This week, I lost one of my longest mentors and friends when Paul Becker, 70, went home to be with Jesus after a long battle with cancer. Paul was the founder and President of Dynamic Church Planting International. We met around 1989 when I was an instructor at the International School of Theology in San Bernardino, CA and about to leave to plant my first church. Paul died peacefully at home on August 2.
When I met Paul he was at the beginning of a truly epic ministry in the history of church planting movements. He had just finished planting his fourth church in 8 years, all while living in the same house. His model was to take a church through one year of pre-natal growth, through the first year of public ministry, then turn the church over to another pastor and move on to plant another church. In my first visit to his home, he handed me the galleys of the first 80 pages of his first training manual for church planters. Two years later, Paul was there with counsel and prayers and questions that interrogated my reality as I labored to plant a church-planting church in the Chicago area.
Just two memories and a parting comment to maybe capture Paul’s heart:
Number 1: Paul visited our church plant, New Song Church, about three or four times over the years to check in on his protege. He was always on the lookout to speak a word of encouragement in the direction of faithfulness to the vision of planting churches. Which was why, his first question to me was always (without exception), “How is Stephnie doing? Is she enjoying her ministry as a church planters wife?” Sometimes it was phrased differently but it was always the same. “Are you giving time to your bride?” Paul knew that a church plant was rarely stronger than the marriage of the planter. He was so faithful in this simple grace that it rubbed off on me. To this day, I probably ask most men I meet something similar with similar words, “How’s your bride?”
I use the word “bride” rather than “wife” or even the wife’s name with all the men I know because it is a word that speaks of a particular moment in time when all couples are filled with hope and a sense of adventure about the future. I learned from Paul and another dear friend (Bill Bauer), that if men grow in the grace of always treating their wives like brides on their wedding day, the couples will be able to endure just about anything.
Number 2: On one of Paul’s visits, after the service, Paul came up put his arm around me and simply said, “I always know that when I come here, you will teach me from God’s word and not the local news.” Paul knew, that as a former and current seminary professor, my ambition was to be accurate rather than novel, to be biblical rather than original and so he encouraged me in the way that would be most helpful to my spirit. Notice, he didn’t say it was the best message he ever heard. He was an encourager not a flatterer. He wanted men to become the best they could be and he wasn’t interested in squeezing them into his mold. He knew that my mold was as a preacher and affirmed me in that direction.
My last statement will sound like hyperbole but I really think it is true. Paul is mostly unknown but he is probably responsible for more churches being planted worldwide than any other single person in history of the church. Dynamic Church Planting International is THE most effective church planting training ministry in the world, bar none. They offer their training for free, everywhere they go and they do it with same humility that characterized their founder. Paul was more interested in reaching lost people for the Savior he loved/loves than in any personal glory for himself. He has heard precious words from Christ himself, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:23).
His crown will be weighty and Paul will delight to lay it down before his Lord. See you soon Paul.