Church planting is a heavy task. As hard as the work may be, churches must still be planted. There are very few events and activities which happen without passing through certain stages. Before someone can become the president of Zambia he must belong to a political party and stand for presidency. He must also be nominated for presidency and eventually voted into office. These are some of the stages to becoming a Zambian president. Even in a marriage set up, a man and woman will have to pass through a courtship stage, dowry (lobola) stage, engagement stage, and eventually into the wedding. The same is true about church planting. If you are planting a church, you will have to engage in certain vital stages. So what are these vital stages of church planting? Let us look at them.


The first stage of church planting is evangelism. Before we go any further, it is important to understand what evangelism is. In doing so, let us first state what it is not. Evangelism is not just inviting someone to church. Even though inviting someone to church could be the first step in evangelising them, it is not evangelism nonetheless. We should not end at telling someone to visit us at church. Besides, how many of the people you have invited to church have turned up? Few or none, isn’t it? Very often those who have turned up are those we evangelised to. Worse still, when you invite someone to church and the message preached has nothing to do with repentance; the person goes away without hearing that there is a Saviour. Apart from inviting people to church, evangelism is not sweet talk. Evangelising is not telling someone that Jesus loves them or that if they continue to do good things they will go to heaven. As someone once said, “That is a back door to hell.” That is killing souls before they even die.

So then, what is evangelism? It is presenting and proclaiming Jesus Christ as Saviour. It is presenting the good news of salvation through faith in Christ. If you take a look at the book of Acts, the disciples were not sweet talking people or just inviting people to church. They were preaching and teaching salvation through faith in Christ. On the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2, Peter stood up and gave the first sermon after the coming of the promised Holy Spirit. Surely, when you read through that passage, Peter is not telling people to come to church or that they will go to heaven if they stop doing evil and start doing good. He presented Christ to them. In chapter 3 he did the same thing after healing the lame man.

In Acts chapter 4, Peter and the other apostles are arrested for preaching and teaching Christ. Stephen is stoned in chapter 7 for preaching Jesus Christ. Philip, went to Samaria in chapter 8 and preached Christ. When Paul gets converted in Chapter 9, the next thing you see him do is to preach Jesus. Read through all the chapters in the book of Acts and you will notice the same thing. These disciples sat down with people and presented Jesus as Saviour. From the scriptures, they showed to people   that Jesus was the promised Son of God. They explained that he died for the sins of men and that whoever believes in him would be saved. That is what we mean when we say let us evangelise. This is a vital stage in church planting, and it must be understood correctly otherwise you may not plant a church, but rather you will end up planting a synagogue of Satan.

Why evangelism? Why should we go around telling people that Jesus saves? I know there are many reasons we could come up with. However, in church planting situations I will suggest three reasons:

First, it is a command. I am sure you know this by now. So I will not spend much time explaining this. Jesus, our master, gave us a command. The command is to make disciples. The first stage of making disciples is winning the disciple. We must win souls to Christ and then disciple them. Apart from Christ being the commander in chief, the assigning church has Christ’s delegated authority to charge the missionary to do nothing else, but win disciples for Christ. Therefore, we are doing it in obedience to Christ’s command, but also in obedience and faithfulness to the sending church that has the God’s authority to send the missionary.

Second, we do so because it is the only medicine for the sick soul. The community in which the missionary is sent to minister must never be taken lightly. As long as there are people in that community, there are sick souls that need Jesus. He is the right medication for both the lost and saved souls. If you give them anything else apart from Christ, then you kill them. You actually speed up the death process. No wonder Peter told the elders, scribes and rulers, “Salvation is in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by whom we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Third, there must be evangelism taking place because we are in the age when false teachers surround us. There are people in the communities who have been told salvation is a result of giving tithes and offering, or “sowing the seed,” as some would put it. There are others who have been told that they do not need Jesus Christ to save them and that they should just follow the 10 commandments. Still, there are some men and women whom Christ calls ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’ who are teaching that salvation is being free from sickness and gaining much wealth. As a missionary church planter, you have to set this right. You must evangelise in order to present the true gospel.

What are some of the approaches used in evangelising? How do we go about it?  There is what is called the one-on-one approach. This is where you sit with an individual and show them from the Scriptures, the way of salvation. Usually, it happens when you visit someone who visited your church or when you go on a door-to-door outreach and someone invites you into their home to share the word with them. The one-on-one approach is sometimes referred to as door-to-door. The door-to-door outreach happens when you visit a particular neighbourhood and go from house to house sharing the word. You can do one-on-one in many other situations when the opportunity arises.

The other approach is evangelism through church ministries. This is where you start up ministries in church and begin to reach out to the community through them. This would usually happen when the church has a lot of people. It could be a challenge if the missionary is just getting started because he is alone. But when a few more people start coming in, this tends to be more effective. For example, if the missionary starts a children’s ministry, it will be that ministry that will come up with activities that will help reach out to the children in that particular community. The gospel is then shared with the children through those activities. In this way, you cover a large group of people and all kinds of people. You can reach married people, the children, the youth, the prisoners, the orphans, the homeless, the prostitutes, the men, and the women in a short period of time.

There is also the Bible study approach. This is where you hold Bible studies in the home of an individual. This turns to work out well because you can have an in-depth study.  When the listeners begin to love the word, they invite their friends and neighbours and you start to get a bigger audience.

Last, there is pulpit evangelism. This is when the pastor deliberately preaches a series of evangelistic messages. The members are encouraged to invite people to church because the sermons are evangelistic, and when someone comes to church they will not sit and listen to the pastor preaching on perseverance of the saints. Instead, you are sure that repentance and forgiveness of sins will be proclaimed.

The results: What are the results of effective evangelism? Effective evangelism markets the church. I know some do not like to think about church in this way, but it is true. The mention of the word “market” causes some to think about a profit-making business. To market the church here means that people in the community are made aware of the presence of the church. As you go evangelising, some people will want to know where you worship and where the church building is located. As a result, you market yourselves as a church. It is the same as putting up billboards only that this time you are killing two birds with one stone: You are presenting Jesus as Saviour and telling people by way of mouth where you are found. You see this with the church at Antioch in Acts 11. The Bible tells us that it was in the church at Antioch where the disciples were first called Christians. Why was it so? It was because they “marketed” themselves as followers of Christ.  The same needs to happen in church planting. The community to which we are called to minister must identify us with Christ and as a result know about our church.

The other effect of evangelism is church growth. If you analyse carefully, a church that does not evangelise is a church that does not grow. I know there are many other reasons why some churches do not grow, but among the many others, lack of evangelism is on the top.  It does not matter which one you embark on. It may be through pulpit evangelism, door-to-door or ministry evangelism. If none of these are happening then  do not expect to grow as a Church. Again, let me refer to the disciples in the book of Acts. Many times in the book of Acts, you find these phrases: “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47) or  “And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women” (Acts 5:14) or “Now in those days, when disciples were increasing in number…” (Acts 6:1). The reason for the Lord adding to their numbers was obvious. They were taking the gospel to the lost and God was saving the lost.

So we need evangelism in church planting for these reasons.  If we must plant churches and desire to see steady growth, we must evangelize.


Another stage in church planting is discipleship. Winning the souls to Christ is not the end. You must now groom and prepare them for the work of ministry. Is this not what the Lord said we should do? He said we should make disciples. Not just winning souls, but making disciples.

What is discipleship? What are we doing when we are discipling believers? In discipleship, we are training Christians, especially new converts, to be like Jesus. It is a well-known saying that a disciple is a follower. However, the people the missionary will be discipling are neither followers nor cadres of a president nor are they followers of a soccer icon. They are followers of Jesus Christ. So the pastor or the person assigned to disciple others must train the Christians to be like the one they follow.

Three things are involved. There is theoretical teaching, practical teaching and there is serving. Let us look at each of them.

In the first place, there is theoretical teaching. This is when the missionary pastor teaches disciples doctrines of Scripture. He arranges a time when he can meet with this individual for the purpose of imparting into him a measure of grace. The disciple learns from the pastor. In a church where there are other men or women who are able to teach the converts, the pastor can delegate the lessons to those individuals. However, the pastor is likely to be the one doing all this in the early stages of church planting.

Teaching is a very big part of discipleship. It is actually the defining factor. In Matt 5:2 when Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount, the Scripture says,  “And he opened his mouth and taught them…” Jesus taught his disciples. They needed to know how to go about life. They needed to know who God is and how he deals with people. They needed to know who Jesus is. When you look at the church at Antioch after its birth, there was one important activity of the church that was happening. Barnabas and Paul spent one whole year teaching the believers. Not that they were not doing anything else, but the major activity that was happening was the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry by teaching them. “So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the Church and taught a great many people…” (Acts 11:25-26). These are d the same words mentioned by the apostle Paul to young Timothy.  Paul says, “And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). There again, you see the word “teach.” Teaching is imparting. Much of the discipleship will happen in the teaching. Even when you as the teacher are not around, the disciple is able to live out what he has learnt. That is how it has been and should be. Jesus taught the apostles who also taught others, who also taught you and me, and we also must teach others.

There is also the practical teaching, which should happen. What do I mean by this? The one being discipled should see the missionary pastor practicing what they teach. The disciple should see the pastor walking the talk. If the pastor teaches about the fruit of the Spirit and does not demonstrate it in the way he lives, his teaching has failed practically. Theoretically, he may have done it well but if he does not implement it then that discipleship is dead. Much of the discipleship will also happen when the teacher is pouring out  their life into the convert.

Jesus walked the talk. We see him washing the disciple’s feet. We see him loving his disciples. We see him praying and serving the Father.  We see him dying for the sins of the believers. This is what Paul said to the believers in Thessalonica, “…you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord for you received the word in much affliction with the joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 1:5b-6). Paul lived out what he taught. He discipled the believers in Thessalonica and they observed how he lived his life. No wonder he said, “you know what kind of men we proved to be.”  He was not talking about theory but practice. The Bible says the believers became “imitators of Paul and of the Lord.” What did they imitate? It was the life of Paul. The way he talked, the way he dressed, and the time he spent in prayer and general conduct. He was an example of a real Christian. He demonstrated his faith practically.

Apart from the teaching, discipleship also takes place through serving. This is when the Christian begins to serve in the church. The more time the missionary spends with the convert, he will notice certain areas of giftedness. It is therefore wise to help the learner to begin to serve in the church in line with their giftedness. As the learner/disciple serves, the teacher observes. If there are any areas in which the learner needs assistance, the pastor assists and takes into consideration the character of the disciple. Some people are fast learners while others are slow. Some are introverts while others are extroverts. For female converts, it is wise to ask mature ladies to do the discipleship. These are ladies who are growing in their walk with Jesus Christ. Entrusting other females to them protects the integrity of Christianity. The accusations that go with discipling members of the opposite sex are avoided.

Some things to Consider: One of the major factors to consider in discipleship is the method of discipleship especially during the theory stage. Sometimes it is easy to give a book to someone to read, but that does not usually work out well. Not many people are good readers. Some of the converts have never taken interest in reading. So after a week you ask them whether they read the book or not and the response is usually negative. Sometimes this is where unnecessary misunderstandings arise between the church planter and the members. The pastor starts to think the young lady or young man is not serious.

Therefore, a one-on-one approach works well. It is good for disciplers to sit with those they disciple one-on-one. This also gives room for the learners to ask questions where they do not understand. If you choose to use the book method then let it be in such a way that you arrange a day when you can meet and discuss what has been read. In that way, the disciple will not be left hanging. The materials or book given to read might be hard meat to chew for someone who is still at the milk stage.

What must the study material look like? The material must include doctrine, Christian life, and church practice.  By doctrine, I mean teachings on systematic theology. The Christian needs to know these things. He must know about God, the person of Jesus Christ, the angels, salvation, atonement, the church, the end times, the Holy Spirit and many others.  He must be given books to read about Christian life. He must be encouraged to slowly build a library. He must also be taught church practice, attending church meetings, prayer sessions, and so on.

Another matter to consider is the location for the discipleship lessons. Should it be at Church, at home, or a neutral place? I don’t think the location matters as long as you have each other’s attention. Of course you will not have the lessons at a funeral. So wisdom also comes into play.  If you are in a noisy place then definitely it may not work out well. You can disciple someone over a meal or as you go to the mall. This may not be the study kind, but the discussion type of meeting. When it comes to studying you are better off in a quiet place where there can be enough concentration.

Apart from the location you may also need to consider the language and literacy levels of the people you disciple. Sometimes, we assume every person can read and understand English, but it is not always the case. I remember chatting with a young man as I led him through the baptismal notes. I noticed he kept using Bemba as he spoke so I adjusted to Bemba as well. I could see from his face that he felt relieved. He became very jovial all of a sudden. Had I gone on speaking English he probably would have sunk in his seat. So taking note of literacy levels and language is also very important. Some easily get put off when you do not take notice that they are struggling with the language.

Finally, it is good to take note of the gender. If the teacher is male then having closed door lessons with a female may not be a wise approach. For the sake of testimony let a woman do it. If not, then do it in an open area.

When discipleship is real and effective you will see a zealous church. You will not have to plead with people to come for meetings and church services. The desire to know the truth and live it out will bring them. Members will faithfully serve in church. You will also see a reasonable growth because they will be the ones reaching others. You will build a team of soldiers of the cross as result. They will go into the battlefield and win souls for Christ.


So far we have seen the evangelism and the discipleship stages. Finally, we consider the leadership development stage. I must state that this is not as easy as it seems. It is probably the most difficult stage. You must identify leaders, train them and let them serve.

Why leadership development? I have heard some people say that some people are born leaders. I do not think so. People develop into leaders. Some personalities have an advantage, but no one is born a leader. Even when you were still a baby, parents would teach you how to do certain things. As you grew up, they gave you certain responsibilities to do and slowly you grew into a responsible person. Leadership is equally a learning process. Sometimes you make mistakes and pick up the pieces and move forward. Those who are managing directors of companies or presidents will tell you that they did not graduate from secondary school and suddenly become what they are. They had to pass through some stages of development. Certain bad habits had to be panel beaten out of them. Mind-sets had to be changed and with time they became good leaders. It is the same with church leaders. The fact that they are saved does not make them angels and instant leaders. They must be trained into leaders.

David was assigned to look after the sheep by his father, Jesse. As he was shepherding the sheep, he was being developed into a leader. The apostles did not just become good leaders suddenly. There were men like Thomas who doubted the Lord. Peter was very stubborn and denied the Lord Jesus three times.  James and John showed their selfishness by asking the Lord to seat on his left and right hand in the kingdom. But it was the wisdom of Jesus that took these men through and shaped them into the leaders they became.

In the early stages of leadership development you have to identify potential leaders. You must spot them. At this point, the missionary has not given anyone powers. He simply assigns tasks to certain individuals who show leadership qualities. He then advises them on what to do. This is a time when most of the men in the church are given tasks. It is from these men that the missionary begins to pick the leaders. During this time, some will serve well while others will prove their inadequacy.

Meetings: Regular meetings are also held to sharpen areas of weakness. It is in those meetings in which leadership qualities are discussed. The pastor may choose a book on leadership and have a book review with his potential leaders. He can hold seminars on leadership and have studies on how to lead a prayer meeting or Bible study. These meetings act like discipleship lessons. They help the missionary and the people to bond. They also help to see commitment from the potential leaders. Again, like discipleship, a lot of teaching is involved in these meetings.

Observing: This is another stage in the leadership development. After a while, there are some men who will show real qualities of leadership. These are the men you know can make good elders. You have taught them. You have given them to lead Bible studies and prayer meetings and they have done well. The observing stage is where you let them lead while you look on.

Prayer: This is the most important part of leadership development. You don’t want to have a leadership that will wreak the church. Being human you have limitations. You may see a certain good or bad habit in someone and hence make a wrong choice of either including or excluding the individual from leadership. When you pray, you are asking God to lead you to those people/members whom he knows have a heart to serve. Men love positions of authority. Even those who know they are incapable of leading pretend as if they are able. Sometimes it is the preference of the missionary to prefer  a certain individual, but is not aware of certain things about this person.. In prayer, we are asking God to lead us to the right people who are full of the Spirit and of faith.

Are you considering church planting? If yes, then when you do get into that position, do not forget these vital stages. They look simple, but can be very helpful when taken into consideration. God bless.