After a long and stressful day of Kindergarten, I used to play with G.I. Joes in piles of dirt in my back yard. These combat action figures planted dreams in my little head. My friend and I would dream of being Joe—walking into battle, strapped with heavy artillery. We thought a military life was nothing short of cool. Dreaming in my back yard was quite different from occupying enemy territory riddled with I.E.D.’s and enemy crossfire.
The same illusions of cool pester us in church planting. I often say, “church planting is a declaration of war”, a charge you should only lead if you are truly called to it. Nearly every month I hear a church planter joke about taking the plunge because it was cool. They are in the back yard dreaming of what it can be, playing in the dirt and imagining something devoid of reality. I hate to burst your bubble, but planting a church isn’t cool.
I often say, “church planting is a declaration of war”, a charge you should only lead if you are truly called to it.
I will never forget walking into my first church planting conference. The jeans were designer, and the piercings were well placed. I got fourteen new tattoo ideas before I finished registration. The conversations were about reaching people no one else was reaching, meeting in pubs and doing big things for God. The smell of cool was wafting through the air.
Cool is an idea, not a reality. It fades, and is dependent on feelings. If you set yourself up to plant a church thinking it’s cool, you will find yourself wet and lying cold in trenches with bullets whizzing past you, asking yourself, “why did I sign up for this?” Nearly every big risk in life is glorified.
Anyone considering planting a church needs a dose of reality before planting a church. Here are a few places to start on your search for reality on the road to church planting.
TALK TO CURRENT CHURCH PLANTERS ABOUT THE REALITIES.
Ask several church planters about their experience. Dig a bit to find the realities of their experience, and ask deep questions. Much of your church planting experience will depend on how you define the realities at the very beginning.
COUNT THE COST OF THE SACRIFICES YOUR FAMILY WILL HAVE TO MAKE.
Once church planting realities come into focus, seek to understand what sacrifices await you. Count the cost of the financial, relational, spiritual and emotional sacrifices you are prepared to make.
CONSIDER JOINING A CHURCH PLANTING TEAM BEFORE BECOMING A LEAD PLANTER.
While you can understand realities from books and conversations, you will feel them from the inside of a church plant. You should consider auditing, even joining, another church planting team for a season. This will allow you to feel the realities firsthand and better prepare for your journey.
Church planting is beautiful, redemptive, tough and crucial to reaching every context on the planet. Church planting isn’t cool, it’s combat.
MAKE SURE YOU CLEARLY COMMUNICATE THE RISKS TO YOUR SPOUSE.
Far too often those on church planting teams don’t clearly communicate with their spouse about what the planting journey entails. While a couple does not have to be equally involved in a church plant, they must be equally vested in it. Taking on the challenge of joining God’s mission in hard places can build missional moxie into your marriage, creating a deep sense of gospel partnership.
Don’t get me wrong, we desperately need new churches. My heart beats for seeing new kingdom hubs launched in every neighborhood of every city in North America. I love church planters. I spend much of my week training them to work through the realities of planting as they aim to see God move people from death to life. Church planting is deep in the heart of God, but often we plant churches with flesh-deep impulses. Church planting is beautiful, redemptive, tough and crucial to reaching every context on the planet. Church planting isn’t cool, it’s combat.
Published May 2, 2016