Someone well said that, “Our reputation is what others think we are, and integrity is who God knows we are.” The dictionary defines integrity as an adherence to moral and ethical principles. What moral and ethical principles would be involved in the subject of church planting? I am glad you asked.
I believe there are several arenas involving integrity in the area of church planting. The first arena is the life of the church planter. God uses the church planter to lead people to a deeper knowledge of God and ultimately to become more and more like the Lord Jesus. The church planter cannot lead people to a place he has never been, spiritually-speaking. The life of the church planter must then be consistent spiritually. In his book, Louder than Words, Andy Stanley relates these words about character which are a close cousin to integrity, “Becoming a person of character is about change. It is a lifelong process of taking raw materials and molding, shaping, and refining them into a finished product. Whether we like it or not, this process is already happening inside of us. It began the day we were born, and it will continue until the day we die. Our character is either developing or our character is deteriorating. It is not stagnant.”
Paul’s epistle to Titus speaks of integrity this way, “In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity,” Integrity needs to be present in the arena of the personal spiritual life of each church planter. Church planters need to remember to be sincere (without hypocrisy) and filled with the fruits of righteousness.
The second arena that requires integrity is the church planter’s dealings with other churches. There ought to be a clear understanding between the church planter and the sending church concerning what ministry reports and what accountability are required. If the sending church is in close proximity, there needs to be an understanding of how to handle people who are desiring to visit and possibly join the new church plant, what involvement the sponsoring church(es) will have as far as supplying laborers, finances, supplies, and other similar matters. If things are spelled out clearly ahead of time, it will ultimately lessen hurt feelings, unmet expectations, and prevent potential problems. As the church planter lives up to these expectations, it will also prevent his integrity from being in question.
The church planter will also have to establish his ethics in the area of following up on those individuals who have visited the new church plant from like-minded churches in the vicinity. God does lead people to other churches and ministries at different times in their lives. What a blessing it is to inherit mature Christians in a church plant! At the same time it is respectful and shows integrity to call the pastor where the people are currently attending as a courtesy, to make sure church discipline is not an issue, that the people are not running from problems, that the people are not a problem, to get background, and to not appear as a wolf trying to snatch sheep from the sheepfold.
One last arena of integrity is the church planter’s relationship to the church plant. The church planter is not only accountable to the sending church, his family, the Lord Jesus, supporting churches, and a mission board; he is accountable to the church he is leading. While the church plant might be spiritually young and there might not be enough mature people to establish a deacon board, it is advisable to use the men of the church to establish an advisory board who can be a sounding board for church business matters and to provide accountability. The church should understand something of the pastor’s schedule and work habits. One of the things that will speak volumes to the new church plant, besides a walk with God, love for family and others, is the church planter’s work ethic. The church should not need to wonder if the church planter is lazy.
Two other things establish integrity within the arena of the church. One is in the area of finances, and the other is in the area of the operation of the church. God is a God of order. In fact, I Cor. 14 tells us that God is not the author of confusion. Church finances always need to be handled in an appropriate manner. There should never be questions as to where the money goes. A budget should be established immediately, and accountability should be put in place. Reports should be distributed regularly, and I think it best for the church to have an open book policy. We personally have our finances handled by an outside professional bookkeeping company. This gives us gravitas and credibility with our church family. We also have now started having our bookkeeper come to report as to the state of our books at major business meetings. People are more apt to give if they know the church is standing in integrity. The other area we should mention is the area of the operation of the church. The church plant should be organized appropriately with the state, with a bank, and having a governing document. Within the governing document should be a clear statement of faith, membership policy, and an understanding of how business is conducted within the church.
These thoughts are not exhaustive by any means, but hopefully they will be a help to you in some way. I am not claiming to be an expert on this issue, nor am I claiming to have never learned from my own mistakes. I have been down the road of church planting, though, for the last 17 years. If I can be a help to you personally, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Tt 2:7). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.