In 1803 Congress approved the formation of the Corps of Discovery to set out from Washington to discover an all-water route across the continent. Thomas Jefferson’s plan was to send out Meriwether Lewis down the Ohio River, up the Mississippi to the Missouri River where Jefferson (and most of the scientific community of that day) believed that the Missouri would connect with the Columbia River out to the Pacific Ocean. The mission was clear; find that route!
We’d be mistaken however, to think that the day after receiving that charge Lewis set out to find that route. That’s not really what happened. In the year that followed Lewis set out to be a careful planner and student. He learned from the best botanist, zoologist, astronomers and geologist of his day. He talked with ethnographers about the cultures of the Indians they would most likely encounter on their route. He did everything he could do to learn about the trip ahead so he could be ready.
Furthermore, he was meticulous about the supplies they would need. The trip didn’t just consist of Lewis and Clark but also some 20 plus men making the voyage with them. They had to plan for how they would eat, what they would trade for goods with the Indians, how they would travel up the rivers, what kind of arms and weapons they would carry, and other such needs they would have. He had to plan for every variable not only to get to the Pacific but also to make the return trip as well. He had to plan for a long trip that would cover every type of weather, every conceivable situation and he had to plan for success.
Let me speak to the young, eager men that have heard the call to church planting and are ready to get after it tomorrow. The mission is in front of you, you know God is calling you plant a church and if you had it your way you’d do it tomorrow. That is good and exciting. But ask yourself this, are you ready?
Have you been equipped to handle the Word of God well enough to “be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it?” (Titus 1:9). Are you qualified as an elder? Would the elders of your church be able to sit down with you and assess your life and your doctrine and your gifting and whole heartedly affirm you are ready to plant a church? Have they actually affirmed this publicly to you and the church?
Do you have a sound plan for where you would plant a church? Who would partner with you in planting the church? How will you train leaders? Where will you invest your life on mission to reach the lost? Do you know the culture of the city you want to plant in? Do you have others who will follow you into planting?
I’m not writing this to toss water on the fire of your passion to run out and plant a church tomorrow and be on mission. I do want to stop you long enough to get you to think and be patient and make sure you’re ready. Church planting, in so many ways is far more difficult than Lewis & Clark’s exploration and yet they were patient and meticulous in their planning. That doesn’t mean that things didn’t take them by surprise. It does mean however that they were ready when things did take them by surprise. Maybe you need to spend a longer season than you anticipated working on your plan, your character, your skills. That way when you get into the midst of the mission of church planting you’re more able to handle what God ordains for you and your church than you would be today. Slow down and make some plans.