The Parable of the Church Planter

“The church planted with good dirt hears God’s calling with a noble heart, keeps the mission in focus and bears much fruit.”

Church planting is wonderfully allegorized in the parable of the sower (Luke 8).

The most important attribute of church planting is the character of the dirt (the church planter). Unless he or she is made of good dirt, the church planter may be as wayside soil—the devil comes and takes the vision out of his or her heart.

Rocky soil symbolizes the church planter who hears and receives God’s calling with joy, but having no roots believes for a while, quickly falls away when tempted and quits the mission.

The church planted with thorny soil hears but is choked with the cares, riches and pleasures of life—as church planting requires a great deal of personal sacrifice.

However, the church planted with good dirt hears God’s calling with a noble and pure heart, then keeps the mission in focus and bears fruit with patience.

Wayside church planters most often result from sending the wrong person or persons. For example, I have seen churches send a staff member to plant a church in another community or area just to get rid of that person. If they are bad soil in your garden, what makes you think they will be good in another? The devil takes the vision out of their hearts because the vision was never correctly established. The wayside is the discarded edge of the road. How can this person know the way when he or she is not on the road in the first place?

Rocky church planters are typically the novices of the church, filled with puppylike zeal. Paul clearly warns, regarding the selection of church leaders: “ … Not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil” (1 Tim. 3:6). They are not rooted in the Word, doctrine or church government. How can we expect them to not end up failing or quitting?

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Thorny church planters are not so easily detected; they may have a level of maturity and an appearance of righteousness. Yet, they are too much in love with this world and the things of the world. They may be very successful in their realms: business, building a volunteer ministry, etc. However, they are easily choked with the cares, riches and pleasure of life. Thorny church planters will often have rapid success at first, but they will eventually fall away and bring the church body with them.

Good-dirt church planters are just that—good ground. They are not only hearers of the Word, but doers. They have an ear that leans toward obedience. They are noble in word and deed, accountable, good-hearted people who are willing and ready to serve. They are humble yet do not see themselves as such. The sending church would much rather they stay. Having them move on as church planters is a sacrifice to the sending church.

With all this in mind, here are three principles for planting a church with good, fresh soil.

1. Empower with oversight.

Planted, watered and nurtured seed is more apt to grow strong and yield much fruit than is scattered seed. The church planter is a steward of the church doing the sending. If financial help is given, it should be for a fixed season. Plants cannot stay in the nursery. Accountability is an absolute must.

2. Establish with the proper government.

The planted church should prayerfully establish a doctrinal statement (hopefully in line with the sending church), a mission statement and scriptural bylaws by which the church is to be governed. I personally lean strongly toward an Ephesians 4:11-16 form of government. Nevertheless, let it be according to your faith and mission.

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3. Have a pre-established plan for growth.

Weeds grow on their own. An orderly garden is cultivated. Most likely, the sending church is a growing church; begin with that church’s model if possible. Nothing matches word of mouth, personal invitation, friends and family inviting friends and family. They will come because of you; they will stay because of Christ.

During my travels and observations of churches, I have found church planting to be the most effective method for the spreading of the gospel. From New York to California, from China to Cuba, the church is multiplying exponentially via church planting.

Consider church planting at home and abroad. There are some wonderful organizations successfully planting churches where no churches exist. One such organization is World Help (w. In the last 25 years, World Help has partnered in the planting of more than 75,000 churches, impacting nearly 76 million people.

There can be no harvest without planting. It is time to plant.

Tony Foglio is a pastor, church planter, businessman and author of Discover the Bible: Journey Through the Bible As It Was Meant to Be Read (Thomas Nelson, 2004). For more information, go to