Studying the book of Isaiah, I found a description of how God tended to Israel, and realized that I could find principles applicable to planting and building a new church.
Now let me sing to my Well-beloved
A song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard:
My Well-beloved has a vineyard
On a very fruitful hill.
He dug it up and cleared out its stones,
And planted it with the choicest vine.
He built a tower in its midst,
And also made a winepress in it;
So He expected it to bring forth good grapes,
But it brought forth wild grapes.
From this passage, I find the following progression of principles
1. Pick a site
Location is important. Notice that He picked a site ‘on a fruitful hill.’ Not that we should always pick an ‘easy’ spot, but if for the gospel’s sake we want a strategic, influential or advantageous location, that is merely being ‘wiser than the children of this world’ (Luke 16:1-13). It is important to thoughtfully, prayerfully, and strategically pick a good site.
2. Prepare the site
Sometimes, the ‘right’ place is a place that needs some cleanup. Also, of course, you need to prepare for launch and ongoing operations once people are attending.
Planting is work! You gotta work hard in a short amount of time to get the initial planting done. Initial launch is tough, but exciting if you can maintain that perspective!
Watering and fertilizing are implied in any agricultural venture, even though this is not explicit in this passage. Caring for your plants is what pastors do – or ought to. Churches are about discipleship, not numbers. But you know that.
Traditional vineyard watchtowers were built to watch for thieves, both animal and human. Modern church thieves mostly come in the form of divisive or bad doctrine introduced into small groups. A well-trained small group leader will know how to artfully manage certain problem personalities.
There should be regular seasons of work and rest in any healthy church, and perhaps annually, we ought to press our churches to help with outreach, both evangelistic and service. Pressing people to be fruitful can be done without gentleness, and too often can be abused if too frequent, but done in season, can lead to a sense of meaning and accomplishment and value.