The Lewis & Clark Guide To Church Planting: Build a Strong Team

Okay, pop-quiz time. How many explorers were with Lewis & Clark on their expedition? I know what you’re thinking. “Wasn’t that Indian woman (Pocahontas?) with them too?” Yes, there was an Indian woman, Sacagawea, who helped them in their voyage. But who else? Let me shatter a little myth about our beloved Lewis & Clark and their grand voyage. It wasn’t the two of them and an Indian woman traversing the continent looking for the Pacific Ocean. In fact it wasn’t ten of them. They had a team. They had a big, thirty-man strong team.

As Lewis was planning and preparing for the voyage he knew he needed to enlist a strong group of men who would be part of the expedition and who would free him up to be able to do the scientific research he needed to do while they moved supplies, materials and gifts up the Missouri River. In 1803 Lewis & Clark hand-selected this team and enlisted them as soldiers in the United States Army as part of the Corps of Discovery.

In the assembly of the men and the journey itself two helpful church-planting points are clear.

Don't plant alone, form a team.

Listen, lone-ranger, “I-am-so-entrepreneurial-anyone-will-be-attacted-to-me” leaders stink. And nobody follows them. And churches don’t planted. The truth is we’re really not as amazing as we pretend to be. We’re not as gifted as we think we are. You need help. You probably need lots of help. Lewis & Clark were wise to form a strong team of men who could handle the difficulty of the journey and at the same time free the captains up to make their scientific observations. Lewis could focus on leading and writing and learning because his team was focused on hunting and pulling a boat upstream and all the little daily things. Don’t be a fool, build a strong team to plant with you. And no, your wife and three kids don’t count as the whole team. Which leads to the second thing…

They were selective about who would be part of their team.

Upon hearing of the fame and fortune that would accompany the success of the mission there was no small line of men offering to volunteer to serve with Lewis & Clark. However, knowing the extent of the mission and the danger that could be expected Lewis & Clark were very shrewd and selective about who they chose to be part of the team. They were looking for men who could endure the hardship of the voyage. Men who were not married and so would not be entangled by home-life and the responsibilities of a wife and children. They were looking for faithful men that could be trusted to fulfill their duties. They were looking for the best men they could find.

Let their example serve as wisdom to us. Be selective about who you bring on your initial core team. For many evangelicals today it is an exciting prospect to leave your current church and find a new church plant to be a part of. Many try and hop on board with a plant early in its formation so that they can be key players in the formation of what they think “church” should be like. Many leave their former churches just to run away from nit-picky problems and then find that the new plant they’ve joined up have the same nit-picky problems. [1]

What this should say to us as church planters are that we need to be careful about who we entrust with leadership, responsibility, partnership and authority in the core phase of a church plant. You are wise to screen the people that want to join you, and it is okay to tell people “no”, that they aren’t the right fit for the church plant at this time. It’s good and wise to make sure people are on board with The mission, and don’t come to you with their own mission. Make hard choices. Weed out people for your core team who aren’t ready to serve, sacrifice, live and die for the mission of the advance of the gospel.

Get a team, and select the right team. Lewis & Clark did. More importantly Jesus did. The gospel moves on.


  1. Could it be that they are just nit-picky people? I wonder…  ↩