This is an article I wrote for the Every Nation Church Planting website. Check it out below!
Planting a church, or in our case a congregation, is like taking a ride in a submersible vehicle. As you start off, the sun is sparkling through the plexiglass, and you’re ecstatic about this sweet new ride you’ve been given. But pretty soon, things start to get dark, and you begin to feel the pressure of the whole world on top of you. In that pressured environment, you can’t afford to have cracks in your plexiglass. That’s where Every Nation’s ABC3 Assessment Center comes in.
At the Assessment Center, any potential fault lines get highlighted, and you get a chance to fix them before the pressure starts to mount. For my wife Anita and I, we were able to avoid a number of potential pitfalls, both in our marriage and in my own personal ministry. We felt called to plant the second congregation of our Every Nation church in Berlin, Germany, as part of our church’s vision to expand to twelve congregations within the city. So with the encouragement and support of Gareth Lowe, our pastor and church-planting coach, we completed the battery of personality tests (DISC, Myers-Briggs, and StrengthsFinder), and other preparatory assignments before we flew to Tennessee to get assessed.
Being in Nashville for a week was a great experience. The first thing I remember: it was hot. The second thing I remember: searching for — and finding! — a swimming pool. As we lay in the sun, I could feel the tensions from city life in busy Berlin evaporating. Driving around the metroplex of Nashville, I was struck by the long stretches of green everywhere. My soul, cramped from the congestion of Europe, was expanding in this atmosphere, aided by the accompanying guitar strains of blues and rock n’ roll in the evenings.
Our days were busy. We spent them running between the rooms of the Bethel Franklin campus, engaged in various team challenges or on individual assignments, while being scrutinised by a panel of assessors. Together with around twenty other participants, we had to preach vision messages, solve church-planting crises, and improvise funding pitches to imaginary million-dollar investors. The competitive side of me was trying not to treat this like a spiritual Hunger Games.
But despite my competitive tendencies, I got on very well with my fellow church-planters-to-be. Meal times were a great opportunity to take a break and spend some time getting to know each other and the assessors away from the intensity of the classroom. I remember laughing over the chaotic, but hilarious, church- planting stories we shared with each other, and learning from some of the graver mistakes of others who’d gone before me. By the end of the week, we had forged some great friendships that would last beyond those few days.
Jetting back to Berlin, we were ready to start implementing everything we’d learned at the center. Some key areas in which we needed to grow had been highlighted and gave us a good foundation to start. I had been struggling with stress, and so it became a priority for me to reduce my anxiety through focused prayers for healing.
We began to see fruit. The experience of planting a new congregation became more joyful as we shepherded our core team with greater wisdom and built in rhythms that allowed us to get the best out of life in the midst of our demanding schedules. My stress began to diminish as I allowed the truth of God’s unconditional acceptance of me to dissolve a false identity that I had built upon my performance in ministry. Our marriage thrived as Anita and I unlocked the synergy of team ministry and learnt how to play to each other’s strengths and cover over each other’s weaknesses.
As Gareth Lowe, one of our pastors and a facilitator at the Assessment Center, coached us through our challenges and watched our progress, he gave us the green light to go ahead with the launch of our congregation. After many months of hard labour, our team savoured the joy of bringing a spiritual baby — our new congregation — into the world. Our submersible had travelled the distance, and we had reached our goal. It was an occasion that we’ll never forget.
There are few things in life as rewarding as extending the Kingdom of God through church planting. There are also few things as difficult. That’s why I will be forever grateful to Every Nation’s ABC3 Assessment Center for giving us a great start on this challenging, but incredibly fulfilling journey. As I look to the future, I believe God is calling thousands of church planters to answer the call to reach every nation in our generation, and I am confident that they, too, will be in the safest of hands.
A rigorous, three and a half day immersion experience for church planting candidates and their spouses, the Every Nation Assessment Center helps people discern their calling and readiness to plant a church by answering two basic questions:
- Is it evident that you have the calling and gifting to plant a church?
- If you are called to plant a church, what do you need to do next to be prepared to plant in a specific city or region within the next twelve to eighteen months?
Seasoned church planters and trained assessors recommend the best ministry lane for people to run in. It is up to them and their sending church or pastor to decide the next steps. The Assessment Center focuses on the preparedness, character qualities, and giftings common among successful church planters. Avenues for training, such as the BootCamp, come later.