Adam Ramsey is a new church planter in Australia. I met him while he worked at Mars Hill in Seattle with students.
He has been unusually fruitful in his first year (he is seven months in) planting Liberti Church so I asked him if he would allow me to interview him so that other current or future church planters could learn from him.
Adam is quick to give all glory to Jesus for what is happening and how he is being led and empowered in what he has been called to do.
1. Dave: You are in your first year of planting a church on the Gold Coast, Australia. What are some of the important lessons you are learning up to this point that you would like to pass along?
Adam: First would be establishing healthy rhythms. I think it was Rick Warren who said that most leaders overestimate what they can do in one year, and underestimate what they can do in ten years. The temptation to run at break-neck speed during the first year is huge. I am learning just how important the rhythms of prayer, time in the Word, and regularly laughing with my wife and kids is to long term sustainability. It is also critical to establish these rhythms early on in the plant, otherwise you end up scheduling your priorities out of guilt (what everyone else thinks you should do) rather than conviction (what Jesus has called you to do).
Also, presence and kindness. It's one thing to love to preach (and I really do love to preach!), but it's a better thing to love those to whom you preach. For those of us who spend a lot of time opening our mouths and talking into microphones, it's essential that we also spend a decent amount of time closing our mouths and compassionately listening to those in our care. In fact, I'd say it's about time that the massively under-rated attribute of 'kindness' makes a comeback into our leadership vocabulary...
2. Dave: Every church planter wants to be fruitful and effective. What would you say are the qualities/characteristics a good church planter would need to possess or acquire?
Adam: As Liberti moves closer toward our goal of becoming a church-planting church, the following are five qualities that I believe are non-negotiable when it comes to what a fruitful church planter must be:
1 Self-forgetful: He has got to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this church is not about him. He must be able to say with Paul, "For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake" (2 Cor 4:5)
2 Tenacious: Effective church planters have grit. Anyone who has planted a church will tell you it is really, really, really hard. And they're right. A fruitful church planter needs to be able to take a hit, navigate disappointment (continually), guard their heart, and resolve to keep moving forward on Jesus' mission. And that's just by Monday afternoon.
3 Thankful: As more and more Gen Y/Millennials are planting churches, this one is a big one. We are a generation that is marked by entitlement. A thankful person is a powerful and subversive witness in an entitled world. If you want to walk in joy during the difficulties of planting a church, learn to cultivate a spirit of gratefulness for every evidence of God's grace you see around you. Grumblers and pessimists never make great church planters. If the gospel is true, we have lots to do and nothing to prove.
4 Empowering: The way to do more ministry is to multiply the number of people who are ministering. The most common bottleneck in a church plant is the inability of the lead guy to release control and "equip the saints for the work of the ministry" (Ephesians 4:12). Great church planters seem to be the ones who learn the importance of building great teams.
5 An Engaging Bible Preacher: Martyn Lloyd-Jones famously described preaching as “theology coming through a man who is on fire.” An effective church planter must not only possess the truth of God's Word; the truth of God's Word must possess him. The sincerity of his tone must not betray the majesty of God's truth. Every single Sunday-- whatever the text or topic--he must get to the Cross and winsomely preach Jesus as the hero.
3. Dave: Is there a certain personality type that makes a good church planter or can any type of personality be fruitful?
Adam: Possibly, but not necessarily. I think any personality type can be a fruitful church planter so long as the above five qualities are intact and they surround themselves with a diversity of personalities in their leadership team. One doesn't need to be naturally charismatic or an extrovert to be a good planter. I know a ton of introverts (like me!) who have planted healthy churches.
4. Dave: Take a stab at what an average week of a new church planter should look like; what he does and how he allocates his time
Adam: During the first couple of months, I spent the bulk of my time face-to-face across coffee tables with people...listening to their stories, sharing the vision of Liberti, and praying with them. I'd recommend going into the church plant with a few months worth of sermons already prepped (or at least sermon material you can re-work) so that you can spend the bulk of your time early on gathering people, building relationships, training leaders, and leading by example with living out Jesus' mission.
Now we are seven months in and my schedule is starting to balance out a little more. Below is a rough outline of what my typical week looks like as a church planter:
Sundays: Prayer, prep, and setup for church! I also take a few hours each Sunday to think through our future direction and strategy, plus we do a monthly dinner and leadership training with all our leaders.
Mondays: We start our week as a team by cooking a couple hundred pancakes for university students on campus. Over time, the natural tendency of churches is to drift inward in their focus. We want to start our week by loving and serving our community, along with building relationships with non-Christians. The rest of the day is team meetings, operations and admin.
Tuesday: Sermon prep and writing content for Life Groups.
Wednesday: Sermon prep. Life Group at night.
Thursday: Pastoral care meetings with church members and new people for most of the day, followed by 'Prayer and Theology' at night.
Friday: Rest, read, and date my wife.
Saturday: Family fun.
5. Dave: What is the single hardest aspect of church planting that the aspiring planter needs to be aware of?
Adam: Making sure that their identity is not attached to the church plant. A misplaced identity and an ego that feeds on the success of the church plant is the cause of a thousand other problems. Brennan Manning wrote some of the most helpful words that I wish I could share with every church planter and leader. He said, "Ambition to be a star in the Body of Christ is alluring and seductive; it is also demonic, the glamorous enemy of servanthood and love."