Church planting sucks
A few years back, when I was a new church planter, I wrote a little thing that gained some traction in some circles and was apparently encouraging to some church planters. I deleted that old blog so I figured I'd repost the most popular thing here. So behold, the words of my past self. Hope they're helpful
Well, it doesn’t really suck. I actually love it, but there are definitely times when I wish I wish it was easier, or that the church that we’re dreaming of would magically appear next Sunday. But what kind of story would that be?
Here’s a top ten list of things I have learned so far about church planting.
1. It’s harder than you think - but not in that ways you expect. I expected it to be a lot of work and I expected there to be discouraging times and I expected there would be times I would want to quit, but I didn’t expect that I would spend most of my time doing stuff that I don’t love and doesn’t excite me. I didn’t expect that I would be tempted to get lazy. I didn’t realize how tough it was to balance the tension between pastoring the people you’ve got and trying to grow the church we feel called to be. Be prepared for this.
2. It’s more fun than you think it’s going to be. Strap on your helmet, but it is fun. You’re building something from scratch and fighting and winning and failing. It tough, but it’s not boring. Look forward to this and remember it when being beaten down by number one.
3. There are people who don’t want you to succeed. There are those who are more comfortable believing that the world is against them and that nothing can be done and that nothing can change and to see a new church come to be and survive calls into question their status quo. Identify these people and ignore them.
4. There are people who desperately want to you to succeed. They want nothing more than to see the Kingdom come and for healthy churches to be acting out what God intended for us to be. Identify these people and seek them out.
5. It is not easy to figure out who are #3 people and who are #4 people.
6. Weather will kick your ass. Maybe this is more of a thing in Canada, but you could have both Saints Paul and Peter scheduled to appear at your church where they will reveal the date of the second coming and the cure for baldness and a snowstorm will leave you sitting with your wife and kids and the angry guy you’re not surprised has never found a church home. There’s not much you can do but be ready for it.
7. You will also schedule something no one will show up for. This will be something that you’ve poured heart and soul and sweat and blood into. There will be no real reason for people not to show up. They just won’t. This will crush you. Get up, dust yourself off, and never speak of it again except to laugh when you’re not angry anymore.
8. This is not the church you built in your head. This is a real group of people called by God who are going to be something you never dreamed of. Trying to be the church in your head will kill your joy for the church you have, so kill the church in your head.
9. Don’t take anything personally. People will come to your church and go, and friends will choose to be a part or not, and people will arrive and begin to pour themselves into what God is doing and this, for the most part, has nothing to do with you. If your confidence and self image depend on the “success” of your church, you are screwed as a pastor and will be a terrible person to live with.
10. Settle the failure question before you start. The reality is most church plants don’t make it. If your church plant becomes part of those statistics, are you done either as a pastor or a follower of Jesus? If you think the answer might be yes, get the hell out. Your desire should be to see God’s will accomplished and if his will is that your church is planted and dies, if that is what is glorifying to him, then name of the Lord is still to be praised. There is no shame in being a failed church planter.
and as a free bonus
The most important thing you will do is to decide what success looks like. Remember that this is your choice. Choose to define success by obedience. Ask God where he wants you to go, and fight with everything you have to get there. Back to #1 and #2, it will not be easy, and it will be fun.
Now if I read this every day for the next ten years and pray that God would make me believe it, I should be alright.