5 Tool Church Planters

I was talking recently to a major leaguer about guys in baseball who are 5 tool guys. For example rookie superstar Mike Trout is a classic “5 tool” player. Image

The 5 tools of baseball are…

1. Running speed


2. Arm strength

3. Hitting for average

4. Hitting for power

5. Fielding

In baseball there are very few guys who are true, “five tool” players and those that are usually end up making millions.

What are the “5 tools” for a church planter? If a church planter had all the tools what would it look like?

The 5 tools of a church planter…

1. Preacher/Communicator – guys who are terrific at communicating and holding the attention of audiences. Let’s face it there are some guys who are better than others when it comes to captivating a crowd with their stage presence and public speaking skills.

2. Administrator/Organizer – this tool allows for a systematic approach to church planting. The person who possesses this tool will have a superior understanding of systems and processes. When you see this tool you might want to think, Nelson Searcy. Over the years I have benefited from his ideas on assimilation and breaking attendance barriers just to mention a few.

3. Pastoral/Care-giver – these guys are able to empathize with the hurting. People with tool #3 are high on compassion and will be great care-givers to the hurting in their congregation.  

4. Disciple/Developer – guys with this tool will be not only great students of the Word of God but also strive to teach and disciple others with a great level of effectiveness. People with a high competency level with tool #4 will be naturally drawn to small groups and investing in individual growth.  

5. Evangelist/Persuader – this person is a natural at gathering a crowd. The man with a high level of competency with tool #5 will most likely be charismatic and comfortable in the company of non-believers. Many of the church planters that have early success are natural evangelist/persuaders.



In baseball there are very few major leaguers who are true “5 tool” players so don’t be surprised that in church planting that there are very few “5 tool” planters. Almost all of us have a deficiency in at least one of these tools. So what are we to do?

1. Lead from your strength. Don’t try to be a watered down version of who God made you. Don’t try to be balanced. Balance is way overrated. Marcus Buckingham has some great thoughts on this in his book, “Now Discover Your Strengths”.

2. Hire to your weaknesses. Don’t make the mistake of hiring people who share your strengths, hire people who compliment your weaknesses. If you are a great Preacher/Communicator but stink at Administrator/Organizer then by all means hire a person who will help you do administration.

3. Remember you have to reach them before you can teach them. While all gifts are important for a church planter I would argue that the ability to build an initial crowd might be one of the most important. I don’t want to underestimate the importance of discipleship – but it’s really hard to disciple the un-reached. Don’t forget that you have to reach-em before you can teach-em.

4. Work hard, take chances, and leave the results to God. Jesus told the parable of the talents in the New Testament. If that parable teaches us anything it teaches that not all of us will be gifted with all “5 tools”. There are 5 talent guys and there are 1 talent guys and everywhere in between. The litmus test for success is not how many talents/tools you have but your willingness to take insane risks, work long days, and display great faith in the God who has called you to plant this church!!!!!  


Life Down on the Farm

I grew up on the farm. Recently I have returned to some of my farming roots by buying a couple of heifers for my daughter to show.

But there is a different type of farm. One that doesn’t have cows and horses. In baseball its called the farm-system. Its where minor league baseball players try to develop their skills  in order to become major league baseball players. This Sunday at our church we have a guest speaker who has spent his fair share of time down on the farm in the Mariners minor league system.

Now, however, I am hearing about a different kind of farm. A farm-system for church planters and I couldn’t be more excited. It’s time to train future church planters so that in the coming days we can pick from the cream of the crop to start the churches that will win our nation to Christ. I have been saying for sometime that we need to recruit the very best to plant future churches. The great need, the heavy investment, and the difficult nature of church planting demands our very best and brightest.

Below is an excerpt from the NAMB website regarding this new kind of farm!

NAMB Farm System

To start re-gaining the ground we have lost over the decades in SBC church-to-population ratios, NAMB has set a net-gain goal of 5,000 SBC congregations by the year 2022. If we do that, it will be the best year Southern Baptists have had in North America in more than a century.

If we are to accomplish this goal, we must start 1,350 new congregations each year—that’s 13,500 churches in a decade. This is just to stay ahead of the number of churches we lose each year and to keep gaining ground on North America’s growing population.

But who is going to start all of those churches? You don’t have to be real good with math to know that if we need 1,350 new churches each year, we are going to need 1,350 church planters every year as well.

I believe that in order to plant 1,350 healthy churches annually, we need to start investing right now in an intentional, church-based “farm system” to train young missionaries who will someday become new church planters. Just like major league baseball’s farm system helps pro baseball players develop and sharpen their skills, this farm system will prepare our next generation of missionaries for the front lines of the mission field.

This next generation of missionaries will advance through three categories:

Student Missionary — These are students in their junior or senior years of college or attending seminary who believe God is calling them to vocational ministry. They will serve for a semester in church plants, local churches or in another SBC ministry and be trained by those who are already doing the work.

Interns — These are those who believe God is calling them to church planting, and they will serve in local church settings. We will be careful to place these young people in churches that are actively involved in planting new churches so they can be prepared for future church planting roles.

Apprentices — This category is for men who’ve been called to plant a church. These men will serve for up to a year in the church planting context under the guidance of an experienced church planter. Because the greatest need for churches in North America primarily lies in areas outside the South, church planting apprentices will serve in the West, Northeast, Midwest or Canada.

Of course, in order to end up with 1,350 new church planters every year, we will need to start with much more than that number of student missionaries and interns. It is to be expected that some will pursue callings other than church planting.

In my next post, I will discuss just what kind of financial commitment it will take from Southern Baptists in order to get this missionary farm system going. And in a later post, I will also discuss the important role churches must play in making it a success.

In the meantime, let’s all be praying for our next generation of missionaries, asking God what role He would have us play in the process.