My first year in the Philippines – 24  years ago – I was young and clueless about church planting, ministry and life in general. But I had a big vision and wanted to establish the kind of church that would eventually make a difference in my community (U-Belt), my new city (Metro Manila), the Philippines and the world.

At the time I was part of a bold church planting and campus ministry. Most of our churches and campus ministries were small. For some reason, I knew I was called to reach
thousands, but very few churches in our movement had 100 members.

So I
had to learn from others.

Since I had no idea how to plant a church that would reach 1000s and influence our community and culture, I visited seemingly "happening" churches in my quest to learn how to “break the missional code” in Manila. I visited several veteran Filipino pastors and foreign missionaries, and asked them questions about doing ministry in the Philippines.

Some really helped me. Some were too busy to see me. Others had more security than royalty and rock stars, so I could not get to them.

(NOTE: I’m sure those mega-church leaders would have gladly spent time with a 24 year-old clueless church planter, if only their pit-bull PAs had told them I needed help. Maybe that experience is why, today, I’d rather spend time with a pastor of a small church than a mega-church pastor.)

As I interviewed pastors and studied their ministries, I learned a lot about what to do and what not to do. But maybe the most important lesson was the realization that there was so much to learn from other churches and movements. That wasn’t really how the ministry I was in did things in those days. Others learned from us – or that seemed to be the prevailing attitude. 

I always encourage our new church planters and campus missionaries to visit the healthy growing churches and ministries in their cities before they start their ministries. Why try to reinvent the wheel? Find someone in your area who was "cracked the code" and learn from them. Don’t compromise your vision and values, but learn all you can from others, then apply your vision and values to your context.   

Next reluctant leader blog will be about what I learned from my recent 10 day trip to Australia ministering to the pastors and leaders of the Christian Outreach Center church planting movement.