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Thoughts from the Church Planting Assessment
Last week in Tacoma, WA, I had the privilege of co-directing our church planting assessment with J. Allen Thompson, the master of church planting assessment. I have attended the Mission to North America church planting assessments a few times to learn how the process works, and am grateful ECO has a similar church planting assessment process in place now. Every time I’ve been to an assessment, I’ve heard from the candidates how grateful and encouraged they were by the process. I want to briefly reflect on the ways in which I too was encouraged by the assessment event last week.
Church planting takes courage
It takes real passion for the lost and a lot of faith to undertake the risky adventure of church planting. This is true even in denominations where church planting is more embedded in the culture. For those in ECO, it is an even greater risk because, while we are trying to build a culture of church planting, we have a long way to go. Churches are not used to having—let alone funding—a church planting vision.
Candidates set out on a courageous journey when they begin the church planting process. They know it takes time and energy to raise funds. They know they’ll need to convince churches and donors of the need to plant churches, as well as of the particular vision and passion they have. Within every candidate, we saw a burning passion to reach those people who are unreached by existing churches. They were willing to not only take on the difficulties of planting a church, but also to do so as early adopters to the church planting process.
Church planting takes vulnerability
The church planting assessment is an encouraging process, but it can be an anxiety-producing process as well. Candidates’ ministry skills and passions are evaluated along with other aspects of their lives, including their marriages. By the time the assessment is finished, 40 different people have given input on a candidate’s readiness for church planting as well as the particular tools and environments they will need to be successful.
Most of the candidates going through this process were already ordained and it would be easy for them to think their phase of being formally evaluated was over. But these candidates were willing to be assessed once again, because they have a genuine desire to do their best work for the Lord. And they understand it’s much better to evaluate these things before church planting starts instead of picking up the pieces after a difficult church plant experience.
Church planting takes community
What I enjoy about being in ECO is the openness and collegiality we have with people, groups, and networks outside of our tribe. There are so many people who have helped us, who have no vested interest in the outcome of ECO beyond wanting to see God’s purposes done in the world. So many of these people have helped for minimal or no renumeration! Allen Thompson is one of those who has been so influential. He coached us on church planting assessment for a very nominal fee; he also recruited other experienced assessors who volunteered a week of their time to participate in our assessment.
I am thankful our candidates felt supported and encouraged during the assessment. I am also so blessed by all those who were there and feel deeply encouraged to keep moving forward the mission of God.