IT WILL BE HARDER THAN YOU THINK
For most of us, the church planting process brings two churches into our lives:
1. The church we think we are going to plant.
2. The church that actually gets planted.
IT IS THE MEN WHO ARE ABLE TO SUCCESSFULLY NAVIGATE THE DISTANCE BETWEEN THESE TWO CHURCHES THAT ARE STILL STANDING AFTER THE FIRST FEW YEARS.
There are a number of reasons for this:
First, the ground is often much harder and the work goes much slower than we expected it would.
For most church planters, the days of sending out a mailer and seeing 350 people at your launch are long gone. And though the conference circuit may tempt us to believe otherwise, exponential growth is the exception, not the rule.
Second, we recognize quickly that working with actual people in the real world is much messier than working with ethereal concepts at our coffee shop office.
Seasoned planters have plenty of stories—of leaders that tapped out and landlords that kicked them out—to go with the scars that they earned in living those stories. Such is the nature of ministry in a fallen world.
Third, we come to terms with the harsh reality that the strategic plan that seemed so perfect in our minds isn’t so perfect on the field.
It is all too common for planters to underestimate the nuances of their context and overestimate their own abilities, requiring some significant, unexpected changes to be made. It is the wise planter that figures these out quickly and responds accordingly.
You may be thinking, “So if it is as hard as I make it sound, how is it that any planter succeeds?”
By pressing in and pressing on.
PRESS IN TO JESUS.
I cannot tell you how many times I have wanted to quit over the last six years. I wish I could tell you that every time I wanted to quit, I ran to Jesus, repented of my sin and lack of faith, and immediately went back to work, but I can’t. But that is exactly what I should have done, and when I did do it, my perspective always changed. The circumstances didn’t necessarily improve, but my perspective on them did. In addition, by putting the “first thing first,” I was able to root my identity in the Gospel afresh (and not my identity as a planter) and get the spiritual resources I needed to do the next hard thing.
PRESS ON IN THE WORK.
Time after time in the Scriptures, we see the call to endure in our faith and ministry. Part of the reason why these texts exist (and why there are so many of them) is because we need to hear this message often. The distractions and discouragements in planting a church are legion, but these Words are an anchor in the midst of the storm. As we hear them and repent of our sin, we will not only be buoyed, but encouraged to persevere in the work as well.
There are always two churches when we plant.
The church we think we are going to plant and the church that actually gets planted.
Successful planters are the men who “press in and press on” to successfully navigate the distance between the two.