- Jim Townsley
- Aug 10, 2012
"It's not just what you know, it's who you know." Often the phrase, "it's who you know" is associated with politicians and people who are legally or illegally trying to gain an advantage in their profession. But in church planting knowing the right people can be a great asset to a new ministry.
One of the first things a new church planter should do is to become familiar with his community and the key people in it. Making a trip to the town hall or county court house is one of the first things I encourage young men to do. Most towns have zoning laws and building requirements that will have a great impact on your church. Even if the church meeting place is rented, special permission may be needed for a church to hold services in it. Some of the key officials to visit included the mayor/town manager/first selectman, the town planner, the building inspector, the town engineer, and the zoning officers. The leaders who make decisions about where a church can be located and the necessary steps to build and meet may have different titles in different regions of the country, but it is wise to make these people your friend.
It is a huge mistake to fight city hall. The city has far more resources and working with them is far preferable than fighting against them. Many church-government conflicts could be avoided with proper diplomacy and developing friendships over a period of years. I have made a habit of visiting people in their government office just to keep a working relationship with them. It is possible that a time may come where you have to take a stand against your local government, but that conflict should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. Developing their friendship can never be overstated.
Zoning laws involve human judgment and building laws are open to personal interpretation. Many of these issues are left in the hands of one person and he is in the stead of God. Often the cost to fight their decisions is more costly than merely complying with them. But complying may be very costly. When they are your friend they may be more willing to work with you. Beware, once a church or pastor gains a reputation of not cooperating with the community leaders it is possible that they can make future development even more difficult. Knowing the right people can save thousands of dollars in building costs. Also, knowing the right people can open doors of evangelism. When community leaders attend church events it provides more credibility to the church. Some community leaders may provide you opportunities to speak to community groups and provide opportunities for your church to reach into prisons, nursing homes, and civic organizations. Making connections and developing friendships can open many doors of opportunity. Networking has become one of the most successful methods of evangelism. When someone knows someone it opens a door of opportunity that otherwise might have been closed. Had you knocked on their door they may not have been receptive to you at all. But, when you are introduced by a friend or family member it can make all the difference in the world.
We must never diminish the importance of standing faithfully without compromise, but we are also encouraged to wise as serpents and harmless a doves. It is possible to be a fundamental Baptist and yet develop a good reputation in the community. One of the early challenges of planting a new church is learning the culture of your community and understanding how it really works. Determine to develop relationships with leaders in your communinty.
Remember it is not always what you know, sometimes it is who you know. Making friends is always a good thing in church planting. The reputation of your church requires years to develop, but its reputation can be destroyed in a day.