The First Century church was characterized with stories of bold moves of faith.
What can we learn from them?
Having participated in two church plants as a planter, and now working with church planters on a regular basis in a coaching capacity, I know first hand the fears associated with planting a church. It’s a leap of faith and one God is calling many to these days.
My theory here is recognizing the fear and realizing their legitimacy is part of guarding our hearts against them. The fact remains – for a church plant to be successful, at least in Kingdom terms, God must provide His grace.
Keep in mind, Jesus said not to be afraid. Fear is usually a substitute for trust. But, unless you are perfect – which I suspect you’re not, you’re subject to normal human emotions. The kind church planting produces.
No one will show up.
If we do all this work and it doesn’t work – what will we do? You’ll be thankful you were obedient to what you believe God called you to do and wait patiently for Him to provide. We had to consistently remind our core team that God was in control of numbers. Our job was to be faithful. This doesn’t mean you stop inviting people or investing in the community around you, but you trust God will stir hearts for His work.
We can’t afford it.
You probably can’t. Seriously – not with what you can see. And, seldom there be “enough money” – or so it may seem at times. God calls us to big tasks. Church planting is hard – and not cheap. But, the Lord will provide resources for His vision. This doesn’t mean you don’t need to educate people on the needs or help them understand the command, value and blessing of giving, but it does mean you trust God even when the checkbook balance is low. It also doesn’t mean you won’t have to wait to make major purchases or there won’t be times you have to wait until “Sunday’s offering” to get paid. Our paycheck was delayed several times the first couple years so other bills – and other staff – could be paid, but we were never hungry.
I don’t know what I’m doing.
Isn’t it wonderful? It means you’re insufficient without His sufficiency. What a great place to reside! The great news is that many have gone before you. Learn from others and stay on your knees before God.
People will leave
True. Most core teams are cut in half in the first few years. At first I thought we were to be the exception. We weren’t. Other people will come and never return. But, some will stick. And, they will have hearts for the vision. And, in them we rejoice at what God has done. We build our teams around those who God sends to us and who remain steadfast to the journey ahead. The team may change several times the first few years.
We don’t have a building
No, but you probably don’t have a mortgage either. And, you’re raising up an army of volunteers for set up and tear down. You are building service and sacrifice into your DNA as a church. Isn’t it wonderful! Don’t lose that atmosphere and culture of dependency, even when you have a building someday.
Final thought. These fears are legitimate – real fears. Don’t be ashamed you have them. The key is not to live in them, but to live and walk in the faith God will complete His plans and enable those He calls.
What other fears have you experienced in church planting?
I previously posted 10 dangerous paradigms in the church. Obviously, there are positive mindsets in the church also.
I decided to share some from the perception of a pastor.
We can do it Pastor
The “can do” attitude. Is there anyone who can’t work miracles with that?
Jesus will make a way!
So, if that’s your paradigm, then all we have to do is follow Him – right?
It’s not about me.
Wow! Really? You’re serious. Because to hear someone say that – makes a pastor’s day.
Let’s walk by faith!
Yes, let’s do. Because, without faith, it’s impossible to please God. At least, according to the Bible I read.
What can I do to help?
Imagine if everyone showed up at church ready to do whatever it took to make the day work. Just imagine. We can dream, can’t we?
We need some change around here.
I think we do. I think you’re right. I think I’ll clone you. Sustained momentum always requires change. Always.
I know we need to talk about money.
You do? Seriously? You recognize it takes money to do ministry? Wow! Are you contagious?
It’s none of my business.
Okay, this is a tough one, but seriously, is it? Do you really need to know everything, or do you just like information? I wonder if we moved forward with less information if we would be closer to walking by faith – which in essence means we go without seeing. Just wondering.
I’m excited about trying something new.
By excited, do you also mean you’ll support it? And speak positively about it? Even behind the pastor’s back? Because, if you do, I’m gonna hug you. Seriously. Right now. Big hug.
This church is awesome!
It’s simple, but it builds momentum. Believing in the church, it’s leadership, and it’s potential is a key to welcoming people who will later feel likewise.
As a pastor, those are 10 positive paradigms I would share. I realize they aren’t for everyone. But, which one would you most like to see as a pastor?
What positive church paradigm would you add to my list?
Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. 1 Peter 5:8
I’m not a pastor who is constantly looking for Satan behind everything which goes wrong. I concentrate my attention on Jesus and encouraging others to follow Jesus — and not to focus on the defeated one.
We are to keep “our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith”.
Yet, I’m fully aware Satan loves to destroy – or attempt to destroy – a church. Obviously, Satan is a limited being – and God’s church is secure. The gates of hell shall never overcome what God started. But, Satan certainly loves to disrupt the work of God’s church – and the work of those who love the church.
Satan loves business meetings which get out of hand or when two church members have disagreements inside or outside of church. He loves when church members argue about trivial things, such as colors of the carpet or big things, such as whether to add another service. Worship style or pastoral authority – doesn’t matter to the evil one. Show him a potential argument and he’s willing to stir the fire – and these days he may use social media to do it.
Staff or volunteer burnout.
Satan loves to burn out a church volunteer, staff member, or pastor. If he can make them feel they are no longer needed, their work is not appreciated, or they no longer have anything to offer – he feels he’s winning part of the battle. He loves to spread the lies of discouragement and unworthiness.
Satan is the stirrer of dissension. He likes to plant little seeds of a juicy story, about someone in the church or community – sometimes even the pastor or staff – and watch them quickly spread. The version, of course, usually grows to a larger portion than reality. Satan likes this too. If you’re tempted to repeat something you know you shouldn’t, the enemy will make sure you find an opportunity.
Satan loves to distract church goers with a plethora of activity, which produce little results in Kingdom-building, but make people feel they’ve done something. He loves programs, activities, full calendars – if they keep people busy in the church, so they never have time to share the Gospel outside the church. And, he has been known to guilt people into staying busy, so they never rest and eventually burnout – then fallout altogether.
Satan attempts to interject what is often called a “half-truth” – just a hint of false doctrine – and then watch it disrupt or divide a body. Of course, we all know half-truth is really just a cleaned up version of a bold face lie, but Satan is clever enough to disguise a lie in a way where false teachers gain entry and do damage before being discovered. The enemy also loves to condemn you, convince you you’ll never measure up, and remind you all the things you did wrong. He is not afraid to lie about God’s grace, His unconditional love, or the Spirit’s work in your heart.
Satan loves when the church makes the news – especially if there’s a good, juicy, gossipy headline in the local paper. If it will split, divide or destroy a church body – even better. If it will destroy someone’s Kingdom calling or work – he’ll take it too. He’s striving for Christian leaders – he wants to destroy their reputation – the more people thought it was foolproof the better.
Marriage and family disruptions
Satan loves to destroy any relationship, but he also goes after key leader’s marriages – even the pastor’s marriage. He likes to encourage prodigal children – to never return home. He wants to cause families to fight within the church and fight with the church. Satan knows if he can destroy a home, he has a better chance of destroying a church.
You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4
Let’s be aware – and stand strong, Church.
What other ways have you seen Satan try to destroy a church?
As I read the book of Acts, I have some questions for today:
I’ve learned pastors are often misunderstood. Especially by people who haven’t known a pastor personally, but we can really be misunderstood by many people. It’s surely a unique vocation. I can’t speak for all pastors. And, certainly – maybe since I was in secular work longer than I’ve been a pastor – I’m not typical.
But, I suspect I’m not completely abnormal either.
These are true for me, but I suspect they may be for your pastor too.
The temptations you face – I face. I’m not immune from temptation. I’m human. You shouldn’t be surprised when I make mistakes. I need lots of grace. I should be held accountable, but ultimately I’m accountable to God – just as you are.
The larger the church gets – the less I know about anything. But, this can be true of any church size where other people are empowered to lead. Ask me anything. I may or may not have an answer. Sometimes, however, you save both of us time if you email the staff or volunteer leader more likely to know – but I can always forward an email.
The better the message – the longer it takes me to prepare it. There are rare exceptions to this for me. If I am going to have a descent message I will have to take time away from other responsibilities to prepare. This could mean I’m not everywhere you hoped I would be.
Even though I’m teaching it – I may not yet have mastered it. Hopefully I’m working on it, but I teach the whole counsel of God – the Bible – and I’m still a work in progress in many areas of it.
I get nervous every time I start to preach – sometimes sick to my stomach nervous. If you didn’t notice – well, glad I’m getting better at covering. But, you do me a tremendous blessing if you whisper a prayer as I step up to preach.
Sunday is not the only day I work. Honestly! And, preaching is not all I do. I actually work 6 long days a week and even when I’m off or out of town, I’m often working. But, Sunday does come around quickly.
Your story probably won’t surprise me. I am never callous towards it, but I’ve probably heard similar or worse. And, I’m still going to love you.
To my family I’m usually not a pastor – just a husband and dad. And, I like that. I even like to be “just a friend” sometimes.
If you tell me something on Sunday morning – you probably should back it up with an email to remind me. My mind is distracted and I will forget. And, if it can wait until Monday – even better.
I can relate to you better than you think. I like to have a good time. Some would say I’m funny. I even know how to laugh. I don’t even have to be quoting Scripture to do so. We have struggles in our life too. Lots of them. And, the more you see me as a regular person, the more I can relate to the struggles you face and your friends who are afraid to come to church – partly because they think I’m not.
Pastors, any other random thoughts you would like to share?
Pastoring can be lonely.
As a pastor, I’m supposed to find my strength in Christ, (and you have to know how helpful it is to be reminded as if those who are not pastors are not commanded to do likewise 🙂 ) and I do seek Christ as my ultimate strength. I teach the Bible regularly, however, the Bible says we are to “bear with one another“. God didn’t design us to do life alone. This goes for pastors also.
From my experience, those in ministry leadership are some of the loneliest people. I hear from them everyday.
I was talking with a young pastor recently. He said, “Who is going to invest in me?”
I understand the sentiment. He is struggling for answers he can’t seem to find — practical answers. People are looking to him for leadership and seminary didn’t teach him all he needs to know. I think every good leader asks that at same question — hopefully often.
Later in the week, I talked to an older pastor. He said, “I go home most days and haven’t heard a single positive word. Things are going great. We are growing faster than ever, but it seems I get far more of the negatives than I get to hear of the good we are doing.”
All I could do was agree. I’ve felt that way before many times.
When the weight of ministry responsibility appears to rest on your shoulder – when everyone looks to you for the answer – when some days you don’t know which direction to turn – when you are balancing the demands of ministry and family – when you are seen as a key in helping everyone with a problem hold their life together – yet you feel no one is concerned about your personal struggles – and you don’t know who to trust —
What do you do during those seasons of ministry?
You remember God’s words of encouragement.
Yes, this is the first answer.
Next, find a mentor. You find someone who is walking further down the road from you, but going in the direction you want to go. I’ve written extensively about this, but you can start HERE.
And then regularly:
Surround yourself with a few pastors at the same level you are organizationally. (If it’s a pastor, youth minister, etc.) It seems to work best if the churches are similar in size and structure. They’ll best understand.
Work to develop a close enough relationship with them, over time, where you can trust them. You may have to spend some of your free time and even travel to do this. Learn from each other, seek wisdom from more seasoned people together, and grow together in the ministry.
Consistently share burdens, concerns, and encouragements with each other. You can do this occasionally in person, but more frequently over the phone or online. Chances are they need this as much as you do, so be the one to take the initiative.
I hear what some pastors are thinking, because it has been said to me so many times. You often think those groups aren’t there for you. You’ve tried before and couldn’t find them.
To this I would say:
Some of these relationships I have had to develop outside my own city. I’ve found they are valuable enough to justify the time and financial investment required.
Please know I’m praying for you pastors.
I was talking with a 25 year old pastor recently. He is frustrated with the church where he serves. He was brought to the church because they wanted him to help the church grow again — or so the search committee convinced him — but they see him as too young to make decisions on his own.
They won’t take his suggestions, voting them down at business meetings.
They consistently undermine his attempts to lead.
They expect him to speak each week and visit the sick, but they won’t let him make any changes he feels need to be made.
It has made for a very miserable situation and he feels helpless to do anything about it. He’s ready to quit and the situation is negatively impacting every other area of his life.
It isn’t the first time I have heard a story such as this. I hear it frequently from young leaders in churches and the business world. I didn’t want to be the one to tell him, but I didn’t want to mislead him either. The bottom line in this young pastor’s situation:
(Of course I’ll get kickback from those who want to remind me Jesus is the leader of the church. I couldn’t agree more, but He does use people to lead His work and this pastor is not the one.)
Perhaps you share this young leader’s dilemma. If no one is following your attempt to lead it could be because:
You haven’t been given authority to lead.
You haven’t assumed the responsibility you’ve been given.
No one is leading in the organization and no one wants anyone to – because that would mean change has to occur.
If this is your situation, you have a few options as I see it:
Think through these options and see which feels best in your situation. Every situation is unique and this post is not an attempt to solve your problem — perhaps if anything it can help identify what the problem is in your unique circumstance. You will have to own your response to this information. Obviously, you should spend consistent time in prayer.
And let me add a few other thoughts. If you know God has you there then you must endure until He releases you. He always has a plan. But, I believe God often gives tremendous latitude in the call. Our call is to Him and to obedience. And, most likely, there are thousands of places where God could use your talents and abilities. As I read about the Apostle Paul, for example, there seemed to be more opportunities than Paul’s time would allow. I suspect the same may be true for most pastors today. The potential harvest is plentiful.
With this in mind, I would say if you are miserable now and things are not improving you shouldn’t wait long without doing something. Life is short and many have left the ministry because of situations like this. Don’t be a casualty. Address the problem!
I would also say – and as hard as this is to hear you need to hear it – you will learn from this season. You may even learn more in this season than in a future season where everything appears wonderful and the church easily follows your leadership. Attempt to soak up wisdom now, which you will use later, rather than become bitter. You must protect your soul and the reality of your calling to Christ.
One final thought, don’t handle a situation like this alone. Reach out to someone you trust, probably outside the church or organization; someone who has more experience in situations like this than you have. And, don’t let the stress from this destroy your family or personal health.
Have you ever been in a situation where you were given the responsibility to lead without the power to do so? What did you do?
Church planting is a difficult, but rewarding assignment in ministry. So is church revitalization. I’ve been trying to make the case we need both — planting and revitalization. All pastors and planters should operate under a calling of God, but it does appear to me that there are some unique qualifications for those who want to start a church or transition it to grow again.
I’ve been blessed with both experiences. In fact, having only been in ministry about 15 years, my only experience is in one of the two. I’ve been in two churches needing to revitalize and two church plants.
And, from this experience, here are five characteristics I believe it takes to be an effective in both worlds:
An entrepreneurial spirit
There is an element of enjoying risk — certainly of being willing to assume risk — in most church planters and church revitalization pastors I have met. You have to love things which are new and growing. There needs to be an entrepreneurial spirit about them, embrace change readily and becoming bored with status-quo. This characteristic can bring it’s own problems, which leads to number two.
Willingness to be patient
Effective planters or revitalization pastors are willing to be patient for God to do His work. The balance between these first two is a constant challenge, because church planters and revitalization pastors are wired to want continual growth, but to be effective they must develop a good plan, surround themselves with the right people, and then wait as God does His work among them.
Have people who believe in you
Church planting or church revitalization is not to be a lone ranger activity. Without the structure of an established church, church planters must depend on people to help develop ministries and systems. Effective church planters learn to rely on volunteers for success and are willing to share leadership and responsibility with others to plant the church. Revitalization pastors are changing an establishment. This can be brutal. There must be some key leaders in the church who will back them in their work – and be there through the hard decisions where it will sometimes seem they have more enemies than friends.
Healthy family life
Church planting and revitalization is a family activity. In both worlds, to be effective, he or she must have a healthy family life. Ministry is tough — this is true for all ministries, but church planting and revitalization, because of the unique uncertainties and risks involved, places additional stress on a marriage and family. Effective church planters and revitalization pastors must begin with and maintain a healthy families.
Close, intimate walk with God
Church planting and revitalization will test a person’s faith many times. Church planting is not always popular in some church communities and can make a planter feel like an outcast in the church community. Revitalization brings challenge to leadership from within. The risks involved and the waiting process challenge both. Like all ministries, these are acts of faith and require constant communication with God. Effective church planters and revitalization pastors must continue to build and draw upon a strong relationship with Christ throughout the process. When I speak to pastors these days, I close with one word of encouragement: YOU MUST PROTECT YOUR SOUL. No one will do this for you. There will always be more demands on your time than you have time. You’ll have to discipline yourself to regularly sit with the Creator of your soul.
Again, many of these are not unique to church planters or revitalization pastors and are shared by others in ministry — even in many secular settings — but my experience as a planter and revitalization pastor leads me to believe these are critical needs for these ministries.
A few years ago, I observed a characteristic in me I hope is not permanent.
After our boys moved out of the house, we moved to a downtown condo. The condo sat on a hill, overlooking the river district of our community. We loved the view, but it presented a problem on windy days. We had to weatherize our front porch every time we suspected a storm, turning over the furniture and making sure everything was secure.
One night Cheryl heard the wind picking up and asked if we should prepare the porch. What she really meant was I should get up and prepare the porch, but I love the gentle way she “suggests” such things. Getting up at 1:30 AM to step onto my front porch in my boxers has never been my idea of fun, but I do like a happy wife, so I headed out to do my job. When I got back into bed she thanked me to which I replied:
Instantly the thought occurred to me. I would have never used this phrase a few years ago.
“Better safe than sorry” has never appealed to me before. Sounds like something my mother would have said to me.
I like risk-taking. I embrace change. I lived my life running to things others say can’t be done or they aren’t willing to try.
Even more, I’ve made a commitment to walk by faith — but this is more than a spiritual decision. It’s a personal wiring. It’s in my DNA.
In fact, I’m scared of “better safe than sorry“.
What happened to me? Am I that old? 🙂
So, I came up with an immediate plan.
Shortly after this, my oldest son and I have went skydiving!
We jumped out of a “perfectly good plane”.
I had to! I couldn’t stand the thought of resting on the safe side.
What’s the purpose of this post? You’re wondering, right?
Well, if you’re like me, the older you get, the more likely you are to play it “better safe than sorry”. You want to be comfortable. You want to pay your bills and keep your children in the right schools and plan for retirement and live in a safe neighborhood. I get it. And, all of those are okay. There’s nothing wrong with living a so-called “normal” life.
Unless God calls you to something else.
And, if God is calling you to something bigger than your ability to understand — I have some strong advice. It’s wisdom! It’s strongly Biblical.
I’m not suggesting you don’t weatherize your house. I’m certainly not suggesting you jump out of a plane.
But, I am suggesting you be willing to do everything God asks you to do — even when it’s scary, the future is uncertain, and you don’t have a clue how in the world you are going to do it.
Regardless of your age – or your fears.
And, maybe you do need some disciplined risk-taking to stretch your ability to make the big moves again.
God never promised a safe-life. He promised an abundant life. God never asked us to “play it safe”. He asks us to take up our cross daily and follow Him. He never promises a risk-free life. He promised a victorious life — as we trust in Him!
Be honest: Are you more likely to prefer a risk or the safe side?