At the immense risk of sounding negative, this reality is true when it comes to church planting: you will walk through days, weeks, and even seasons of doubt and discouragement. Often when someone I know asks me how I’m really doing as a church planter my answer is, “I’m on a roller coaster of discouragement. Some days I’m less discouraged than others, but every day there is discouragement.” And the leading candidate that brings that discouragement is doubt. Doubt in my gift set. Doubt in my talents. Doubt in my training. Doubt if I’m even in the right city. I’ve even doubted if being a church planter was the right place of service for me in the church at all!
At the immense risk of sounding negative, this reality is true when it comes to church planting: you will walk through days, weeks, and even seasons of doubt and discouragement.
We have several church partners and one in particular is quite big. In fact, they are an amazing church partnering with church plants in multiple Send Cities. I have the utmost respect for them and the most gratitude in how they have partnered with us, but there is one event that I attend at their church that is both great and hard all at the same time. This church brings in all of the church planters they are partnering with and all of their local church friends/pastors from their region. Here we all are, church planters and local church friends/pastors. The goal is to introduce the church planters to all of these pastors with hopes that a new partnership can develop between these great, local established churches and the church planters in the room. We’re all in a big room, hundreds of us. We’re having dinner around round tables and connecting together. It’s really a sweet time and I’m so grateful for the time and effort this church gives us to do this. But, then the time comes, the time that can often hit me with discouragement and doubt. You see, I live in Vancouver, BC. It is one of the most difficult places in North America to plant a church. Without hammering you with statistics that you can go look up yourself, or share a bunch of stories illustrating how hard it is, trust me, it’s not just hard soil, it’s like concrete! So, the time comes for all of the church planters to be introduced. One of the pastors from our great partner church begins going around the room pointing out the different church planters. He has one church planter stand up and he talks about him, “This is ______ and he lives in ______ and they just launched a few weeks ago! They had over 200 people on their launch Sunday!” And everyone applauds. He goes on to the next guy, same story. The next guy same story. I’m sitting there thinking, “Wow this is amazing! All of these guys have had so much success, so much fruit from their labor.” Then, it hits me. He’s working his way around the room and he’s heading for me. And… I don’t have that same story.
Please understand today that success in God’s eyes doesn’t always equal numbers. What I have had to learn is that success equals obedience to His call.
The doubt is overwhelming. I’m the failure in the room. I’m the one who doesn’t have the great, huge numbers. We had 20 people on our launch Sunday. 20!!! These other guys had 20 people on their Set-up-team!!! So, he gets to me and graciously leaves out numbers and says, “This is Jeff Phillips, he’s in one of the most difficult places to plant in North America. You really should talk to him.” And, he moved on. I’m so grateful that he did that. But, even then, I was filled with doubt. There are many times like this one where my life as a church planter has been hit with doubt. But, here’s one thing I have realized and I hope this helps you. Please understand today that success in God’s eyes doesn’t always equal numbers. What I have had to learn is that success equals obedience to His call.
Today, instead of doubting and listening to the lies that the Enemy, the Devil, is throwing out at us from every direction, may we live to be Christ’s servant!
I fight this every day of my life here in Vancouver. I rest in my relationship with Him and cling to His Word and this verse in particular: Galatians 1: 10, “Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” Often, “people” is me and my ideas of success as a church planter. Sometimes “people” is other church planters I compare to. Sometimes “people” are our church partners or family members. Today, instead of doubting and listening to the lies that the Enemy, the Devil, is throwing out at us from every direction, may we live to be Christ’s servant!
Published January 12, 2016