He is currently a bit awkward. His passions are a little misdirected. He has a hard time focusing on the sermon, and he is only interested in sports and girls. But the Lord is going to light a fire within him at some point to be used in incredible ways for the spread of the gospel and God’s Word.
Do you believe this could be true? Do you want this to be true?
I recently visited the church I grew up in to explore how our EveryEthne team could assist them in their ministry. As I met with several people from the church, one older lady told me, “You may not remember this, but I taught you in Sunday School. I can’t believe God is using you to help churches like this.”
If you knew me back when I was in Sunday School, you may have said the same thing. But it made me think. Why are we surprised when God works in the hearts of young people and raises them up to be church leaders, pastors, or church planters? Instead of being surprised, we should confidently expect God to do this. The people at your church are the pipeline for future church planters and church plant teams.
But how do we get them to that point? Let me suggest three steps you can take to help move someone from sitting in your church pews to serving in church leadership.
1. Keep the gospel central in everything you do.
If you are a pastor, remind your congregation every week that Jesus did what we could not do. Remind them how he takes what is broken and makes it new. If you are a layman, model gospel forgiveness in all your relationships. Never lose sight of how God takes your filthy rags and exchanges them for his righteousness.
A church that keeps the gospel central in everything will model to people like that distracted teenager that God can and does redeem us and use us for his glory and our good. That young man needs to see and feel that truth every single time he engages with the church.
2. Pray that God will move in the hearts of everyone in your congregation for gospel ministry and that he will call some to full-time ministry.
Jesus, moved with compassion over the hurting in his world, told his followers to “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38). My response to fellow believers is often to tell them to move into action. Jesus’ response is to tell them to pray. We would do well to listen to his powerful words.
Would you make prayer for future leaders—specifically church planters—a regular rhythm of your life? Would you pray that the Lord will raise up missionaries from your church to be used to cross cultures and plant churches in diverse neighborhoods and cities around the world? Be consistent with this prayer privately in your closet, but also display your heart publicly for the church to hear. Allow that maturing young man to hear the earnest prayers of God’s people in the church for laborers for God’s harvest. Ask that young man to pray with you. God may use this time as a puzzle piece in his life to shape his heart and turn his aspirations toward Christ.
This is one reason that we’re holding the Day of Prayer for Church Planting. Our vision is for churches and individuals to dedicate one day each year to prayer, joining together to ask Jesus to continue building his church. This year, on May 28, we are asking for a movement of people to pray for God to raise up future church planters—and that he would do it from within our churches.
3. Help others understand how God is using and can use them.
As you are praying with and for others in your church, let them know how you see God at work in their lives. To repurpose the words of an old song, “Be the wind beneath their wings.” Perhaps you have experienced how encouraging it can be when someone points out how they see God at work. If you are in church ministry, my guess is that somebody at some point in your life spoke this truth to you. But then take it one step further. Help others understand not only how God is using them now, but also how he could use them someday. Do not be afraid to cast the vision for them.
There are many additional things you can do to mobilize future church planters. But let me suggest starting with these three: a whole-hearted focus on the gospel, prayer, and encouragement.
I was preaching at a church recently when a six-year-old boy walked up to me and said, “I’m going to be a pastor when I grow up.” My heart melted. This is the sort of expectation we should be setting for our young people. I pray the Lord continues to work in the heart of this young boy and in the hearts of thousands of other young people as he calls them to the great work of church planting.
There are billions of people around the world who don’t know Jesus. What can you do to help? You can pray! Join us in prayer on May 28, 2023 to ask Christ to bring more people to faith and continue to build his church throughout the world. Will you join us?