Posted by: Brian Musser | June 30, 2012

10 Reasons Why Paul Failed as a Church Planter

First of all, the overall tone of this post is sarcasm.  It is something I have been told that I am pretty good doing.  Try to find the humor in it.

Here are 10 reasons why the Apostle Paul failed as a church planter.

10) None of the churches he planted still exist today.  They all died!  Where is his legacy?

9) There were several communities that he tried to plant a church in and he never succeeded.  We have no record of Paul starting a church in Lystra, Derbe, or even Athens. (There are probably other towns as well.)  I mean the entire purpose of a church planter is to plant a church, right?

8) He allowed himself to get to involved in church politics and controversies over the requirements of Jewish believers on Gentile believers.  Just think how more successful he could have been if he didn’t have to spend so much time going to corporate headquarters (Jerusalem) getting these issues resolved.

7) His church planting team split over personnel issues.

6) None of his church plants ever reached the key 300 adult member goal within the first 3 years.  He should have used more direct marketing approaches.

5) None of his church plants ever became fiscally independent with the equivalent of $15,000 in the bank.  How many of them ever owned their own building?

4) At least one of his church plants (Corinth) had severe discipleship issues.  Come on Paul.  Did you even have discipleship curriculum?

3) Paul lacked visionary foresight because he invested a huge amount of time (at least 2yrs.) in a church plant (Ephesus) which was in a town that no longer exists  today.  He should have done more assessment and known Ephesus wasn’t a stable enough community to plant a church.

2) After he left several of his church plants were susceptible to heretical beliefs.  (oh you foolish Galatians and Colossians and Philippians and Thessalonians and …)

And the number #1 reason Paul failed as a church planter  – 1) None of his church plants were ever able to hire him to a full-time staff position let alone add a worship leader and/or a children’s minister.

One serious question. 

Do you think we might have too high of a benchmark for what it means to be a successful church planter and/or church plant?



  1. Pretty funny. 🙂 But FWIW, to point #10, the Roman Catholic Church considers Paul one of its founders. Paul ministered and was martyred in Rome. Given Rome’s numbers and worldwide reach, I’d consider that a pretty big success.

    • I hope you didn’t totally miss the first sentence. But for the fun of it, Peter would have been the traditional “Church Planter” for Rome. You only get credit for the church plants that you were the very first person in the door. Those pastors who come after the planter get absolute no credit for the success of the church plant.

      • I did not miss the first sentence, just making a passing comment. 🙂 As I said, I thought it was funny, and I wasn’t offended. The Church in Rome celebrates both Peter and Paul as its twin pillars, even has a feast day for both of them jointly (it was yesterday). And really, though they laid the foundation stones, there were Christians in Rome before either of them got there (as the Epistle to the Romans indicates).

  2. You funny guy, As one who actually plants churches I approve this message although my denomination might have issues with it. Some leaders lack the spiritual gift of laughter as that is was given in large amounts to another denomination. Seriously, Somebody needs to nail this on the door of every seminary dorm room in America. Less we take ourselves too seriously.

    • Haha! Chuck you were in the SPAM file! That might syw something about our sense of humor.

  3. Thankyou Brian

  4. Brian what a great post! Terriffic thoughts. Question: Do you think we are missing the work of the HS and heart of God…with our church planting franchising process today?
    BTW according to todays definitions the Catholic church is non-evangelical therefore does not count…just saying! And many “poo-poo” the idea of Peter and Paul involvement. They were both long dead before the Catholic movement.

    • Hey Dr. Hylton,

      Thanks for the compliments.

      1) I really think we have no idea what kind of learning curve Paul had taking the Gospel to the Gentiles. And the learning curve of how to start a church.
      2) Coming from a research Biology background, which I define as the Science of documenting failures really well, I think we try to do everything perfect way too much.
      3) Living in the North East, a church of 100 or 50 or 25 where there was no church before is a huge success. We should never think of it as anything less.

      Not judging the church planting. Just highlighting how high we set the bar of success and wondering about it.

      I’m going to avoid the Catholic – Protestant/ Peter – Paul stuff. That might detract from the intent of the post.


      • Agree on distraction.

        I would love to read your thoughts concerning the cultural learning curve of first century Christ followers. Love your thought process. Keep it going.

        Some things are clear concerning his methodology I.e. attending synagogue and engaging in dialigogue. Teaching from scripture and looking for people gathering centers.

  5. My previous thoughts and examples re: methodology relate to his Jewish culture. It would be a good exercise to investigate the harder cross cultural relationships – Helenistic Jew with Greco-Roman Gentiles. Obviously this is far deeper than methodology.

    • Dr. Hylton,

      This is what got me thinking about some of the stuff that leads to this post. I think I’m examining this more fully in a post on Tuesday.
      In Acts chapter 3 Peter and John walk into the Temple and heal a lame man. By the end of that passage the number of Christians are 5,000. Great success!
      In Acts chapter 12 Paul and Barnabas walk into Lystra and heal a lame man. By the end of that passage Paul has been stoned and left for dead and we have very little record of anything coming to pass in Lystra. Great failure!
      Why the difference? The only real difference I see is the difference between the cultures. I believe Paul and Barnabas quickly learned the need to pay attention to the culture. Subtle differences in culture could be the difference between success and being stoned.


Anything to add?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: