Many planters know this but several dismiss it in pursuit of adding to their membership roll way too soon. The idea is simply that until you do anything to really promote or market your church, you first build into a core group who “lock, stock and barrel” buy into your vision, values and ministry model. These men and women will go to the wall for you. They’ll defend you even if they don’t have all the information. They’re loyal, committed and put their service where their mouth is. Usually armies like this aren’t assembled, they’re forged – with your blood, sweat and tears being the catalytic mixture. In other words, forging takes intensity and time…a lot of it. You can’t build an army at an “established church”-pastor’s pace. You’re a church planter which means an insanely inordinate amount of front-end work to get your core to where they need to be – a lot of dinners in the homes of others, grabbing breakfast with a different collection of guys at the local Denny’s every other day and a bunch of work in between. Tiring? Yes, but remember you’re building an army not a crowd.
I would also encourage the church’s first public service (and maybe even the next couple following weekends) to be dedicated to extolling and explaining the mission and vision of the church. Set the tone early for those who’ve just shone up and are wondering if they want to pitch in with the rest. Tell the people who you are AND who you are not. The message should both attract and repel – it should aim at inspiring the people who will stack hands on the church’s mission and push away those who want something different from you and the church. This kind of sermon (or sermon series) will also galvanize your army even further as they see that all the leadership you’ve given to this point wasn’t just smoke and mirrors but truly the DNA of the lead pastor (and by association…the church he is beginning). By the way, I hope you like giving these kind of messages because you’ll be preaching them to the congregation for the rest of your life with the church. At least you will if you’re a good leader.
So remember, fight the idea of building a crowd in lieu of an army. It’s not worth it. The penalty may be far more congregational fires than you are willing, or even able, to put out. Don’t prematurely shoot the starting pistol until you’ve done all you can to forge a group who will be willing to cross the line in the sand for the church’s mission and your leadership in it.
Build an army before a crowd.