Initial Steps of Church Planting (with Pastor Stanley Mehta)
Pastor Priji converses with Pastor Stanley Mehta on the initial steps of church planting as he shares few tips and strategies of the process and the growth of a church.
Pastor Priji:If I have to ask you to share a success story of a particular church plant and give us a few tips and strategies from there, which story would you think of the most?
Pastor Stanley:There are different reasons and different ways churches get planted. Basically, it starts by our regular ministry which inspires and motivates people to consider church planting. Some churches are planted by accident but a good number of churches are planted intentionally. Perhaps, I can tell you one story of something that has happened intentionally.
Pastor Priji:Where did this happen? Who did God use in this process?
Pastor Stanley:I was based in Mumbai and we had a young man who went through our Mini Bible College and he did attempt to start something in suburbs of Mumbai. He was partly successful, but at one point, he felt he wanted to go to another city and consider planting. His name is Karan Thomas.
Pastor Priji:What is the growth rate of this particular church? How long did it take for the church to be really effectively planted and how many people are actually impacted right now?
Pastor Stanley: A little under 3 years ago, Karan relocated to Hinjewadi in the suburbs of Pune where he attempted to start a church, and the church has grown from almost nothing to 100 plus as of today.
Pastor Priji:Can you tell us how did he start? How did he hear from God that this where he has to go to? What were the first initial steps that he took in this process?
Pastor Stanley: When he was in Andheri, there were various factors which limited him and he felt he wanted to get out of Mumbai and plant a church. As he prayed about it, Pune came to his mind, and the more he prayed, he felt good about Pune from the Lord, and he asked few of us, and we all endorsed it, and he went to Pune, shortlisted half a dozen spots and met the local leaders in Pune, and they gave him suggestions, and from those feedback, he narrowed down to Hinjewadi.
Pastor Priji:Did he have people when he went or did he have to start from the scratch or did have people moving along with him to start the church?
Pastor Stanley:He was all by himself and nobody else locally was either available for him to start with.
Pastor Priji:How did he start connecting with the people locally? What did he do to reach and develop his contact base in that place? How was his experience?
Pastor Stanley:Hinjewadi is a newly developed IT hub and bulks of the people are non-locals who come from different cities in India. Basically, the young IT professionals were his target group. He rented out a decent flat. He went to all the coffee shops and food courts, and he would try and pick conversations with people in the adjacent tables, invited them to his house for tea and then he launched out the Church on Sunday morning with just a handful of people.
Pastor Priji:How did people usually respond when he introduced Jesus?
Pastor Stanley: These people being kind of Indian expatriates come from different cities, they were always looking for connections and friendship, so he created a family atmosphere, and though the meeting time was just an hour and half on Sunday afternoon, people began to hangout longer and longer, and in that atmosphere, he began to share about Jesus.
Pastor Priji:Is there anymore that you would add to?
Pastor Stanley:He himself learned and a launched a very basic website for the church. Newcomers to Hinjewadi would go on Google and search him out and began to come to his place. They saw him at close quarters and found him having an authentic message and they listened to him. Once he grew to about 25 people, he relocated to a conference room, and once he moved there, the rate at which people began to come to this new place increased even more. Today, they are crossing 100, and on certain occasions, he has even touched 120 people.
Pastor Priji: What are the ways in which a new church planter can raise funds, what would you suggest?
Pastor Stanley:In this church planting endeavour, he is not going out by himself alone, we are sending him, so we stand committed to support him until he is totally on his own. It looks like the way he is growing by next year most likely he will stand on his own.
Pastor Priji:Did he bring guest speakers to minister or was he ministering all the time? How did it help?
Pastor Stanley:Initially he was so committed that out of 85 Sundays, he never missed a single Sunday. Then, he also invited guest speakers from our network of churches. The guest speakers also gave him periodic advice and feedback on the ground. He fine-tuned very regularly and it made him grow very well.
Pastor Priji:How easy was it to raise leaders in a brand new church? What advice would you give to those that are setting up churches from the scratch? When you should start raising leaders?
Pastor Stanley:Eventually when it picked up numbers, he started midweek cell groups. The first 4 cell groups he only was the leader of those groups. Raising of leader is a combination of a number of things; there is teaching, personal discipleship, cell groups and combined effect of all this eventually causes some leadership to emerge. As the time has gone, Karen was able to handover some of these cell groups to another leader. Interestingly, he is now not running a single group himself and he has also appointed a new Assistant Pastor.
Pastor Priji: You have written a book on raising leaders, could you just introduce that book?
Pastor Stanley:Over the years, I have had the privilege to learn on the subject called disciplining and that equipped to train and disciple other people. Number of people told me to write a book, so I sat down and wrote the book called “The Art of Raising Leaders”.
Pastor Priji:How do you keep yourself occupied in this season of your life where you do not have an active church ministry but you are raising leaders and what are the things that you are committed to in this season of your life?
Pastor Stanley:Our ministry is called Gateway Ministries International. When I turned 62, I handed over the ministry to one of my spiritual son, and now, he looks after all the network of churches, and I have relocated to Bangalore, but I still guide them and write books on my leisure time. I am like a support system. My vision is to help my church leaders to fulfill their vision.
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