The greater danger for most of us isn’t that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it. — Michelangelo
While reading the Acts of the Apostles recently, I stumbled across a statement that sounds a bit radical. Perhaps even fanatical. But now I’m convinced it’s a testimony that every church planter should consider carefully and prayerfully, on his knees. It’s a declaration we should inscribe on our hearts.
In Miletus, Paul addresses the Ephesian elders, and says, “I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24 ESV).
“My only aim is to finish the race”? Really? Most of us are just getting started in our church plants. We’ve got more going on than we ever imagined. We are more busy now than we dreamed possible. We don’t have the time or the energy to be thinking about the end of the race, right? We have not even finished the first lap, absorbed with writing the Sunday sermon, leading the meeting, and discipling new believers.
Yet Paul’s testimony haunts us from Acts 20:24. “My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task.” Maybe our human assessment needs divine adjustment. Here are four ways we can start:
We need to develop an eternal perspective
“I consider my life worth nothing to me.” I was reading an article penned by a major league baseball critic. Talking about the Dodgers, who were hoping to break a seven-game losing streak, he said, “The only thing that matters is today.”
Church planters cannot live only for today. We have to be thinking about the future, eternity, and the people we hope to see cross the finish line.
My life is worth nothing to me if it’s not eternal, and if the results are not measured by eternity and the eternal glory God receives from my daily determination to serve Him.
We need to embrace dying to self
The only way to make disciples who make disciples is to die to yourself. Jesus spoke repeatedly to His disciples about taking up their cross (an instrument of death) and following Him. He made it unequivocally clear that if any would follow Him, they must deny themselves, which means giving up their lives — spiritually, symbolically, and even physically, if necessary. This was a prerequisite, a requirement for following Jesus, so, how much more for those who would make disciples who make disciples?
Jesus describes lukewarm followers who try to live partly in the old life and partly in the new as those whom he will spit out (Rev. 3:15–16). That lukewarm condition that characterized the church of Laodicea last marks many churches today. Being lukewarm is a symptom of unwillingness to die to self and live for Christ. If your only aim is to finish the race and complete the task, death to self is not an option — and you will embrace it willingly.
We need to strengthen our resolve
“My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task.” Church planters typically set goals: partnership goals, financial goals, family goals. We set goals for the core team, the launch team, the planning team, the kids’ ministry team, the worship team. Goals to reproduce the right DNA. Goals to make disciples and build leaders. Goals to appoint elders and deacons. Helpful goals, all of them.
But Paul said he had only one aim: to finish the race and complete the task. That doesn’t make the other goals irrelevant or unnecessary. It means you strengthen your resolve. Keep your eyes on the right prize. Be steadfast. Church planting is not all about launching well, leading well, and preaching well. It’s about finishing well, for the sake of the kingdom and the glory of God.
We need to cultivate laser-sharp focus
“The task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” We can get caught up easily in a lot of good causes in our communities. Food banks, clothing exchanges, after-school club, latchkey programs, single-mom respite — the list goes on and on. But the focus, the nucleus, the heart of our ministry must be testifying to the good news of God’s grace. That has to be the center of what we do as church planters! Our only aim.
Soli Deo Gloria.
Published May 10, 2018