What does it take to plant a Church?

What does it take to plant a Church?

By Pastor Barry King

This article was first published in the November 2009 issue of Grace Magazine.

Discussions about Church planting often come round to the question, what does it take to plant a Church? The answers can be revealing. Often it’s enough to make someone conclude we have been listening more to the experts on the subject than to the exposition of Scripture. I trust God will enable us to answer the question biblically and to grasp the implications of the answer practically.

Simon Downham, vicar of St. Paul’s, Hammersmith, says you need a building, £50,000 and fifty people, including a Pastor, administrator, worship leader and children’s worker to plant a church. Obviously we know better than that or many (perhaps most) of our existing churches would have to close. There is, however, at least a bit of residual Anglicanism in our thinking, isn’t there? We must stop confusing church planting and church transplanting. Our question is what does it take to plant a church? I believe Acts 17:1-9 provides the answer:

The biblical answer

Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go. (Acts 17:1-9)

A sower and a seed

On the basis of this text, we see it takes a sower to plant a church. The biblical precedent is for new churches is to be planted without any official leadership. For instance, outside of the Jerusalem church, can you name any church in the New Testament which started with a Pastor or pastors in place? What is needed, though, is a sower who will be instrumental in preaching the Gospel in a given area and will lead the people who are converted to covenant together to form a church after which they will appoint their leaders, hopefully from within their group. It is then generally best for the planter to plant elsewhere rather than remain to become the pastor of the new church. This is the role that Paul filled at Thessalonica. He was the sower.

Further, we see it takes seed to plant a church. The seed is the Word of God in general and the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in particular. Sowers who understand the doctrines of God’s saving grace can go into any setting knowing that those whom God has chosen to save will come to repentance and faith through faithful preaching. Their confidence is not in their own abilities but in the power of the Gospel to save lost people. What did Paul do in Thessalonica? He reasoned with them from the Scriptures. He spoke to them concerning Christ. He sowed the seed of the Gospel.

The soil and the Spirit

Church planting also needs soil. Just as Paul passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia and went to Thessalonica, we need some sort of strategy to know the difference between the places we should pass through and places we should go to. Paul tended to focus on those places where was a Jewish synagogue. My personal church planting efforts have tended to focus on places where there have been churches that have closed. God may give you a burden for a church planting in the cities, in a university town or in a rural village. Regardless, you will need to do some soil ‘analysis’ to learn what the people in the area are like and how best to present the Gospel to them.

We need the Holy Spirit to plant a church. It is the Holy Spirit who calls out the sower. It is the Holy Spirit who empowers the sower. It is the Holy Spirit who cultivates the soul. All is vain unless the Holy Spirit comes down. If we say that we need a building, £50,000 and fifty people to plant a church, we are really saying this is what we need to plant a church without the Holy Spirit. This must change.


Finally, it takes suffering to plant a church. Church planting always involves adversity and difficulty. It will not be comfortable. But you can rest assured that God will be with you and that He will make providential use of your suffering to further the work of His kingdom.

I long for church planting to spread across our land. I look forward to a day when key churches will be involved in planting multiple churches in diverse locations in the United Kingdom and beyond. I would love to see even our smallest churches catch this vision and become a part of this work. Perhaps it all begins with correctly answering the question, what does it take to plant a church?

Barry King is pastor of Grace Baptist church, Wood Green, London and the leader of the Grace Baptist Partnership.

This article was first published in the November 2009 issue of Grace Magazine.