Though we’ve only been “on the ground” planting Church of the Cross around 7 months, this is something that has been in my heart and on my mind for much longer. Though I know God equips different men differently, I can honestly say that I couldn’t imagine tacking this challenge without previous pastoral experience.
Serving as a pastor has taught me (sometimes the hard way) the sometimes rough lessons of delegating, self-starting, self-feeding and developing thick skin (this is not the same thing as being insensitive). If a pastor is unable to take criticism he won’t last long. My years as full-time pastor have been some of the toughest and rewarding of my entire life. Pastoring has shaped my soul quite possibly more than anything else. Though I know it can be done, I can’t imagine starting a church from scratch without having served in one, in both the good times and the bad.
And yet, having served as a full-time Teaching Pastor does not necessarily prepare one for all the challenges of church planting. Though I don’t want to be negative, I thought it might be helpful for some just beginning this path or considering it to hear, not just about how needed, exciting and challenging church planting can be, but also some of the dangers of the soul to guard against, some valleys, if you will.
One vital thing to remember in the face of people telling you to raise more money and you knowing you need to raise more money and seeing your small group of people next to people who are being sent by other churches with double your numbers is that God is both sovereign and good. Always. And then remind yourself of Exodus 20:17:
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
There will always be people with more privilege, more money, more resources, more people and a better building than you. Church planting requires an odd mixture of discontent contentment. I’m sure there’s a better way to say it, but as I’ve wrestled through this, that sums it up for me. On one hand, we should be discontent. We should want to reach more people for Jesus, we should want our people to become better disciples, we should pursue deeper resources, but all of this must be done for the sake of Jesus rather than self. And on the other hand, we must learn to be content, to be still in the midst of the roaring seas and raging nations and know that He is God and that He gives and takes away and He provides for the sparrows and has and will provide for us and that He has entrusted us with what He has deemed fit.
We must at once be both discontent and content. This is a hard road but it is the only road. The key seems to be becoming so obsessed with the fame of Jesus that we are driven to lift Him even higher while trusting Him so much that we believe He is both sovereign and good. Always. Will we believe this enough to not focus on what others have that we don’t while striving still striving for more?