Church planting is a noble endeavor. It is a critical calling. We need church planters and we need church plants. But, like in anything, there are wrong ways to doing a right thing. Church planting carries an enormous weight for the planter. The weight to start with nothing more than an idea, a dream, of a church and end with a healthy, growing, faithful church in which the Lord Jesus is at the center.
This weight and task assigned is much like that of Solomon in building the Temple.
In 1 Kings chapters 5–8 and 2 Chronicles chapter 2–7 *, we get a glimpse into the process of Solomon’s leadership in building the Temple. Solomon, from the time he was old enough to remember, knew that his father David was not to build the Temple. It would be Solomon’s task to fulfill. It was his calling by the Lord. Thankfully, for Solomon, he was filled with the wisdom of the Lord that propelled the successful preparation, building and completion of the Temple. Thankfully, for us, we can learn from Solomon’s example and glean wisdom for church planting.
*I would highly recommend reading all of these chapters for further study. For the sake of this article, we will look at a few principles of wisdom revealed in these verses.
Preparing with Wisdom
1. Choose Quality of Partnership Over Quantity.
The most strategic partnership that Solomon formed was with an ally of his father King David’s — Hiram King of Tyre. In 1 Kings 5:1–12, Solomon casts vision with Hiram and makes the BIG ASK of him to supply timber from his country. Hiram’s response is what every church planter desires to hear.
Hiram not only grants the request for the timber, but he makes a way for the timber to be transported as close to the location of the building site as possible.
Hiram keeps the conditions for the fulfillment of this need minimal. There aren’t hoops that Solomon has to jump through to get the resources he needs. Hiram makes a simple request for all the work that he and his people will do. Solomon is happy to oblige that request.
The reason why this partnership is so smooth is because their desires were aligned. Hiram loved David and thus loved Solomon. He wanted to see the Temple built as well. Hiram knew that this specific request was the most strategic way to see the Temple be built.
Church Planter, you don’t need a long list of partners that don’t quite get what you are doing, or why you are doing it. You don’t need partners that want to control the types of resources you receive. You don’t need partners that will exhaust you with their list of demands and hoops to jump through. You need partners, and it doesn’t take many, like Hiram.
2. Recognize, Recruit, and Reward Mastery.
Once it came time for all of the temple furnishings to be made, another strategic relationship was formed. That was between Solomon and Huram-abi (Hiram) of Tyre as the skilled worker. Just look at how Hiram is described:
He was the son of a widow of the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in bronze. And he was full of wisdom, understanding, and skill for making any work in bronze. He came to King Solomon and did all his work. 1 Kings 7:14
He is trained to work in gold, silver, bronze, iron, stone, and wood, and in purple, blue, and crimson fabrics and fine linen, and to do all sorts of engraving and execute any design that may be assigned him, with your craftsmen, the craftsmen of my lord, David your father. 2 Chronicles 2:14
Hiram’s skill was absolutely essential to the building of the Temple. Solomon wanted the best and got the best. Solomon didn’t possess any of the skills required to make the temple furnishings. Solomon was self-aware enough of his weaknesses and brought others around him to fill in those spots. He didn’t just need plans and labor. He needed skilled labor.
Make no mistake, church planting takes skilled labor. It takes people on your core team that possess specific skills. Specific skills that have been mastered in some ways. When talking with other churches about sending people to be a part of a church plant core team I request, “Send me the people that when you think about them no longer being in your church, it hurts.” Lastly, make sure these people are rewarded for their skill. Much of the early days of church planting, these people are volunteers that provide professional level work. Make sure they receive some compensation or gift from the church for the level of work that they do. Without them you’d just have a vision.
3. Shepherd the Heart of the People From the Beginning.
When it got time to bring the last piece of the puzzle together, Solomon drafted laborers from Israel. With the timber and the skilled labor ready, Solomon needed people to carry out the rest of the work required. He went directly to the worshippers of the LORD. But there is something very intentional and wise that Solomon does:
King Solomon drafted forced labor out of all Israel, and the draft numbered 30,000 men. And he sent them to Lebanon, 10,000 a month in shifts. They would be a month in Lebanon and two months at home. Adoniram was in charge of the draft. 1 Kings 5:13–14
Solomon only had 10,000 laborers of Israel one month at a time. They would go one month on and two months off. Why? So as to not burn them out. They were still an agrarian society. Each of these laborers had full-time jobs, aside from building the temple. Solomon, in his wisdom, knew that it would be no good to have a temple with a nation that would be embittered to its existence. Solomon wasn’t blinded by the ambitious task of the building itself. He knew that the temple needed to be built but was careful in how he used the laborers in building it. He was the king. He could have enslaved these people and had all 30,000 of them working nonstop until it was done. But he never forgot to protect and lead the hearts of the people while building the temple.
Church planter, the moment that you hold your first core team meeting, you are pastoring those people. It is your calling to know, lead, feed and protect those people. I’ve heard horror stories of church plant volunteers that have spent months, even years, without sitting in a worship service to be under the preached word. Church planters that are too busy meeting the “new” people to disciple the original ones. We’ve even received some of those people into our church plant. They are burned out, spiritually malnourished and wounded. Some are even embittered to the church. Somewhere along the way, building the organization became more important than the people. Make sure that you don’t build a church at the expense of its people.
Building with Wisdom
1. Get the Foundation Right.
At the king’s command they quarried out great, costly stones in order to lay the foundation of the house with dressed stones. 1 Kings 5:17
I can’t imagine how long it took to quarry out great stones for the foundation. I wonder how many rocks they dug out that they didn’t use. What patience it took, to have this monumental task of building the temple in front of you, and to wait for the right stones for the foundation. It’s pretty simple in building a structure. The foundation has to be right or, before too long, the temple will begin to crumble. There must have been a great deal of pressure felt by Solomon to get started. So many people enlisted and were eager to get going. But until the foundation is right, they would have to wait.
Church planter, what are the foundational pieces to the local church? What are the particular foundational pieces to your plant and vision? If you’re not quite sure or your core team isn’t quite sure, then have patience. Wait! Take the time to quarry out, smooth, and carefully lay that foundation. Don’t get ahead of yourself to a website or social media presence before having a clear process for making disciples. Don’t map out your preaching schedule for the first year before equipping the saints in evangelism. Get the foundation right! You’ve only got one shot at it.
2. Be Involved in the Details.
Throughout this process of building the temple (1 Kings 6–7 & 2 Chron. 3–4), the scribe notes that Solomon did the work. But we know that Solomon enlisted thousands of people to do the actual work. What is trying to be communicated in these chapters is that Solomon didn’t do everything but was involved in providing oversight to everything. Solomon knew what the progress was in all the individual projects that were happening. He had a level of involvement in all things concerning the temple. There was nothing of which he excused himself from the responsibility. He knew that ultimately he would be held accountable.
Church planter you can’t do everything but you need to be responsible for everything. Most planters are BIG picture leaders. They get bored with the finer details of bylaws, budgets, and church business. So they pass those things off to other people. They plead ignorance if something goes wrong. Ignorance is foolishness. If there is something that you don’t know, then learn from the one that is doing it. You will be held accountable for all of it.
3. Personal Holiness Can Not Be Neglected
In the middle of the craziness of the temple being built, the foundation has been laid, the walls are going up, progress and growth is breeding excitement of what is to come, God speaks.
Now the word of the LORD came to Solomon, “Concerning this house that you are building, if you will walk in my statutes and obey my rules and keep all my commandments and walk in them, then I will establish my word with you, which I spoke to David your father. And I will dwell among the children of Israel and will not forsake my people Israel.” 1 Kings 6:11–13
God reminds Solomon that his personal holiness and obedience is interconnected to the long term success of the Temple. Much like the nation of Israel being shepherded by Solomon, the Lord is shepherding Solomon’s heart. The Lord wants Solomon to stay connected to His heart, nature and promises. He doesn’t want Solomon to merely complete the task while growing distant from Him.
Church planter, your church’s holiness and faithfulness has a direct connection to your personal holiness and faithfulness. Many church plants have been shipwrecked by a planter shipwrecking his faith. Don’t build the church and lose your soul.
Completing with Wisdom
There are three simple realities/markers of a faithful biblical church. They might seem too simple but it is our foolishness and pride to want to focus on more. It is the wisdom of the Lord to focus, specialize and desire these realities.
1. God’s Word in God’s People
The Temple wasn’t completed after the building’s structure was finished. Something way more vital to the Temple had to happen for it to be complete.
Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the fathers’ houses of the people of Israel, in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of the city of David, which is Zion. 2 Chronicles 5:2
There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets that Moses put there at Horeb, where the LORD made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of Egypt. 2 Chronicles 5:10
As the ark made its way into the temple, the leaders were there in a solemn assembly. The priests and temple workers had consecrated themselves for this moment. It is important to remember, as the scribe wrote, there were not vast worldly treasures filling the ark. There weren’t tokens of past victories and conquests. It was just the Word of God. The Covenant and commands of God for His people. The reverence the people had for the ark was because of the power of God displayed through the ark. The power of God in the ark was the Word of God.
The completion of a church plant is the culmination of the work that provides the space for the Word of God to be on display. For the people of God to be reminded of its truth. For the people to be struck with reverence of the power of God. A church can get lost in building ministries to meet felt needs that it loses itself and its purpose.
What has all this planning and building been about? It’s been about God’s Word for God’s Glory. If there is one thing you should excel at, it is this.
2. God’s Presence with God’s People
As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’s house. When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” 2 Chronicles 7:1–3
The ark reminded the people of what the Lord had done. The fire and cloud showed the people what the Lord was doing. He was dwelling with His people. This led the people to worship and praise the Lord. This was not rehearsed. This was not coerced. This was a real movement of God and a genuine reaction of the people.
Church planter, you will know that you have planted a faithful church when you see clear movement of the Lord’s presence in your people. When you see people coming to faith in Christ. When you see Christians’ lives being transformed by God’s Spirit and His Word. When you see genuine living sacrifices offered up as worship to the Lord. We can get obsessed with the production value or content management of our church. That obsession can be effective in leading people to make emotional decisions that are based on the perfectly placed level of the lighting and music. When God shows up, He leaves little room for doubt that it’s Him. Isn’t it interesting that this moment for Solomon and the people happened after Solomon finished praying? If you haven’t seen a clear movement of God in your church plant yet, you may want to get on your knees.
3. God’s Promise to God’s People
And [Solomon] stood and blessed all the assembly of Israel with a loud voice, saying, “Blessed be the LORD who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised. Not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he spoke by Moses his servant. The LORD our God be with us, as he was with our fathers. May he not leave us or forsake us, that he may incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules, which he commanded our fathers. 1 Kings 8:55–58
Solomon reminds the people of the fulfilled promises of God that has brought them to this time and place. God has always been faithful to them. He reminds them of the blessing that they have in the Lord. They have His Word, His Presence, and His Power now. He ends this blessing to the people with a plea to the Lord to keep them faithful. He knows that if they stay faithful that they will be that blessing and light to the nations, as the Lord promised. It is amazing what the Lord’s people can accomplish with Him, while they remember His promises fulfilled and His promises made.
Church planter, you’d be out of a job if the Great Commission was never proclaimed. The Lord Jesus declared the promises of the Old Testament are fulfilled in Him. The Lord Jesus, on that day, made a promise to be with His people, as we go, making disciples, to the very end of the age. It might seem like an oversimplification but the final piece to planting is making disciples. Your church wouldn’t exist without the Great Commission. So are you fulfilling it?