Five Lessons I Learned from Trying to Plant a Church

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For the past three years of our lives my wife and I were either thinking strongly about, planning for or trying really hard to plant a new church. We failed. No. We didn’t just fail. We bombed.

We’re still working through all the emotions that failure elicits. (I should change the pronouns now. My wife is actually doing much better than I am. So I better just speak for myself). There are some days that I don’t think about it. But for the other six days a week the emotions range from glad it’s over, to frustration and anger, to sadness, to embarrassment, to . . . i’ll stop now. You get the point. I’m still all over the place. And I imagine that will continue for a while – particularly as we continue to clean up the messes that the whole experience caused. By that’s for another day; and counseling session 😉

I hope that as I continue to process everything that I’ll be able to share some coherent thoughts about our entire experience. I’d love for our failures to become a blessing for others who hope to plant a church. A quick side note here: we NEED, NEED, NEED more people who are passionate about the Kingdom of God to step out in faith and start churches. As I was saying, I’d love to bless others by helping them to not make our mistakes and learn where things went wrong in our plans. Would you pray with me that God would bring that about?

But for now, a first small step. I was told repeatedly as we prepared to plant that the experience would expose who we really are. I think that’s true. Though it sounds a lot more dramatic than it played out for me. I’m a little older than the typical church planter. So I had already failed enough to have a decent idea about who I was. But there are a few things that I gain hold to as truths for my life that have either been revealed or affirmed. Not sure if you’re interested, but here they are. Maybe they will bless you in some way.

Experience really informs faith. I don’t think this is bad. But it is incredibly scary. Here’s the biggest way that this has shown up for me: I’m a lot less certain about HOW God works in this world. I know that He works. But my experience really has me questioning how. Whenever I hear people talk about how God did this or did that, or how he kept this from happening, I can’t help but roll my eyes. (That’s when I’m struggling with frustration). The rest of the time, I just get more confused. But I digress. The real point is that my experience during these past couple of years really helped to shape my spiritual formation. Above all, my experience is been of God’s faithfulness to me and my family. There’s A LOT more to be said about this. Maybe that will be a book one day?

I have a REALLY, REALLY great wife. I’ll shout this from the mountain tops until I run out of breath.

An excellent wife who can find?
    She is far more precious than jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
    and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm,
    all the days of her life. 

Proverbs 31:10-12. Remember how I was saying that “experience informs faith?”

This experience of church planting provided one experience after another for my wife to show me her Godliness, faith, perseverance, dedication to our marriage covenant and a whole host of another virtues.

Sometimes Satan wins battles. I kind of knew this going in. I’ve read Revelation. So I know how everything ends. But I have it admit that it was really disappointing to see Satan win small individual battles that really should never have been battles in the first place. And of course, just about any time a church plant doesn’t happen . . . chalk one up for the enemy. This leads into the next thing I learned.

What I know about God pales in comparison to what I don’t know. And I mean it’s not even close. At first this really, really bothered me. Here’s an example (probably a bad one, but): during our training we heard a lot about how God calls people into the different types of ministry that he has planned for them. Logically and emotionally that makes sense. Plus, it seems to be pretty consistent with the Bible. So here’s the confusing and scary part, I don’t remember anyone we talked to before we decided to plant telling us that this was not a good idea for us. In fact, there were some pretty neat times when it was real clear that God was calling us into this. So if that’s the case, then why did everything seem to go so wrong? That kind of fits in to other things I’ve shared. But it still leaves me not understanding what God was doing. This can be real scary. At least it has been for me. But now, because I have experienced God’s faithfulness in my life, I am able to be a little more comfortable with living in the tension of knowing and not knowing.

Trial reveals the depth of relationships. I kind of had a pretty good idea about this one. But I have been so blessed to come out of this experience with some really strong relationships that I didn’t know I had. There’s a couple of people who I knew as “friends” that I now know as dear brothers. I don’t think they will ever know how much they mean to me. And of course, very unfortunately, the opposite of this is true. After a little bit of time, I’m more able to focus on the positive. I thank God for that.

Well, there’s a few things. I don’t think this blog ended up how I envisioned when I started writing. That’s ok. I think. Maybe me writing was more for me than anything else. Thanks for listening 🙂

 

Thanks so much to the SandBox Boyz for sponsoring my blog!

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