Dinner with Jim Tune: Knock out Factors for Church Planters
Jim Tune used to operate a stock brokerage firm. Then Jesus turned over his money tables and called him into…
Jim Tune used to operate a stock brokerage firm. Then Jesus turned over his money tables and called him into ministry.
For the last nineteen years Jim has been throwing his entrepreneurial spirit and sharp mind into God’s business, with a major part of his portfolio invested in starting and building churches.
I’m from Minnesota and Jim’s a Canadian, so we both have stories about hockey pucks to the head and sub-zero temps. We both pronounce “about” so it almost rhymes with “a boat.” We also both married up (his wife Claudia was on my Executive team when I was President of the North American Christian Convention, and I saw first-hand what a brilliant and hard worker she is, which largely explains Jim’s success, I’m sure).
But Jim and I have our differences. He’s got way cooler hair. He could seriously maim me in a WWF smackdown (he watches more of it on TV and knows more moves).
Mostly, though, we have stuff in common.
We’ve worked together as Contributing Editors for Christian Standard magazine for several years now and Jim’s become a good friend. He writes the back page editorial for each issue of Standard. It’s the kind of short, to the point, creative writing that provokes you to the point where you simply MUST do something about it.
Jim is the 2015 president of the International Conference on Missions (ICOM) that meets in Richmond, Virginia on October 20 – November 1, which you should totally register for right away. The theme is THE AWAY TEAM which is all about how important it is to recognize that in North America, Christians aren’t in the privileged “home team” position any longer – and that changes everything about how we do mission. That’s stuff that is vital to doing ministry in post-Christian places like Canada and the Eastern U.S. When Jim describes how the church needs to change the way we relate to our culture in order to be more effective in ministry, I feel like saying, “YES!”
And the track record suggests Jim knows what he’s talking about. Along with Jesus, he founded Discovery Community Church Church (formerly Churchill Meadows Christian Church in Toronto. Fourteen years and 700 baptisms later he has shifted his full-time emphasis to directing Impact Canada, a church planting organization with a target drawn around unchurched Canada.
So, that’s something else Jim and I have in common: the conviction that there is just about nothing more important than planting churches among post-Christian people.
What God wants, and what we need, is for more people to hear the call to church planting. Flat out, plain and simple – it just can’t be overstated how vital it is that church planters step forward to lay their life on the line for the most important work in the world. Every church should be pregnant, helping to launch new churches one way or another.
A big part of this is releasing people who can be part of a church plant staff team.
MOVE NE is a movement of churches and leaders in my neck of the woods that are rallying together to get the job done to plant churches with a special heart and focus for Baltimore and DC area as well as the broader mid-Atlantic region. Here is what we know: We need church planters in the Northeast US!
Right now there are people who are stock brokers, school teachers, engineers, and high school or college students whom God is calling to be part of a church plant team.
Maybe that’s you.
So over dinner, my buddy Eric Stangland and I asked Jim, “What are the key knock out factors for a church planter? If someone is trying to decide if God might be calling them to start a church, what criteria should they use?” Here are Jim’s off the cuff categories, with my take on what he meant.
1. Spouse Buy-in
If your spouse isn’t also deeply convinced of the call to plant a church, stop, do not pass GO, do not collect $200 for start-up funds. The unique pressures of church planting demand a united team. I don’t’ know many single planters, but Paul seemed to get ‘er done. Most are married. If both are called to it, it’s hard, but joy and mission overshadow the sacrifice. If only one is called, it’s just hard and won’t fly. More than one start-up has faltered or failed because a planter’s spouse was not on board, was high maintenance, or made life miserable for the marriage or the church. But when God puts a shared passion for the new church and lost people in the hearts of a husband-wife team, it’s scary good.
Church planters need to be able to take some risks. Leading a church – especially a church plant – means moving forward in spite of things not being perfectly settled or solid. It’s more like working in an emergency room than hospital administration. If you’re the type who can’t leave the house until every pair of undies is ironed, folded and in your drawer…if you’re the type who can’t vacation without having a print out of how every minute will be spent…if you’re the type who can’t stand ministry with any question marks…this gig isn’t for you. Abraham left his home and family to go where God was calling him – even though he didn’t know exactly what or where that was. Church planters have to be able to do the same. All that requires faith steps.
“I have a dream” are words that lurk like a propelling ache in the gut of every successful church planter. You gotta be able to dream, and see the kind of community God is calling you to create. What kind of church will it be? What will the DNA be like? If the planter is foggy on this, the whole church muddles about in a mist. If dreaming scares you, bores you, or annoys you, you might not want to sign up for a lead planter role. But if it energizes you, God may have put in you one of the knock out factors needed for a new church.
4. Ability to relate to the unchurched
Believe it or not, some have overlooked this point. Which is sort of like being a school teacher but despising kids. A new church will only thrive when it is aimed at reaching people far from God. If there is no track record, giftedness, or experience in doing that in real life, one-on-one relationships, don’t make the mistake of thinking it will work to lead a church that is effective at mission. Both introverts and extraverts can excel here. The key is an evangelistic heart, and a history of relationships with people and being part of their movement toward Christ. If you can’t name names of people God has used you to influence through relationships that way, lead planting is probably a stretch.
5. Leadership developer/team builder
All ministry is a team sport. In church planting, a huge load falls on the planter and spouse, especially in beginning stages. But you gotta be able to build teams. Do you have a sense of what people are good at and help them get better doing it? Can you build a team from scratch that is healthy and gets a job done? Church planting isn’t just about starting something, it’s about starting something and handing it off so it continues to flourish. Real leaders develop and release other leaders and a church plant needs someone at the helm who wants to give ministry away every single day.
The Bible calls it perseverance. Don’t quit-ness. It’s what Paul meant when he said, “Finally, stand firm. Let nothing move you.” I love what Jim says here. There are race horses and plodders and mules. You don’t really want a stubborn, resistant, slow moving mule. Most think they are looking for a race horse who is full of charisma and flash, the star stud who leads the pack. But the best plants are often led by plodders – the steady pullers who work hard, understand consistency and dedication and discipline, and are willing to hang in and keep trudging forward with God and a few other committed disciples when things get muddy.
I’ve watched a lot of plants and their staff close up over the years. It’s hard to argue with Jim’s list. There are certainly other traits that are important, like resource raiser and the like. But these six are not a bad place to start. It’s a good list for those working to find and deploy church planters.
But my real reason for submitting this post is because I hoped to help God nudge someone forward toward church planting.
Maybe that’s you. If that’s you, let’s talk.