3 ways for church planters to endure

Hebrews 12:1-3 serves as my daily manifesto:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (Hebrews 12:1-3, ESV).

The author chose the metaphor of a race to illustrate the Christian life. That comparison also fits church planting. Running the race with endurance has become a primary focus.

So, how do we run the race well?

1. Stand on the shoulders of others

Joseph Lalonde, writing for businessmen, makes the point that “We must stand on the shoulders of others who have gone before us.” He goes on to say, “We run into all sorts of trouble when we decide we don’t need anyone else. From emotional turmoil to exhaustion to depression, these are the results of deciding to be a one-man show.”

In Hebrews 11, the author introduces us to many people of faith – people like Abraham, Moses, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Samuel, the prophets, etc. And the very next thing he says, in Hebrews 12:1 is, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses ….” This large cloud is composed of all the great men and women of faith in the Old Testament! And we get to stand on their shoulders and learn from their mistakes and successes!

I think of Andy and Ethel, the married couple who loved me all the way to Jesus. It was Ethel who introduced me to Jesus. I think of Ray Matheson, the dean of students who discipled me as a young Christian. I think about John Calvin and Martin Luther. I think of Charles Spurgeon and John Piper, Jim Elliott, and Jerry Bridges. I stand on their shoulders, and they spur me on to run the race with endurance.

2. Lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely

What things are hindering you these days? What weights do you need to lay aside? In Hebrews 11, “the sin which clings so closely” is likely the sin of faithlessness. He’s just listed all kinds of exemplary people – great men and women who by faith won the victory. That’s the reference – the sin that so easily entangles is the lack of faith.

Church planting, first and foremost, is an act of obedience to the call of God in response to the sending nature of God, but it’s also an act of gospel-drenched faith. We must live, and plant, by faith!

With endurance, let’s run this Christian marathon, by faith.

With endurance, let’s raise our children to follow Jesus and make a difference in the world, by faith.

With endurance, let’s make more disciples and plant more churches, by faith.

3. Fix your eyes on Jesus

“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith,” (Hebrews 12:1b, NIV).

My attention, my concentration, cannot be only on the great men and women of faith. My focus must not primarily be on those who have built up my life as a Christian. My consideration has to go beyond the people who have mentored and discipled me in the faith, my tribe, or my Send City Missionary.

I must look to Jesus – the author, founder, pioneer, and perfecter of faith.

If you look at others, you’ll be discouraged. If you trust in your core team, you will be disappointed. If you look at yourself, you’ll be disheartened. But if you look to Jesus, if you fix your gaze on him, you’ll never be disqualified. And that’s why the writer says, “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”

Published September 18, 2020