3 things church planters and pastors must remember

By Ryan Rice

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on the LifeWay Pastors blog. While it’s primarily addressed to church planters, there are good principles for replant pastors as well. Be encouraged by Ryan’s words here!

Several years ago, I took my family on a trip to Disney World. One of the only reasons I’d move to Florida would be able to go to Disney more often. It is, as they say, a “magical place”!

Young or old, everyone seems to love Disney parks. Some of the most enjoyable moments at Disney World aren’t only the rides, but the world-class productions. Specifically, the parades and firework show at the Magic Kingdom.

Who doesn’t enjoy a great show? Disney sells a great show and experience for the entire family. Cast members’ jobs revolve around ensuring you have a great experience.

I once attended a church planting conference where many of the sessions focused on the experience. While I’m all for excellence, service, and hospitality, is this all the Sunday morning gathering is meant to be?

If your idea of church planting is to one day have a fancy building with beautiful shiny things, bright lights, and clouds of smoke, you’ll do better going to work for Disney.

I believe the American model for ministry can often encourage the Disney experience over the biblical one. While it may be more caught than taught, church planters can feel they’re failures when they don’t see explosive growth, mass baptisms, and an excellent worship experience each Sunday.

While I believe God can work in a church in such a way that this is the reality, what if this isn’t the reality you’re currently seeing? Yes, we should work hard, but our labor is for the Lord, not without the Lord.

One of the results of burnout — or maybe the leading cause of burnout — is anxiety. Is it any wonder Scripture tells us not to be anxious? Instead of anxiety, Scripture implores us to trust God, have faith, and walk in joy.

Anxiety causes an immense amount of fear that, in turn, affects our leadership and ability to make sound decisions. For some church planters, the anxiety that comes from “not measuring up” can leave them drained, lacking joy, and wavering between quitting and moving forward.

Over the past five years, my family and I have been on the church planting journey. Several years before this, however, I served on the staff of a large church.

While there are many differences between being on a large church staff and church planting, there are some similarities. On a large church staff, the proverbial ministry train keeps moving, no matter what.

The team may not have time to catch their breath before the next event or ministry launch. This is in no way a knock against large ministries, but the overall observation of how we’re taught ministry should look: a lean, fast, modern locomotive that makes zero stops at the station.

The question I often ask myself, “Is this how Jesus operated in ministry?” Yes, I realize we’re in the 21st century, with many readers of this article residing in the United States of America. How much of the American culture has influenced the way we both view and operate in ministry?

This isn’t a call away from walking in excellence, but a call back to rest in Jesus. A call to find our value and worth in Christ, Scripture, and nothing else. If you’re a church planter or believe you’re led to church plant, here are three things you should remember.

1. The church is more than the Sunday experience.

While the Sunday experience may be the main avenue through which your people gather, it isn’t the end-all, be-all of the church. What do I mean?

Let’s say the worship service doesn’t go as planned. Technology doesn’t work, the weather is horrible, and attendance is down. Instead of walking away discouraged, focus on Christ.

Was He glorified, worshiped, and did people hear the truth? Every Sunday, worship is indeed amazing if Christ is exalted.

2. You don’t have to measure up to social media.

Comparison is dangerous, and social media often can tell a story that’s not true. If you spend your time looking across social media at the latest trends and newest church leaders, you’ll miss what God has for you.

Who said your leadership or church has to be cool enough for social media? If a Sunday passes and you preached the Word and saw lives changed, celebrate that! You may not feel you have much to tweet about, but give God praise anyway!

3. Remember why you planted.

Church planting is hard. It often can breed spiritual amnesia of the goodness of God. When the prospectus doesn’t pan out and the city is tougher than we think, our memory of God’s goodness must grow longer, not shorter.

I encourage you to keep a prayer and praise journal. Celebrate and praise God for even the small things He does for your family and church. Share these praises and answered prayers with your family and church family.

Your church may never look like Disney, but when did Jesus say you needed that to reach a lost and dying world? Trust God, rest in his strength, and know Christ is enough for both the church plant and the established church.,

Published July 31, 2019

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Ryan Rice

Ryan Rice Sr. (@ryanricesr) is husband to Seané, father of Ryan Jr., Brayden, Reagen, and Bailey, and has been in ministry since 2007. He’s currently the lead pastor of Connect Church of Algiers in New Orleans, Louisiana, which they planted in 2014.