What sets apart effective church planters? To find out Dick Grady and Glenn Kendall sent a survey to 100 missionaries chosen as successful by their boards. It was returned by 85 church planters from all geographic areas. From their responses seven strategy principles were developed that successful church planters follow, whether they work in responsive or resistant places.
1. More effective church planters spend more time in prayer.
Regardless of field difficulties, those who prayed more tended to be more effective. the most effective church planters average four hours and 15 minutes more in prayer per week than their less effective colleagues.
2. More effective church planters use more broadly based evangelistic efforts.
The most effective church planters had a greater tendency to use outreach methods that provide a large number of contacts in a given community.
They invest productive time in discipling those who are more interested.
Starting the process, finding spiritually interested people, is best accomplished by some form of community-wide evangelistic campaign, with lots of noise, excitement, and activity, using many people.
They often use a variety of tools, including films, videos, door to door witnessing, surveys, public meetings, book tables, literature distribution, singing groups, drama, media campaigns, parades, special church services, extended prayer meetings and so on.
This principle supports the use of church planting teams.
3. More effective church planters are more flexible in their methods.
Each method has a target audience. Using a variety of methods extends the range of potential successes. The broader pool makes it more likely that people in families, clans, and groups will respond individually and simultaneously to the gospel.
More successful church planters combine flexibility with broad-based efforts. They co-ordinate multiple, broad-based methods. Evangelising in multiple ways simultaneously compounds their effectiveness. Each method appeals to and attracts a different cross-section of the population, building up the effort to find those who are interested.
4. More effective church planters are more committed to a doctrinal position.
They are very tight in their theology. The specific position itself is not as important as strict adherence to it.
It seems that in establishing new believers it is best not to get into doctrinal controversies, but better to transmit core beliefs.
5. More effective church planters establish greater credibility.
Credibility is established in two ways, by meeting social needs and by building relationships with community leaders.
Social work is not the primary focus of effective church planters, but one of the many activities done by the more effective ones. They do not say, "First we will fill your stomach and then you will be willing to hear our message." Rather, they say, "We will proclaim our message. If you want to have your stomach filled, that is possible too."
Building relationships means getting to know the political, religious, government, military, and other community leaders. After getting to know as many of them as possible, effective church planters develop a few deeper friendships. This reduces suspicions and helps alleviate future problems.
6. More effective church planters have a greater ability to identify then work with people who have a loosely structured religion.
Where the religious structure is fairly loose, church planting tends to be more successful. This finding corresponds to the principle that says church planters ought to work among more open people first. As they respond, church planters can build on multiplied contacts provided by new Christians among more resistant people.
This confirms what Donald McGavan has taught, that "resistance arises primarily from the fear that 'becoming a Christian will separate me from my people.' " (Understanding Church Growth, p. 191).
7. More effective church planters have a greater ability to incorporate new converts into evangelistic outreach even though they had minimal training.
First, new convert evangelism takes advantage of natural bridges for sharing the gospel while the new convert still has the greatest number of non-Christian friends.
Second, as new believers do evangelism, they develop a stronger commitment to the gospel.
Third, as they share their faith, new believers immediately are hit with questions about what they believe. Rather than destroying their faith, this forces them to study and learn more about it. Their quest for maturity is need driven.
Dick Grady & Glenn Kendall, "Seven Keys to Effective Church Planting," in Evangelical Missions Quarterly, No. 28 (1992) pp. 366-373.