciples to within our training program. Typically, prospective planters will participate in this assessment and equipping program for 1-2 years before they either go on to additional training by their sending organization or directly to their overseas assignment.

photoThe first characteristic we focus on is spiritual vitality and maturity. That one may surprise you. Isn’t that stating the obvious? Wouldn’t someone need to be spiritually mature and vibrant before they were ready to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth? Exactly. So how do you know how you measure up? We ask these questions…

Do you give evidence of a Gospel-centered life?

Do you possess a passionate love for Jesus and a vibrant devotional life?

Do you exhibit Godly character?

Are you growing in your understanding of the Gospel and Christ-likeness?

A simple “yes, yes, yes, and yes” to these questions is not what we are looking for. Taking the Gospel to dark corners of the world where there is little to no Gospel witness is stepping into enemy territory with both feet and therefore not a great idea for those whose relationship with Christ is not yet mature.  If you go in your own strength, well, you will, fail. Having an already established mature walk with the Lord, as evidenced by the patterns that are already in place in your life through the spiritual disciplines that you have developed and display – before you leave – is what will help sustain you during the times of trial that will undoubtedly come.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
(John 15:4-5, ESV)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,”
(Ephesians 6:10-18 ESV)

Cultivating and nurturing your mature walk with the Lord before you leave is critical. Don’t make the mistake of assuming it will come once you are in your area of service as if those patterns will be established just because you’re on the field, or just because you are a missionary. They need to be established before you go. They’re important now and will be that much more so once you are there.

Next Characteristic: Calling


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