I look back on old photos and laugh at what was once thought as “good looking” or “sexy” in my glory days of junior high and high school. It was all about baggy pants. Now, skinny jeans are in. And the hair! From undercuts to bleached-tip spikes, from shag or fro to fo-hawk or high-top fade, from middle parts to a slick-back or comb over, trends and fads come and go, and in the height of each trend we all thought we looked SO SEXY!
Fads are interesting, they make us do stupid things… bleached hair was never a good idea! But more than that, fads can be dangerous. Fads can pull us into situations that are a lot harder to get out of than fashion choices. Fads can occur in every area of life: diet, college selection, career choice, child rearing tactics, fitness goals, dating/marriage choices, religion, habits, and much more. Some fads are silly and short lived while others can change the entire trajectory of our life.
Over the years of ministry, there were multiple occasions I would hear people in the church world say, “church planting is sexy.” This statement would always catch me off guard because by no means have I ever thought that. Don’t get me wrong, there are aspects to church planting that are enticing, but I have long thought the “trench work” of it all far outweighed the intrigue. When I began the process of church planting there were quite a few leaders in the church planting networks that I am a part of that would say things along the lines of, “We want to make sure you are not chasing a church for the ‘sex appeal’ of it.” I thought to myself, “What are they saying! Church planting is NOT SEXY!” In fact, I watched a friend of mine church plant about 14 years ago and told him and myself, “I WILL NEVER church plant!” I have seen friends both succeed and fail at church planting- but the one thing they both had in common was that they both performed the incredibly daunting and challenging job of actually planting a church. Starting something out of nothing.
When we start something it is very important to make sure we are not making a short-term and/or emotional decisions that we are not giving into a fad or trend. For many people It is really easy to think of the positive parts of church planting: starting fresh, shaping culture, casting vision, choosing a city, seeing lives changed, and empowering people to change self, the community, and the world. However, we need to make sure we enter each new role of phase of life with realistic expectations not only the feel-good ones. So if you or someone you know is thinking about church planting here are some things to work through.
- You will always have more work than you have time for
- Work will still be there tomorrow, but your time with your wife and kids may not be.
- You will be needed A LOT and it will take focused diligence to train others around you so that you are NOT needed all the time.
- Set up does not happen by itself
- Building a team is one thing, maintaining and encouraging that team is an entirely different thing.
- Keep the vision alive, but also keep the relationships alive- care and love people.
- Money doesn’t grow on trees
- Raising money, unless you are planting a church because you are independently wealthy, will require other people’s money.
- When raising money, remember, it is not mine or theirs to begin with. If they say no, ask someone else.
- You will be praised more than you deserve and you will be blamed more than you deserve.
- Don’t get too excited about positive affirmation and/or attention.
- Don’t get too offended when people point the finger at you.
- Church is the business of relationships, first with God and then with others.
- The most important relationship is Jesus. Period. Be a person of integrity IN EVERY setting
- The Lord (and often your kids and wife) see the real you. Your fruit will be as sweet as your personal growth with Christ and your outpour will reflect how present the Holy Spirit is in your personal life.
- Sometimes Satan’s biggest goal is not keeping someone from church, but instead introducing them to a really annoying/ hurtful “Christian.” Don’t be that person.
Now please don’t think I am pointing people away from church planting, that is not my intention at all. I would love to see healthy churches in every community around the world. But a truth is, healthy churches are lead by healthy leadership, and healthy leadership sees both pros and cons before jumping headlong into a choice. These are not “warnings,” they are just food for thought. My hope is that this list is a starting point for people to figure out as many of the “hard choices” of ministry as soon as possible, preferably BEFORE you encounter the trial. And while we will inevitably find many “hard choices” along the way, if we set our expectation on process not perfection, we will do much better to ourself, our family, and our church.