As I reflect on this Father’s Day I am grateful for my two sons, my two grandsons and my dad, Harry Clifton. I am truly fortunate to have him still with me as he approaches 90 years of age. His life has been a model of servant leadership, as gifted pastor a great evangelist a disciple maker and a wonderful preacher. To me and my sisters he’s been a tremendous dad. One of the greatest gifts my dad gave to me was a passion for planting churches.
My first experience at church planting was at the age of 7. My dad was a pastor in Chillicothe, Missouri and his church, Calvary Baptist, started a “mission church” in Leon, Iowa. I recall traveling with my dad to Leon as he visited people and led revivals, shared the gospel and conducted vacation Bible School. There is still in fact that same Calvary Baptist Church in Leon, Iowa some 45 years later. Not a large church but one that has been serving, preaching and ministering in Leon for 45 years, long after my dad and his team have left. I knew even at that young age (because my dad’s life reflected this truth) that planting a church was powerful stuff.
I know at times we think church planting is something new…clearly it’s not. For 2000 years disciples of Jesus have been making disciples and gathering them under qualified leaders to be on mission for God’s glory and their joy. They have been planting churches. God greatly used the life and work of my dad to shape my heart to plant churches. My dad’s church in Chillicothe was a growing church, buying land and building a new building but his heart was to plant new churches as well as grow the church where he served. There were no websites on church planting. There were no church planting networks, assessments, boot camps or coaches, no Acts 29, no Exponential Church Planting Conference, no church planting team at the North American Mission Board and Ed Stetzer had yet to be born. Yet there were pastors like my dad with a heart to reach cities, towns and neighborhoods with the gospel. These pioneering pastors didn’t have anything close to the network of support, encouragement and funding we have today. I suggest that much of our infrastructure for church planting that we enjoy today is due in large measure to the pioneer heart of men like my dad.
It is important for me to reflect that I am not the first and, if the Lord doesn’t return, I won’t be the last in an amazing chain of church planters, from the young men I am privileged to coach, to my dad and my great granddad (that’s another story) and all the way back to the disciples in that room on Sunday night of the resurrection when our Lord appeared to them and said “as the Father has sent me, so send I you,”