On November 1, 2020 our church plant, Christ Presbyterian Church (CPC), began its public worship services. This was after 13 months of meeting as a Bible study group. In this post I reflect on some lessons I have learned as a fledgling church planter.
1. Keeping God’s word central
God has given us His word to guide and help us in our walk and service for Him. It is the lamp to our feet. The Bible has a lot to say about church planting. Whom should the church planter be? How should the church plant operate? What should the church plant’s message be? And many more.
In the past year I have often found much comfort and encouragement by constantly going back to the Word of God. There was a time when our work seemed very stagnant. We were not witnessing any numerical growth and wondering whether there was something that we were not doing right. You could see discouragement written on the faces of our pastoral interns.
I shared their discouragement but tried to persevere bravely for their sake. Mark 4:26-29 was very encouraging to us. Right in that parable the Lord was clear. We were to do our job which is to scatter the seed faithfully and count on God to do His job which is to give growth to the seed. The Lord is doing it!
2. Nothing beats prayer
In the past year our church plant interns and I have spent much time in prayer for the people in our core group, our Bible study materials, evangelism efforts in our city, and for ourselves. Every day from Tuesday to Friday we have met for thirty minutes to pray. We have also gone on prayer retreats.
Not all prayers have been answered immediately. However, we have seen the Lord at work as we have requested him in prayer. An example of one member of our core group comes to mind. This member struggled with depression. In her quest for relief she encountered some unhelpful teaching disguised as the gospel. This worsened her situation. Then through a single evangelism encounter the Lord brought her to us. My wife and I committed ourselves to study the Scripture and pray with her. As I write now, we are thankful for what the Lord has done in her life. There has been a huge positive change as the Lord has listened and answered our prayers.
3. Love for people is essential
It is very possible to fake love, but because people are created in God’s image, they will often discern sincere love from artificial sentiment. As a church plant we have sought, by God’s grace, to sincerely love people that the Lord has brought into our lives. We haven’t always done it perfectly and we continue to seek growth in this area. However, I can confidently say that by seeking to love people with Christ’s love, we have seen people joining and getting excited with the work of the CPC plant.
We had one young man who heard about us from a friend. He visited just to check us out and was not sure if he could make CPC his home. But our core group loved him well. He eventually decided to stay and later he confessed to me, “My real family is so many hours away but the core group of CPC is my family. Small things like hospitality, a text message or phone call just to check how I am doing, and prayers from you, pastor, have demonstrated God’s love to me.” I believe this is one of the reasons that John exhorts us: “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18)
4. Two are always better than one
The Lord was gracious to me from the very beginning of planting CPC to give me brothers to labor alongside with. Not many church planters start with three pastoral interns. These brothers have been of great help and encouragement to me and the core group. We have studied God’s Word together, prayed together, visited the sick together, and evangelized together.
Our transition from a Bible study group to public worship was smoother because these brothers and members of our core group worked hard. CPC is very thankful to Malawi Reformation Network for prayers and financial support toward our internship program.
The preacher was very right: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up…a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
Rev. Confex Makhalira
Founder and Board Member of MRN