The weather felt like someone opened the freezer of the Earth.
After two weeks of laboriously raising support and walking up and down 5th Avenue hoping to meet someone, his mood matched the weather.
He called his friend from inside the nearest coffee shop. “I need to meet somebody here in New York… anybody. Who do you know?” he asked.
“You need to meet Danny! If you meet Danny, he’ll connect you to everybody,” his friend responded.
“What’s Danny’s last name?”
“What’s his contact information?”
“I lost it.”
“What borough does he live in?”
“I’m not sure.”
He hung up the phone and walked back out into the freezer. Worst-case scenarios began flooding his mind, and he wondered what it would take to pack up and move back to the warmth of the South.
Remember, God sees you
Church planting is a lonely grind. Much of the planter’s labor goes unnoticed. Hours are spent raising money, meeting people and managing teams. The pressure to produce numbers can be burdensome because of the felt need to show results and to prove that the resources your Sending and Supporting Churches are giving is not a waste.
But church planters are faced with an impossible task. We want to see dead people made alive in Christ and experience a thriving relationship with Him. We want our people to love God and live on mission where they do life. We want to see a tangible expression of the gospel in our neighborhood and throughout the world. But without a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, we can’t raise the dead, plant healthy, Multiplying Churches or inspire people to devote their life to living on mission.
This is church planting—a lonely road that can sometimes feel more like a freezer than a beach. And yet, God gives small, but meaningful, reminders throughout the church planting experience that planters are not alone. God sees you.
Just as God saw Hagar in the desert after Sara cast her away (Genesis 16:3), the LORD “looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race,” (Psalm 33:13), including you. On the cloudy days of church planting, look for God’s evidences of grace in your life and His subtle reminders that you’re not alone.
Focus on ministry, not church planting
In church planting, the goal is not a Sunday service; the goal is changed lives. The goal is not a building but a people. God is calling individual people to Himself and into His family.
It’s easy to focus on the church planting industry at the expense of focusing on the people in your context. Our attention is lulled into straining at details like websites, programs or church services. These details will likely be important at some point, but they’re not the most important aspect of church planting—especially in the beginning. The ministry and mission should always be the motivating force stirring inside planters.
As a church planter, if you’re wondering how to spend your time, spend it with people. Give your time, energy and attention to doing the work of ministry by caring for and meeting the needs of those around you.
Love the people more than the place
Church planting is not convenient. When you or your family moves to a new location to plant a church, adjust your expectations for life amidst your new normal. It’s not unusual for some planters and their families to sacrifice certain dreams—like owning a home, having a backyard or driving to a grocery store—when they move to a new city. Planting a church comes with many costs, and at some point, those costs will be felt.
Living in certain places will prove to be inconvenient. To endure, love the people in your city more than the city. When you’re tired of being stuck in traffic or cramped in a small apartment, your love for the city will not help you endure, but your love for the people will. Keep your heart’s posture positioned toward loving God and loving your neighbor.
He looked up and noticed a church whose exterior didn’t match the goth-like infrastructures around it. He googled the church, Park Slope Christian Tabernacle, and breezed through the website. The warm glow of his phone illuminated the name of the youth pastor—Danny Sanabria.
He went inside.
Learn more about this New York church planter’s story, and if he finally found the illusive Danny, on this episode of We are Send Network.
Published February 6, 2020