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20 Characteristics of a Church Planter

Every young man that considers church planting asks the question, Am I a Church Planter? It is the question I asked myself before planting a church. It is the question we ask every man who submits himself to our Acts 29 assessment process to be a lead planter in our network. Many times, he is depending on our assessment process to confirm his calling. 

Not all churches have a vision for church planting, and few have insight into what a church planter looks like. Our church leaders should be able to spot a church planter and then send him to plant as soon as he is ready.

I did a survey of pastors associated with a church planting movement in 52 countries of the world and asked them to describe the characteristics of a church planter. In order, they said 1) Leader/Visionary, 2) Missionary heart, 3) Preacher, 4) Generalist (can do many things as the lone pastor) and 5) Family Man (NewFrontiers July 2008 non-scientific survey conducted by Scott Thomas).

We believe strongly that the Bible teaches that this office of an elder and pastor is reserved for males. God is a God of order and balance. He has established order within the family (Gen. 3:16; 1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:22-33; Col. 3:18-21) and the church (1 Tim. 2:11-14; 1 Cor. 11:8-9). Even within the Trinity, there is an order, a hierarchy. The Father sent the Son (John 6:38), and both the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26). Jesus said, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 6:38) It is clear that God is a God of order and structure.

In creation, God made Adam first and then Eve to be his helper. This is the order of creation. It is this order that Paul mentions in 1 Tim. 2:11-14 when speaking of authority within the church. Being a pastor or an elder is to be in the place of authority. Therefore, within the church, for a woman to be a pastor or elder, she would be in authority over men in the church, which contradicts what Paul says in 1 Tim. 2:11-14.

Although it seems a little reductionist and arrogant to list the characteristics of a church planter, I offer twenty characteristics based on evidence in the Acts 29 Network and a plethora of books and articles associated with church planting. After reading this list, some men may be more discouraged from church planting than drawn to it. But the fact is that church planting is tough for the most qualified men. If a man does not have the needed characteristics, he will frustrate himself and everyone around him.

There are lots of other ways a man can serve God in an established church or a church plant apart from being the lead planter. Some very good pastors would probably make bad church plant leaders. That call from God to do church planting might be a call to go join a team led by another man to help plant a church, or it might actually be a call to financially support so others can go. Please pray as you work through this list that God will either confirm a call or reveal if one is to lead a church plant.

I have summarized the 20 characteristics because of the length of the article and discussed them after the summary. Please see the link at the bottom for the complete article, including elder qualification charts.

Summarized: 20 Characteristics of a Church Planter


1.    Am I a Christian? (John 3:16)

2.    Am I passionately in love with Jesus and is He the Lord of every area of my life? (Personal spiritual dynamics is the second most important area.)

3.    Do I believe His Word, and does it affect my life deeply?

4.    Am I Spirit-filled, Spirit-directed, Spirit-led, and Spirit-controlled? (Acts 1:8)

5.    Am I qualified as an Elder? (1 Timothy, Titus)

6.    Do I love the local church as the expression of a Gospel community on mission? (Matthew 28:18-20)

7.    Am I a missionary to the city? Am I sent for the advancement of the Gospel in the city (John 20:21)?

8.    Do I have a clear vision for this new work? (Nehemiah 1:3-4; 2:11-18)

9.    Am I willing to pour myself out in obedience to the vision? (Phil. 2; Romans 6)

10.    Am I healthy? Physically, emotionally, financially, spiritually, relationally, maritally

11.    Am I the kind of leader many people will follow? Have I served as a church leader successfully? (1 Tim. 5:22; 3:6)

12.    Can I preach effectively?

13.    Can I guard the doctrinal door with Biblical clarity and tenacious confidence?

14.    Can I architect a new work with entrepreneurial skill?

15.    Am I called to plant a church at this time and in this place? (Acts 17:26; 1 Peter 5:2)

16.    Have my church leaders commended me for this calling? (Acts 11:22-26; 13:1-4; 16:1-2)

17.    Am I a hard worker? Am I persevering? (2 Thes. 3:10; 1 Tim. 5:17-18; 2 Tim. 2:3-4; 2:5; 2:6)

18.    Am I adaptable to new people, places, and concepts?

19.    Can I raise the funds needed for my family’s needs? (1 Tim. 5:8)

20.    Am I humble enough to learn from others—particularly from those who have gone ahead of me in different areas?

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scottthomas@churchleaders.com'
Used with permission from Scott Thomas, the director and Chairman of Acts 29 Network, a non-profit church planting organization of missional reformed churches.