5 Lessons From an Unlikely Church Planter

Brian Bolt: “God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called.”

3. Acts of compassion open doors.

Acts of compassion are powerful avenues we use to reach new cities. A year before we plant a church, we go into the community to serve the people. We believe in being the hands and feet of Jesus in communities that desperately need a touch from God. We love, serve and reach people. Through these acts of compassion, God opens door after door.

Recently, CityReach Network partnered with Convoy of Hope to do our first “Day of Hope.” The day before we launched 13 new churches, we had 10 outreach sites in 10 of our launching communities. At these “Day of Hope” events, we gave out free groceries and offered healthcare services as well as other practical resources. We brought together businesses and nonprofit ministries to offer their services for free that day at this large carnival-style event complete with face painting and inflatables. Parents received prayer and help for their families. Collectively, these 10 events served more than 20,000 people. The next day, we launched 13 new CityReach churches, and many of those who served in our “Day Of Hope” event showed up for church.

4. Giving away the “win” helps win friends.

Growing up, I loved watching basketball, and I always loved the players that were passers, not just scorers. I loved the players that could give an assist, not just dunk. One of the things we do at CityReach is assist our partners with the win.

Honestly, there’s no way that we could be planting as many churches as we are without the collaboration of many partner organizations in the process. We tell them, “Claim these plants as your own. You don’t have to mention our name. You can claim these church plants as your success.” When we give away the “win,” we please God, work together more seamlessly and accomplish a greater result.

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We led with compassion ministry in the second church we planted in Braddock, Penn. Before the church began, lead planter Jon Shaffer held outreach and community events in cooperation with the local mayor. This mayor, an atheist, wanted nothing to do with God. But he was so impressed with the church’s service to the community that he began donating the use of buildings to the church. He even personally donated a house in the city, so that Jon and his family could afford to live in town.

When we go into a community with a heart of service toward people, we’re able to win friends among those who might typically consider us “enemies.” We’re able to work together with people from all types of backgrounds to provide help for the poor and minister to those who are broken and in need.

5. Everyone needs to submit to someone.

You can’t be a great leader until you’re a great follower. You can never have authority until you come under authority. I believe these principles and try to practice them.

I have had the honor of being under Jeff Leake (pastor of Allison Park in Hampton, Penn.) for nearly 10 years now. He is a spiritual authority in my life and also a spiritual father. As I submitted to Jeff, God continued to bless my obedience to the authority he placed in my life. There’s nothing like leading something with the knowledge of a spiritual father’s covering. There is safety in counsel.

We believe this is key to the churches we plant as well. We want to pastor the planters and their families. We want them to see CityReach Network as their family. And we teach that you cannot be fully blessed unless you are fully submitted to someone else.

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Ultimately, my prayer is that Jesus remains at the center of our lives and ministry. Our heart and mission is to reach the “one” who is far from God and help them become a passionate follower of Jesus.