Let’s get real. Church planting sounds awesome when we talk about creating space for a move of God in a new community. But all the words of hype and glamour fade once you get into the reality of committing five to ten years of your life to an idea.
Then fear sets in, and you begin to ask questions. Once the loneliness begins, and you don’t seem to get the results you wanted, things begin to get scary. Here are four questions that I’ve asked, and continue to ask.
1. Do I have what it takes to plant a church?
During my days as a seminary student, I was glad to prepare myself for the ministry that God had for me. But once I stepped into church planting, everything changed. All of a sudden, I’m not sure what I’m prepared for.
The tasks were numerous. It began with having to create a broad five year plan and a detailed one year plan. After moving to the new location, we struggled with our focus on planting while looking for a job, a place to live, and all the details of settling into a new community.
The next step was to gather a core group and begin to share our vision for the new church. Vision? I was busy with Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and other important things to get me “ready” for the ministry. But how do I plant a church?
All my reading on church planting seemed to have dissipated into thin air. Facing the heat of the situation, I was not so sure of myself anymore. Can I do this? Do I have what it takes to plant a church?
2. What if no one shows up?
The first few small group meetings were tough, but the toughest ones were after the newness dried off. Will they continue to come? Are these groups truly meeting their needs? They seem happy, but happy enough to come back?
The same struggle was there when the worship services started. It started well with lots of motivation and excitement. The question always remained in my mind: Will these people come back next week? Is there anything going on in these meetings for these people to show up again?
Then it happened.
There were those meetings where no one showed up. We continued to call, encourage, and meet new people as if nothing went wrong. But that fear of empty seats was as real as ever.
3. Will I have enough money?
Our own tithe and some offering money is all that came in. The financial stretch was tremendous, but we held on. Borrowing was out of the picture, but we had to have more. Outreach and other programs cost money, but I was not the “asking” type.
You hope people would catch the vision and begin to give more. The greater hope is that they would Make a firm commitment to this new venture and begin to tithe. Waiting for people to respond can be a great challenge.
I was really intrigued by a statement I heard from Steve Nicholson: “Money follows vision.” I had a vision, but maybe I didn’t have enough confidence in that vision. Yet God provided at the right time.
4. Am I wasting my time?
How much time should be devoted to the process of planting a church? I used to think that five years is enough to get things up and running. But to get things going in the direction you want for the church, I would suggest committing at least ten years or more to the process.
But this was the problem. I kept wondering if my time was better spent somewhere else doing something different. Maybe I would have accomplished much more if I would have invested these years at another location. Am I wasting my time?
The fear that settles all other fears
Whenever I think of doing anything else, I fear being out of God’s plan for my life. You see, for this season of my life (long season), God wants me to dream, start, and create. This is what I enjoy, and this is what drives me. Until I sense the release from that calling, I must continue. Fears will always be there. The risks are outrageous. Yet I know that God is faithful.
Do you know someone who is in the process of planting a church at this time? Talk to your pastor and get the contact information for someone who is planting. Call them or email them with some encouraging words. As pioneers on the front lines, bless them. If you’re not able to get information on church planters, I’ll get you connected with a few. Just email me using the contact form on this website.
Thanks for caring and encouraging.