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Church planting … the perspective of a non-pastor

January 13, 2010

I expect that when you hear about someone planting a church you immediately think of the pastor. He decided to plant to church, to take a risk, to do the work. He committed to see this through even knowing that statistics are against him. Sometimes you may hear of a team of staff that are coming to plant a church. Two blocks away from me a new church plant started about a month ago and there are three staff that are on board there. Together they committed to this journey and the sacrifice. What a commitment these people make! I know many who have taken this plunge and who are still walking through the daily struggles of being part of a church that is not yet referred to as “established”. We should commend these people for the work they do, and I am honored to call some of them friends.

There is another group though that also take on the journey of being church planters, but who often don’t get recognized because they don’t wear a title or have an exact role. There is a group of people who decide to stand with the pastor and commit to the same journey. First, this includes the spouse and family of the pastor. These people often give up their homes, their friends, everything they have known and risk it all to try something new. They give up stability found in existing income, relationships, and schedules. They realize that the future holds a lot of unknowns. Besides the family are all the others who come alongside the pastor/leaders and become the core team of a church. Sometimes this is a group that is closely known to the pastor, sometimes it is people from the pastor’s old church who may be known or not known, sometimes it is new people the pastor and his family meet when they move to a new community. Whoever the makeup of the group is they are the people who God brings alongside the pastor who also commit to go through this journey. They commit to become missionaries in their own right. They also take the plunge and walk through the daily struggle of being part of a church that is not here today but hopefully will be tomorrow.

I am a part of a new church plant. Today, it is one week old. A core team of eleven of us committed to see this through, to risk it all, to give our lives for this church. We have left our church homes (or are in the process of doing that), have given up relationships, are investing time and money, and we are accepting the realities of an unknown future. Four of this team are “leaders” with titles and roles in the church. Additionally, the spouses and four others of us have committed to be a part of this no matter what. We are walking into the thick of being a part of a church plant and all it holds. We don’t hold the title of the pastor, but then we don’t hold that responsibility either, but we do hold the heart. We want to see the church established, we want to see lives transformed, we want to see the gospel shared, and mostly we want to see God glorified. Just like the pastors and their families we have made this risky decision, but often it isn’t recognized by anyone other than the pastor. When someone new comes to the church they want to speak to the pastor, to hear the pastor’s heart, to have the vision explained to them. The core, dedicated, missionaries carry out the work of the church because they have been trained, equipped, and enabled by the pastor. The pastors do incredible work, and we are so thankful for them, but these core, dedicated people become the living arms, legs, and heart of the church. The pastor has the vision, but he can’t do it alone, he needs these core people to stand with him.

I have been reading about Paul and Barnabas. The travels, trials, and struggles they went through to plant and lead the early church are nothing like what most of us face planting a church in a first world country. It is likely that I will not have my life threatened. I doubt I will be thrown in jail or face being stoned. I doubt I will even be publicly challenged for my beliefs. There are days where I face doubts and questions though about if I can handle being a part of this plan. Do I have what it will take? Am I willing to give up my bed, my time, my resources, my comforts, my securities, my pride, my reputation, my heart to follow where God is leading? Am I willing to take on struggle, pain, heart-break, financial hardship, stress, fatigue, famine, loneliness, rejection, anger, frustration, discouragement, and confrontation? Am I willing to walk with people into the mess and struggle of life realizing that others may not be there on the days I need them to be there because those who I would turn to are already in the trenches serving somewhere else? Am I willing to lean on the grace and power of God alone and trust that he will provide for my every need?

This week I have had to accept the reality of the commitment I have made. I have struggled with doubts, questions, insecurities, and a need to surrender things I would like to hold tightly to. I have had to let go of income, stability, and my own pride. I have had to accept that my pastor is leading me on a journey that is unknown and I have given my word that I will be a part of this journey. There are times I want to doubt that I am capable or that I am the right person for the job. I know there will be tough days ahead as I seek to balance work, life, and ministry. Pastors have a lot of demands on them to lead and serve in ministry but these core people often are doing their serving after working in other careers and taking care of other life demands.

Planting churches is hard work. It comes with a cost. Pastors lay a lot on the line to make this happen. I am recognizing that those who stand beside them make that same commitment and rarely are recognized for it. So, thank you to all of you who have stood by your pastors, who have committed to be missionaries in your own right, and who never wear the title of church planter but who are living like missionaries to change your communities and this world. Thank you for your work, your heart, your commitment, and your sacrifice. Thank you for setting an example, and facing the pain, sorrow, loss, discomfort, and sacrifice of making this happen. You are unsung heroes, and I am certain that God looks at you with love and says “well done!”.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. truthfirst1 permalink
    January 13, 2010 3:44 pm

    Very good post. I have never been part of a church plant per say, but I am a pastor’s child and I quite understand. Being a pastor anywhere, whether a church planter or not, it’s full of risks. The future is unknown.

    • January 13, 2010 5:08 pm

      I am also a pastor’s child and grew up having to relocate every couple years. You are correct that serving in any ministry is full or risks and sacrifices, but I believe it is well worth the efforts.

  2. truthfirst1 permalink
    January 19, 2010 2:38 pm

    Very true, very true. It is worth it. Most definitely. Anything for the glory of God is worth some sacrifice.

  3. January 21, 2010 2:19 am

    very cool. I understand exactly what you are talking about. I and my wife have recently come alongside a church plant in Las Vegas. Amazing to see what the Lord is doing. Let’s all continue to pray for the Church.

    In Christ,

    • January 21, 2010 10:59 am

      Chase, it is very nice to meet you. Stopped by your church website this morning. It looks like a welcoming, active, and great place. I pray your church and their influence in the LV community grows and that you help the Gospel to be known to more people and to those who think they have already received it but where it hasn’t truly sunk into their hearts and lives yet. It is amazing to see what the Lord is doing, but that is because he is such an amazing Lord!

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