What makes a church planter different than a [church] pastor?
This is really a good question. If we don't, we may assume that there is no difference, or that the differences are very minute? There are certainly a lot of overlaps. Scripture doesn't distinguish with a list; in fact, we affirm lay leaders and professional pastors need to have lives that reflect 1 Timothy 3:1-7. But ultimately what sets lay leaders from pastors is what sets pastors from planters apart: gifting and calling.
"And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ"
One is no better than another. We need all for the "building up" of the body of Christ.
So what specifically sets apart a church planter? Ed Stetzer lists several qualifications that planting organizations and denominations look for in his book Planting Missional Churches.
- Visioning capacity–the ability to imagine the future, to persuade other persons to become involved in that dream, and to bring the vision into reality.
- Intrinsically motivated–that one approaches ministry as a self-starter, and commits to excellence through hard work and determination.
- Creates ownership of ministry–one instills in other a sense of personal responsibility for the growth and success of the ministry and trains leaders to reproduce other leaders.
- Relates to the unchurched–develops rapport and breaks through barriers with unchurched people, encouraging them to examine and to commit themselves to a personal walk with God.
- Spousal cooperation–a marital partnership in which church planting couples agree on ministry priorities, each partner's role and involvement, and the integration and balance of ministry with family life.
- Effectively builds relationships–the skill to take initiative in meeting people and deepening relationships as a basis for more effective ministry.
- Committed to church growth–congregational development as a means for increasing the number and quality of disciples.
- Responsiveness to the community–abilities to adapt one's ministry to the culture and needs of the target area residents.
- Uses the giftedness of others–equips and releases other people to minister on the basis of their spiritual giftedness.
- Flexible and adaptable–adjusts to change and ambiguity, shifts priorities when necessary, and handles multiple tasks at the same time. This leader can adapt to surprises and emergencies.
- Builds group cohesiveness–one who enables the group to work collaboratively toward common goals, and who skillfully manages divisiveness and disunifying elements.
- Demonstrates resilience–the ability to sustain himself emotionally, spiritually, and physically through setbacks, losses, disappointments, and failures.
- Exercises faith–translates personal convictions into personal and ministry decisions and resulting actions.
A pastor may have some of these and even all of these giftings, but a church planters must possess all and to a higher degree than one who is called to the non-planting pastorate. No. 12, for example: a pastor certainly has to be resilient to the congregant who doesn't like the pace of the hymns sung on Sunday–and never does–but a planter has to be faced with the reality that though he may have been good friends with a neighbor, gym partner, drinking buddy, that person may never come to church after a year, or maybe two or three. But the planter loves him just the same.