At the risk of being too simple, I’d say successful church planting boils down to being the right person in the right place following God’s Spirit at the right time. Yet surprisingly, the essential guidance of the Holy Spirit is often overlooked in church planting strategy.
Theologian Francis Schaeffer once commented, “The central problem of our age is the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, individually or corporately, tending to do the Lord’s work in the power of the flesh rather than of the Spirit.”
Too often church planting is carried out with a mindset that omits the supernatural. The book of Acts shows the Holy Spirit regularly speaking and guiding by means of angels, visions, dreams, and other supernatural operations. He is revealed as the main ingredient in church planting.
To carry on Christ’s ministry requires adopting Christ’s methods. Unfortunately, most Western Christians would rather implement programs that reduce ministry to reproducible components to be applied indiscriminately. There’s nothing wrong with developing and utilizing tools for team building, or evangelism or for launching public services, but I don’t think they should be used arbitrarily or all the time. Shouldn’t we first ask what’s appropriate for each situation and learn the art of discerning what God is doing, the way Jesus did?
To carry on Christ’s ministry requires adopting Christ’s methods.
Jesus did all the things necessary for a vibrant, reproducing worldwide church plant movement by paying close attention to his Father. He often went off to be by himself and pray. It appears Jesus’s powerful naturally supernatural public ministry was the result of him cultivating the inner conditions of his soul that enabled him to pay attention, listen, and obey the promptings of his Father.
That’s why in the Vineyard we try to enter each ministry situation with the question, “What is the Father doing?”. With this as our rule of thumb, making the decisions and exercising spiritual gifts necessary for planting a church becomes a matter of discerning what the Father is up to and then joining in with the help of the Holy Spirit.
It seems that the Vineyard’s early success in church planting was due more to the empowering of the Spirit than our strategy, training, or planning. To be honest many of us were under-prepared and in over our heads but succeeded nonetheless. Having our our lives set on fire by the power of the Holy Spirit made up for what we lacked in training, resources, and experience.
These planters regularly prayed for the sick and casually shared prophetic words and words of knowledge that opened the eyes and hearts of even hardened skeptics to the presence, love, and power of God, increasing their receptivity to the Gospel.
I’m not saying training, tools, and planning are not necessary. They absolutely are! But by relying heavily on methodology and systems rather than the Spirit is putting the cart before the horse. We need more of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power. He’s our main ingredient.
This post was edited from a piece originally published at The Main and The Plain.
Mike Turrigiano has been planting churches, raising-up leaders, and equipping churches for over four decades. Mike began his Christian walk as part of the Teen Challenge program in Brooklyn, NY in 1971. As a result, he worked for Teen Challenge under, Don & David Wilkerson, throughout the 1970s running and starting a church. In 1979 the Turrigianos met John Wimber (who was then a church growth consultant) and began dreaming about starting what would be a Vineyard church in NYC. Since then they have done just that.
He and his wife, Char have become spiritual parents to many in the ministry today around the world. The Lord has called them to focus their energy full time on coaching, equipping, and caring for ministry leaders and their churches with their organization The Main and The Plain.
The Turrigianos have been married for 45 years. They live in Brooklyn, New York and have two sons, six grand children and two great grand children. They enjoy relaxing and having dinner with friends.