“Is church planting for me?” A lot of young men are asking themselves that question today. Now days I get to spend much of my time interacting with men who have ambitions to start churches that advance the Gospel in unreached areas. I have to tell you, it’s one of the greatest joys of my life, listening to, challenging, coaching and celebrating these young church planters.
So far in 2011 the LAUNCH Network has assessed 34 potential church planters. Each time these young men and their wives come to our Assessment Retreat we love on them, encourage them, inspire them and help them build a personal growth plan. But we’re also very straightforward with them, warning them of the risks and dangers of starting a new church. Church Planting Is Not Easy. That’s one of the messages we want them to hear loud and clear.
From my own personal experience as a church planter and from coaching others over the years, there are 3 things that have always rung true:
- Church Planting will cost you more than you think. When we planted in 1998 I did a rough estimate of what it would cost. But it didn’t take long until reality hit and I realized planting a church is an expensive endeavor. You can do all the work of estimating your budget, raising funds, scouting for deals, but things always go wrong. Someone doesn’t come through, a deal falls apart, or a promise is undelivered. And suddenly the planter finds himself against the wall wondering how the immediate need is going to be meet. Even with great planning things go wrong, but it’s the most wonderful opportunity of your life to watch the miraculous provision of God. If you’re planting be ready to TRUST God for your provision. Your faith will be put to the test, that’s just part of how God builds the man for the mission.
- Church Planting will take longer than you think. Leaders can be very impatient people. And when a leader is good at casting a compelling vision the people who follow can get excited and become impatient to get the new church started as well. They begin to push to move the launch date sooner against the better judgment of the planter. “How hard can it be to start a church? Throw out some signs, set out some seats, select some songs, preach and you got a church…right?” Wrong. If that were your plan you’d have a church service but not a church. A Church is a community of believers who gather under a common mission, aligned with the same values, working toward the same vision for the sake of the lost of their community. And if a church is going to be healthy it takes time for the DNA of that community of believers to grow, develop and solidify in the hearts of the core leaders. Not to mention there are systems and structures that simply take time to develop. A baby who is born without the proper time for it’s systems and structure to develop will have long term health issues, if they survive at all. In the same way, a church without developed systems and structures will quickly show signs of being unhealthy. Church planting takes time, don’t rush it. Enjoy the journey and don’t miss the beauty of how God “knits together” the Body in the womb of the pre-launch stage. This is a tough one for us in America but…Slow is not unspiritual, I’ve never met a planter who said, “I wish I would’ve launched sooner.”
- Church Planting is harder than you think. When I planted I envisioned myself as the next Andy Stanley. I know many young guys see themselves that way but I was different…Someone told me I was the next Andy Stanley…well not in so many words, they said I was really great…or good…or something like that, BUT I knew in their heart they were saying, “Mac, you are the next Andy Stanley”. So I knew once I announced I was starting a church multitudes of people would come and it would be easy once we had a crowd. I guess it took about 2 months for me to realize, Andy Stanley I was not!! I learned two things: 1. Starting a church requires it takes time, energy and personal sacrifice. 2. Leading a growing church is hard. More people = more money required. More people = more expectations. More people = more opinions. Bigger is not easier, bigger is harder. So church planting can’t be something you’re curious about and want to take a stab at. Church planting can’t be something you want to do because it’s the cool new thing. Church planting requires a very specific calling and it will be that calling that will sustain you when thing get difficult. I always say church planting was the most difficult, challenging, frustrating, rewarding experience of my life.
I am by no means saying that church planting is a miserable experience because if you’re truly called and you have a strong coaching network beside you it will be one of the biggest highlights of your life, it certainly was for Cindy and me. So if that question is echoing in your mind, “Is church planting for me?” Count the costs, right size your expectations and make sure you have a firm confirmation from a group of godly friends who love you.
If you are looking for confirmation and coaching I encourage you to go to our website www.launchstrong and sign up for our next Assessment Retreat in Atlanta, GA on October 17-18. Space is limited and will fill up quick so don’t delay.