Church Planter, Your Words Matter

Gary Oldman gives a stellar performance as Churchill in Darkest Hour. With the threat of German invasion and pressure to pursue a negotiated peace with Hitler, the Prime Minister gives an historic speech. The effect is electric. His political nemesis, Viscount Halifax, is asked what happened. He responds, “He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.”

Winston Churchill makes a fascinating leadership study. His courageous wartime leadership offers loads of lessons. Let’s settle on one: the power of the spoken word. Churchill used the power of the spoken word to fortify fearful Brits and call a country to action.

Cast a Compelling Vision

Church planters need to be aware of the power of the spoken word in pre-launch settings—casting vision for a new faith community fused together to work for the welfare of the city. Planters meeting with leaders of missional communities inspiring them to love, serve and bless their neighborhoods need to be alert to the life-giving potential of their words. However, as I sat in the movie theater with my son, stirred by the depiction of cigar chomping Churchill, I was not drawn to visioning capacity.

Charles Ridley, regarded by some as the Yoda of church planting, identified “visionizing capacity” as part of his rubric for assessing would be planters. In C2C Network, we use Church Leader Inventory designed by J. Allen Thomson with its focus on 10 dimensions of a church planter. One of those dimensions is “visioning capacity.” What does this look like? This dimension is seen in church leaders who inspire others with a compelling vision of what God is doing and can do through the power of the gospel and the unified strategies of his people in a particular community. They awaken within others a desire to serve sacrificially. They are able to articulate a compelling goal and motivate others toward a future outcome. They can identify the resources and gifts available and align them for effective ministry.

Clearly, this is an important dimension for a planter wanting to launch a new work for the glory of God and the sake of the world. This dimension is vital in keeping the mission of ministry leaders and congregations true and vital for addressing mission drift. But Gary Oldman’s Churchill inspired me about a more foundational discipline.

I was inspired by Winston Churchill’s wartime oratory. As I watched Darkest Hour I was reminded my homeland faced a huge genuine threat. I was struck by the courage, heroism and sacrifice of those who fought against Hitler. I was also reminded of the power of words. Churchill used words to address and diffuse those who would undermine his leadership. He used words to infuse hope in the hearts of the British people. He used words to call people to a cause far greater than themselves.

Your Words Matter

I was also reminded that words really matter. Churchill’s oratory made an historic difference. Words count. Paul knew this. The gospel veteran wrote, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Rom. 10:17). Paul is convinced of the power of the gospel (Rom. 1:16) and the necessity of preaching the gospel (Rom. 10:17). Paul cites Isaiah the prophet as a reminder of the privilege and power of announcing the good news. “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” (Rom. 10:14–15).

Church planters need to lay claim to the ancient and timeless art of proclaiming the Word of God in season and out of season. Planters need to commit to winsome and bold gospel proclamation. You have beautiful feet and God has called you to be a herald of his gospel. Lives can be transformed through the foolishness of your preaching.

If I had $10 for every time some would-be sage invoked St. Francis of Assisi and said, “Preach the gospel all the times; if necessary use words,” then I would be a wealthy man. I have read it on CD sleeves and books and heard these words dropped from the pulpit and in conversations. However, these words are mythical. Saint Francis, who was part of a preaching order and may have preached up to 12 times a day, never said them. They represent a post-Christian antipathy towards truth claims and a pushback against authoritative proclamation.

Your words matter. Your pulpit ministry, your formal and informal preaching and teaching can make a profound difference in the lives of your hearers. As you lift up King Jesus who is strong and mighty to save, wobbly saints can be strengthened, backsliders restored, prodigals run home and unbelievers put their trust and confidence in Jesus. Preach the gospel. Take every opportunity to preach the gospel. Keep preaching the gospel and use words because they are necessary.

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Bill Hogg
Bill Hogg

Bill Hogg is the national missiologist for the C2C Network, where he shares his passion to help leaders and established churches think and act like missionaries.